Taming the Core Standards Beast

By Alice Clark, RCE and CEO of the Northeast Louisiana Association of REALTORS®

It’s autumn and the days are getting cooler. In the distance you can hear the high school marching band practicing for Friday night’s football game. Then, suddenly, the terror of a giant, ferocious beast disturbs your calm, and, in sweat-drenched fear, you realize: “I haven’t started working on my Core Standards certification!”

That was me before I came up with a plan to help get though Core Standards with ease. Here are some tips. 

Get Organized

My January calendar reminds me to print out the Core Standards compliance tool every year. I print it out and keep it in a colored folder on my desk because, often, I don’t have time to open the online tool and upload something the moment it comes to mind. It’s more convenient for me to take a printed event flyer with attached notes, such as from a legislative outreach luncheon, and file it in the advocacy section of my folder. I also prepopulate the folder with the events I know are scheduled for the year. By adding these things to the folder as they occur, I do not spend valuable time searching for them or trying to remember them later. 

I live by paper and sticky notes, but what works for me may not work for you. However, keeping Core Standards a part of your regular work (not just an end-of-the-year activity) should work for everyone. 

Revisions to Core Standards for State Associations

The AEC Core Standards for State Associations Work Group was appointed this year to consider revisions to the current Core Standards criteria specifi c to state associations. Led by co-chairs Maranda DeSanto, RCE, CEO, Duluth Area Association of REALTORS® and Angela Shields, CEO, Tennessee REALTORS®, with input from state AEs, the work group is proposing changes to be submitted to the AEC at the REALTORS® Conference in November. If approved by the AEC and the Board of Directors, these customized state standards will be effective with the sixth Core Standards cycle, which begins January 1, 2020.

Learn From Experience

This is my seventh year as the AE here in northeast Louisiana, and it is my fifth cycle of the Core Standards certification. My routine now is to read through the tool in January and highlight the things I know will be easily achieved. For example, I submit a quarterly market update to the local newspaper, which satisfies No. 17 under Section III, Consumer Outreach. I also consider Section IV, Unification Efforts, to be one of the easier sections because you fill in the blanks, so to speak, about the business of the association. In No. 49, I am verifying our legal counsel contact information, and in No. 50, the date of the last filing of the state and federal tax returns. This is the easy stuff. Don’t leave it until the last minute. 

I plan early to ensure that we will promote and host the necessary activities to comply with the advocacy section so that I am not wringing my hands in November and December trying to complete the requirements.

Next, I find the areas that are the most challenging and make a plan to meet the requirements.

I have learned that Section II, the advocacy section, can be the most challenging for my association and the area where we’ve needed to improve most. I begin surveying the layout of the year to make sure that we have planned events for the members to participate in. I plan early to ensure that we will promote and host the necessary activities to comply with the advocacy section so that I am not wringing my hands in November and December trying to complete the requirements.

Set Goals

If you’re like me, you keep a to-do list on your desk at all times, checking off tasks once they’re accomplished. Include a Core Standards task on the list at all times and, once you have marked it finished, add another until you are ready to submit your information for certification.

Update Quarterly

My paper Core Standards folder can become jam-packed with notes and reminders, so every quarter I set aside time to populate the online tool with the items and information I have collected. In November I try to complete the remainder so that I can submit by the first week in December. By committing 30 minutes a quarter to working in the Core Standards tool, I don’t feel so rushed at the end of the year when I’m deep in the dungeons of collecting annual dues and counseling the members who have waited until the last minute to complete their continuing education requirements.

As much as I may have wanted to resist the implementation of Core Standards in the beginning, it has certainly benefited my association.

Spread the Love

I want every member of my staff to understand the importance of obtaining Core Standards certification and why so much time and effort is dedicated to it. When a new staff member comes on board, I explain the six areas of competency, which also helps them understand how the three-tiered REALTOR® organization works. Although it is my responsibility to make sure the tool is loaded with the correct information and submitted on time, I assign tasks for other association staff members to complete and forward to me so that the burden isn’t quite so heavy. I have never assigned any of the tasks to the association’s volunteers or leadership but, if I were the sole employee of the association, I would definitely consider it.

Educate the Masses

Core Standards requirements are covered in every new board member orientation so that the officers and directors who serve the association understand that programs and promotions are necessary to adhere to the NAR mandate. We also include information about Core Standards in our new-member orientation. This has heightened awareness with our members that we have annual goals and that member participation, such as with Calls for Action, is vital to reaching some of those goals.

Embrace Change

When Core Standards was introduced, I still considered myself a newbie as an AE and I remember thinking, “Seriously? More work for me?” However, as much as I may have wanted to resist the implementation of Core Standards in the beginning, it has certainly benefited my association. It has taken some time, but we are now meeting RPAC participation goals with membership renewals, and we have consistently met or exceeded our fundraising goals for RPAC since the introduction of Core Standards. We also have been recognized for excelling by winning the President’s Cup and the Triple Crown Award. This accomplishment was the result of everyone working together to elevate member awareness of the value advocacy brings to the real estate business and homeownership, and it may not have happened without Core Standards. I can say, without reservation, that Core Standards is making our association stronger and better.

Celebrate the Victory

Nothing messes up your Friday more than realizing it’s Wednesday, and nothing messes up a New Year’s Eve celebration more than spending the holiday working on completing the Core Standards compliance tool. Plan ahead, keeping a steady pace, and you will find that the Core Standards giant is nothing to fear. 

Alice Clark, RCE, is CEO of the Northeast Louisiana Association of REALTORS®. Contact her at 318-387-6800 or aclark@nelarealtors.com.

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