What I Saw at the Revolution

By Michael Theo, RCE, CAE, CEO, Wisconsin REALTORS® Association, 2017 chair of the AE Committee

NAR President Bill Brown’s theme for this year was “Revolution,” an inspiring leitmotif focusing on the insurgency of change and innovation in our industry and our association and the ensuing challenges and opportunities we face as a consequence. As his presidency draws to a close, so, too, does my chairmanship of the AEC, so it seems like a good time to ruminate on what I saw at the Revolution.

The challenges presented by this rolling revolution can fill volumes, but I’ll focus on two biggies: advocacy and professionalism. Like politics, all markets are local, yet real estate transactions have become increasingly affected by Washington-based regulations, infused with a churning of political partisanship. Tax reform, financial reforms, and regulatory reforms each has a direct impact on real estate. Therefore, like no other time in our association’s past, we need to acknowledge and embrace the primacy of being an advocacy organization and mobilize like never before to ensure the outcome of these epic policy battles end favorably. This revolution has already begun so time is of the essence. We must commit whatever human and financial resources necessary to prevail on these blockbuster issues now.

Equally challenging is a multiplicity of issues surrounding professionalism in our industry. Perhaps more than any single issue I’ve witnessed in my 32 years with the REALTOR® organization, our members yearn to improve the level of professional­ism. Yet despite our codes of ethics and conduct and the professional standards processes we’ve developed, our standards and aspirations are often ignored or not adequately pursued or enforced. The revolution needed here still eludes us. We must devise a road map to achieve professionalism and implement it now.

This professionalism applies to us as AEs as well. As the incoming president of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives, I speak from experience when I say REALTOR® executives are among the best association managers in the country. But given the magnitude of the challenges we face today, what we have isn’t good enough. We should set a national goal that every AE, at every level of the organization, in every corner of the country, should either hold the RCE designation or be actively working toward it. Only after we demand the highest level of professionalism from ourselves can we effectively assist our members in realizing the highest level of professionalism they espouse. 

What I saw at the revolution this year was a strong advocacy organization that needs to get stronger. I saw a fantastic group of professional REALTORS® who rightfully seek to improve the level of professionalism in their ranks. And I saw a remarkably talented group of AEs that can and should recommit to improving themselves and their organizations. I am supremely optimistic that each of these will come to pass.

I leave this post with sincere thanks to NAR President Bill Brown for giving me the opportunity to serve. I leave still looking for the adequate words of praise for the turbocharged NAR staff I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Their job is extraordinarily difficult but Cindy Sampalis and the entire NAR AE support staff epitomizes professionalism in every sense of the word. And I leave with high expectations for incoming AEC Chair Rebecca Grossman and Vice Chair Duncan McKenzie. And finally, I leave with much gratitude to all of you. REALTOR® AEs are truly inspirational–professionally and personally. Thank you all for the opportunity to serve.