2019 NAR President John Smaby at NAR's Leadership Summit.

© Oscar & Associates

"You really are the ones who helped me get here," 2019 NAR President John Smaby told attendees at NAR's Leadership Summit.

NAR Points to Member Experience as Top Priority

August 7, 2018

The National Association of REALTORS® is squarely focused on improving the member experience in the coming year, growing programs to improve communication between staff and members, as well as launching an initiative to “retell” the REALTOR® story to consumers, association leaders said during NAR’s Leadership Summit in Chicago this week.

At the summit, where incoming state and local association leaders were introduced to NAR’s 2019 Leadership Team, CEO Bob Goldberg said the association has strived to shed its “ivory tower” perception. He noted that by the end of August, the Day in the Life program—in which NAR staff shadow members in the field for a day—will have reached 100 percent staff participation. “We are out in the field with you, and we have renewed our commitment to you,” Goldberg said. “We gained a far better understanding of what REALTORS® do every single day to help consumers realize their homeownership or investment goals, and we gained a far better understanding of how to serve you.”

Members of NAR’s 2019 Leadership Team broke down the association’s top priorities in 2019 to further engage members:

  • Advancing member and consumer communications. Current NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall said part of the association’s work is to meet members where they’re at and engage them about the business issues they’re facing. “Part of our story has been that we are the largest trade association in the world, and we are a community—we gather together and share our ideas,” Mendenhall said. Local, state, and national association leaders must “interject themselves on whatever platform their members are using” to move forward the conversation members are having and represent their ideas to the outside world, she added.
  • Redoubling advocacy efforts. “In 2019, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of RPAC,” said 2019 NAR First Vice President Charlie Oppler. To commemorate the milestone, NAR has launched a video challenge, which will run through the end of October, asking members and associations to highlight how the political action committee achieved meaningful results in their areas. Videos can be submitted at realtorparty.realtor.
  • Data stewardship. Technology is collecting data on buyers and sellers, and instead of fighting against that, REALTORS® need to embrace these advancements to remain vital to consumers, said Vince Malta, 2019 NAR president-elect. “We need to make these technologies a part of our business, and then we need to interpret the data not only for our clients but for people outside the industry, like government officials,” Malta said. He added that NAR’s REach Accelerator Program is one such effort to “partner with these technologies to make sure you have a place at the table.”
  • Enhancing the member experience. Providing new training, resources, and tools is the key to improving NAR’s value proposition to members, association leaders said. The Commitment to Excellence initiative will launch in November, providing a self-assessment tool members can use to identify and take action on business areas in which they can improve their knowledge and skill. Other programs will be announced at a later time to help members “continue to own it,” NAR leaders said.

Smaby also took an opportunity during the summit to introduce his leadership vision amid the coming year of change for the association. “I believe with all my heart that how well we tell our story—from the conference rooms of our offices to the halls of Congress—will be integral to the future of our association for years to come,” Smaby said. “Our message must be consistent and strong on many fronts, from protecting private property rights to flood insurance. Together, we have a compelling and beautiful story to tell.”

Smaby, a managing broker at Edina Realty in Minneapolis, imparted some crucial lessons he’s learned in the business, including an “aha moment” he had with one of his agents that “changed my management career,” he said. The agent had asked Smaby for feedback on a contract, and Smaby, caught in a busy moment, simply told him: “I trust you to get the job done.” The next day, the agent thanked Smaby for the confidence he instilled in the agent. “No one has ever said that to me before,” the agent told Smaby.

“His emotion knocked me off my feet,” Smaby recalled. “Every word, every action matters. People are always looking to you for advice, praise, and, sometimes, constructive criticism. I may have helped [the agent’s] confidence, but he taught me that when we get so busy, we need to stop and take a moment to listen.

“My heart has been opened up to the REALTOR® community,” Smaby continued. “As an agent, it was all about my clients. As a broker, it was all about my agents. And as a leader of the association, it’s all about the members.”

—Graham Wood, REALTOR® Magazine