As some of you may know, I come from an association background, having served many years at the National Association of Realtors. I treasure the time I spent there and the many important elements of the industry I was able to learn about from 430 N. Michigan Ave.
But, as you may also know, the view from the entrepreneurial side of publishing is different. One part that I love about my new role is being outside the association bubble gives me an expanded perspective on the experiences of our readers. Still, just as independent brokers don’t have anyone lining up leads for them the way they might as a salaried salesperson, I no longer have an automatic one-million-plus number to quote when it comes to my readership. And our magazine isn’t a member benefit, so I have to try twice as hard to get your attention and keep it.
That’s not to say that association employees don’t work hard, or that association publishers don’t have to fight for your attention. They most certainly do; the calculus is just different. Associations are often rewarded for moving slowly, whereas the opposite is true in business. Not-for-profit organizations are risk-averse, but for very good reasons: You wouldn’t want some hotshot at the helm of your professional organization, gambling with your dues dollars, right?
Still, what I’ve learned from the best Realtor organizations — the ones where staff are encouraged to think, and perhaps more critically act, strategically — is that they are taking cues from the business world. They’re learning when it makes sense to build something in-house and when it’s better to let others take on the task. And most importantly, they listen to their members and take Realtors’ criticisms seriously.
Of course, that all depends on a lively dialogue, and I hope you’ll continue to weigh in on the important role Realtor associations play in the industry. If you have thoughts, please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.