If you’re not reading Matt Ferrara, the extremely intelligent, entertaining and hyper master of Matthew Ferrara & Company, then you’re missing out on some of the most fun readings that can be had about technology and real estate. He’s very insightful on a range of issues, as he works with some of the top companies and organizations in the industry teaching classes, providing call center support, and consulting with some of the top executives.
His latest post is actually hilarious. Just one example:
Recently, the National Association of REALTORS released it’s 2008 Association Technology Study. By and large there was nothing in it to make me fall off my seat. But that’s because I’m usually already sitting on the floor when it comes to REALTOR Association technology usage.
While his language is funny, his message is not. Matt is a cheerleader and coach at heart, and frankly, the NY Mets could probably use him for a speech or two.
It’s time to get serious. REALTOR Associations don’t have the luxury of making slow, small incremental changes any more. It’s really do-or-die time for most of them: Even years after Board of Choice – in which a REALTOR could choose to pay dues to any Association within their state, not just the most-local one, the majority of Associations are still servicing local agents, most of whom never attend the meetings, use the services or come to the classes. As it stands, most Associations are still mostly just lucky. And not by much, because the number of agents is dropping across the boards, so the number of dues-paying members is dropping with it.
He follows up with five suggestions, which are all solid, if a bit reminiscent of a certain candidate for President in its lack of specificity.
My question is whether Matt is trying to be like Jesus and raise the dead.
I mean… the man is asking a voluntary organization whose main value is being an insider’s trading club, whose leadership is often elected for short tenures, to do things like “Get Radical” and “Stop Coddling Your Members”.
Best example of this, I think, is in his advice to stop doing SWOT analysis and start doing SO-What analysis:
Traditional strategic plans and assessments have focused on the “Strengths, Weaknesses, Oppportunities & Threats” model. Well, we think that’s junk – a total waste of time – because the emphasis always ends up on your weaknesses and threats. Never to SWOT model plans focus enough of your attention on what you CAN do WELL – and TODAY. That’s why we prefer to use our SO-WhaT model, which says: Identify your STRENGTHS and OPPORTUNITIES – and plan EVERYTHING you do around maximizing them, perfecting them, implementing them every day.
Um, Matt… what exactly can REALTOR Associations do WELL? Take any of the main pillars of modern real estate brokerage practice. There’s marketing. There’s technology. There’s training & education. There’s market intelligence. There’s financial operations, like mortgages. What’s a REALTOR Association really good at out of these?
Technology? How many REALTOR Associations even have a CTO, or any programmers on staff? Is technology a core competence of such organizations, or even of its members? Compared to companies like Move, Trulia, or Google, most real estate companies (nevermind voluntary associations) don’t do technology well at all. (Nor, in my opinion, should they.)
Training and Education might be one area they could do well, if the members really took that seriously. But considering that even brokerage companies, who benefit directly from providing training to its agents, often have trouble justifying the cost of training a newbie to become a top producer, I’m not sure I see the motivation. That’s not even taking into account companies like, well, like Matthew Ferrara & Co. that does professional training all the time, as its central mission.
Financial operations? Muscling in on the Mortgage Banker’s Association might not be the ideal growth strategy for volunteer associations.
Marketing? Come on now.
Looking at the situation from the outside, being as strictly objective as I could be, the only thing that a local REALTOR Association can do really well — better than anyone else could — is Market Intelligence. This is the one area where there is no substitute for local presence and local information. Technology cannot help much here — as of yet, there’s no technology that goes out and gets raw data. Training is required, of course, but it isn’t exactly rocket science to go find out bits of facts and put them into a system. And marketing? Well, marketing takes care of itself if you have the knowledge.
Matt is absolutely right that this will require Radical Change. I’m frankly skeptical that any REALTOR Association will be able to do what is necessary to transform into a data-centered organization, comprised as it is of voluntary dues-paying members. Data-gathering, you see, is a classic case of Tragedy of the Commons.
But at the end of the day, I salute Matt for his compassion. For like Jesus, who had compassion for the dead Lazarus, Matt is filled with compassion (and hope!) for the REALTOR Association. Perhaps he too will work a miracle.