Structural changes are taking place in every aspect of the workplace. The real estate industry is not an exception. The way our members sold real estate ten years ago is not the way they sell it today and the way they sell it today is not how they will sell it ten years from now. Their market, job description and needs are being transformed. Driving forces and concepts affecting and threatening our members and our associations as they currently function include:
- Board of Choice
- Public access to the MLS
- Agency liabilities
- Loss of MLS to outside entities, which results in loss of MLS income
- Buyer Brokerage/Broker Buyer Brokerage/Broker Compensation
- Alternative revenue sources
- Decreasing membership
- Staff driven vs. volunteers drive, the dynamics of changing leadership
- Added value, more for less
- Dealing with the "I want it all, I want it now, and I want it for nothing" syndrome
- Decrease in available volunteer time as time becomes more valuable and the membership shrinks
But in every threat, there is an opportunity, an opportunity to ride the forces of change in the direction in which it is already headed, and reaping the benefits.
A Time for Managing Change
The time to deal with all this change is now. The margin of error is slim. Association leaders, staff and volunteers, must create the Association of the future or their Association of the present will perish! Our industry is going through nothing less than a paradigm shift. As stated by Joel Barker, author of Future Edge, "When a paradigm shifts, everything goes back to zero." Large associations and small, rich and poor, it matters not, all are in danger of extinction. Become the creator of your future, not the victim.
Creating a future by design instead of a future by default requires being able to deal with massive (and increasing) amounts of information in a fast-changing environment.
The problem is, few people know what to make of it. So instead of knowledge being power, random knowledge is just information, and too much information leads to confusion. And technology continues to quicken the pace. Associations across the country are talking about it. The question is what are they doing about it and is it enough, or is it too late?
We are experiencing more than change; it's a revolution of greater historical significance than the Industrial Revolution.
The world is in the midst of the greatest social, economic and technological explosion that has ever been experienced. The question each of us must ask is, "Do we want to be part of it?"
We will witness in our lifetime a greater change in the job descriptions and skills of workers that took place during the Industrial Revolution. Real estate is not an exception.
Understanding, identifying and capitalizing on change will make the difference between economic (and personal) success and failure. Remember, change does not happen all at once. It is continually taking place, unseen by most. Only by becoming an astute observer will you benefit from the opportunities created by global transformation.
Today is not the age of information, it is the age of applied knowledge. Information out of context is worthless, yet information framed in the right context can be worth millions to someone who knows how to apply it.
Congratulations on reaching the highest elected office of this association. Read this manual as early in your President-Elect year as possible. Refer and add to it as often as possible, pass it on to your successor.
Have a great year. And take advantage of the excellent learning experience in front of you.
This is a year to pay attention to the issues, decide where you would like to have an impact, learn as much as you can about the functioning of the organization from the top, and support the President. Take the time to attend as many committee meetings as you can. The more you are seen or visible to the membership, the more valuable you are to the organization. It's a great job, all the glory, none of the responsibility. A lot of the members don't know the difference between the President and the President-Elect. Sometimes it is difficult to be so close to the seat of power. Just remember, you'll get your shot at the helm. Listen to the staff.
On Becoming President
One year is not a long time. Your time as President will fly by and you will not have time to accomplish as much as you would like. Choose that which you want to achieve and accomplish, focus the bulk of your effort on it, and rely on your incredibly professional staff to carry out the day to day affairs of the Association. Do not attempt to micro-manage, that is what the E.O. gets paid to do. Always remember that there is a "body politic" and that many people will attempt to influence you, intentionally and unintentionally. Be on guard for personal agendas. Utilize the Officers, staff, and committee's (Chairs and Vice Chairs) time and expertise to accomplish your agenda for the Association for the year. Stick to the Strategic Plan.
This is the only known manual on becoming President of this organization. Even though we spend a year as President-Elect, the fact is that because there is no manual for that position, you will do a lot of on the job training as President. As early in your President-Elect year as possible, read:
- Association by-laws
- Primer on Robert's Rules of Order (don't be afraid to talk to our parliamentarian and to utilize his services)
- Committee Formats - expectations of the President sometimes appear in these documents.
This job can be extremely time-consuming, taking half of each working day (plus the seven trips a year, 35 to 40 days of travel). Even then you will not be able to keep up with everything that goes on. Try to attend all committee meetings at least quarterly. The only volunteer who has access to "everything" that is going on at the Association is you. You are also the inspirational leader, so it is necessary that you read all the minutes to all the committee meetings and correspond with the chairs and vice chairs in writing at least quarterly. Also "well done" letters to as many people as possible as often as possible. You are the association and a letter from the President is a treat for most people.
In addition to dealing with the volunteer side, you can also be very valuable to the association by taking a personal interest in the staff. Special commendations, birthdays just saying hi to as many of them as you can every day makes them a happier and therefore a more productive resource (We do spend a large portion of our budget, appropriately so on this resource.) To summarize:
- Attend each committee meeting at least once; quarterly is ideal. It shows a real interest in the work of the volunteers. Attend all Budget and Finance Committee Meetings.
- Read the minutes of all the meetings. Check at least quarterly to see that committees are accomplishing their goals as delineated by the strategic plan.
- Send letters to the committee chairs, vice chairs, directors, officers quarterly.
- Send "well done" letters to members and staff who have been brought to your attention. A commendation from the President sometimes results in an association supporter for many years.
- Be interested in the staff. Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge.
- Remember staff and directors on their birthday.
- Make as many office visits as time allows. No more than two per day, about 20 minutes to 30 minutes in duration. You may take another officer, director, or member of staff with you who may have some vital information to relay to the members. Examples would include your Government Affairs Director, Education Director, Special Events Director, MLS, etc.
- Send thank you letters to the office manager/broker/office contact that set up the appointment.
- Remember and use as many names as possible. The most critical word in anyone's vocabulary is his or her name.
- Be responsive to the press. Remember, they have deadlines and your association wants the press. Visibility is essential to the self-esteem of the members.
Office of the President
This organization needs to look at what it wants its President to be and do. Our staff is capable. If you don't have the time to perform some of the functions, they can be delegated. If during your year as President-elect you know that you will not have much time to perform a lot of the President' duties, have discussions with the current President and next years President-elect to see about spreading some of the workloads around.
How much time is feasible for a President or President-elect to spend each week on behalf of the association? Two hours a day, five days a week equal 10 hours, which is 25% of a 40-hour week. Should we expect someone to sacrifice more or less than 25% of their income when they serve in this position? Whatever that level is, any time spent above that should be compensated. (A fee should be paid.)
Set the association calendar to fit your schedule. Because I travel, I like to get all my "staying in town" in the same week. Before my year as President-elect, Executive Committee and the Board of Directors met a week apart. Orientation was on an odd week. I preferred to have all three in the same week.
Set Agenda for yourself. Some of your year will be comprised of unfinished business from the year before (and maybe before that) plus whatever other items come to the surface during your term (or whatever items you bring to the surface). Here was my agenda as formulated during November/December before I took office:
My Areas of Focus
- Existing areas:
- SANDICOR – Dealing with a new, failing regional MLS
- Examine MLS Alternatives
- Strategic Plan - Emphasis on education and technology, "Knowledge is Power"
Prepare the leadership and the membership for change, paradigm shifts. What is impossible in your business today that, if it were possible, would fundamentally change the way you do business?
- Buyer Broker's Task Force
- Examine potential outlawing of dual agency
- Employee vs. Independent Contractor
- No Association geographic boundaries
- Increasing membership
- Structural Review Task Force
- Financial Management Review Committee
- Less dependence on MLS income as it may not always be there
Buyer Broker Task Force - This entity must develop its mission statement, format, decide meeting dates and membership, before the first of December (as must any new task force).
Financial Freedom for the Realtor - individual integrated business and personal financial planning. Message from the top. Plan for yourself because the government is not planning for you. You are responsible for your financial future.
Analyze and implement a financial plan through the Financial Review Committee. This committee must develop mission statement, format, meeting dates and members before December 1.
Be visible to the members. Have a "Heard on the Street" segment in a monthly message. Make at least one office visit per week, report exciting findings in the monthly message. The best form of communication is face to face. The members appreciate a visit from the President and you will accomplish the most for the Association if you are accessible to the membership.
Complete Structural Review for decision
Review by-laws by by-laws committee
It is the leader's responsibility to train the future leaders to think in visionary terms rather than focusing on the present.|
Don't take things personally. Because of the politics of associations, you will always have someone second-guessing your decisions, actions and motivations.
Pay it little mind (it's only human to let it get to you a little). Show your anger rarely, when you do show it, it will have more impact. One of the first things I learned in Leadership 101 at the Naval Academy was:
"Commend in public, reprimand in private."
This basic management principle will be the cornerstone for a successful year. NEVER forget it. It applies to both volunteers and staff.
You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility. Always remember leadership through precept and example.
A leader's three primary tasks:
- Perform your current job and responsibilities to the best of your ability
- Prepare for your next position
- Train your replacement
On Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs
Listen to the recommendations of staff, they work with these people, your volunteers. Give yourself plenty of time by starting the selection process in August of your President-Elect year. Also, solicit input from your volunteers, give yourself time to decide.
On Executive Committee at Large Positions
It is important to appoint people who not only are qualified but who are in agreement with your goals for the year and who will support you at Executive Committee Meetings and at Board of Directors. Remember that part of your job, as a leader is to groom future leaders. The Executive Committee is an excellent place to do this.
You are an Ex-Officio member of all committees, but pay particular attention to the following:
- Budget and Finance Committee
- Attend all meetings of this committee. Remember, and make sure the committee members remember that this is not a policy-making committee. Its job is to oversee the budget process and not to decide which individual budget items should be cut in the name of prudent money management.
You are a member of this committee. You may have an interest in participating in some of the interviews. Take the time early in the year to fill this committee. Your job as President is to train the future leadership. Your interest in the nominating process is extremely important.
Be prepared for requests for interviews by either the print media or television on Christmas Eve. It might be a good idea to be proactive at milestone date (Christmas, New Year, etc. and at least have prepared statements or interviews set up on your schedule).
Committees should be just about filled no later than the week before Christmas. The sooner you find out which committees need members the sooner you can see that something is done about it. Perhaps help select some particular committee. It may be possible, in the future, to line up next year’s committees at orientation.
Have a list of all the directors and officers and their spouses.
Have a birthday list of the directors and officers.
Have a list of all staff and their spouses.
Have a birthday list of all staff and give them a card or present on their birthday. I got each one a box of 9 Nordstrom's truffles on their birthday, presented by me to them on their birthdays or the Friday before in the event it fell on a weekend or holiday. A personal note about them was included on the small card.
Always notify appropriate committee chairs and vice chairs when a staff liaison leaves the Association, be it termination or just temporary departure. Also, notify your President-elect. Keep in mind that the staff is the realm of the executive officer. While your input may be asked for, it is not necessary and always let the EVP make the staff decisions. That is something else they get paid to do.
Strategic Planning Committee
Most people do not understand the strategic planning process. The link to the budget process is very important.
The context for the year is developed here. I believe that it is important enough to always budget for a facilitator. Do not be "penny-wise and pound-foolish." Schedule a 2-day (minimum) retreat each year.
If any of your projects for your year need to be funded, your input is required here. Always have a good number of directors on the strategic planning committee. When presenting the Strategic Plan (and the budget) to the Board of Directors, the following process is suggested:
- Three weeks before Board of Directors Meeting send Strategic Plan and Budget to Directors with a cover letter. Letter to indicate: Importance of documents and that supplemental material is available at the Association office. Request directors submit all questions in writing one week before BOD meeting.
- Two weeks before the meeting, President (and President-Elect) call all directors and officers to remind them of the deadline.
- You may even consider that the only items on the Director's meeting agenda that month are the Budget and the Strategic Plan.
Strategic Planning - General
The strategic planning process is more important than the planning document your committee creates. Leadership should encourage "strategic thinking" which is a necessity for the future success of the organization. The strategic planning process must be designed to develop a permanent, dynamic planning attitude. It must become part of the Association culture. Strategic planning is a state of mind, not a destination.
The strategic planning questions:
- Where am I now?
- Where do I want to go?
- What are our strengths?
- What are our weaknesses?
- What are the threats to the association and the membership?
- What are the opportunities?
- What are the outside forces and threats that we will encounter as we implement the plan (social, economic, governmental, industry and consumer trends)?
- What is currently impossible (possible) to do in this business, that if it were possible (impossible), it would fundamentally change the way in which you do business?
You must analyze the internal and external forces that will influence the organization as it moves to accomplish its mission.
Don't get lost in the details, or choose people for the committees who do. This is all about the "Big Picture."
Include radical thinkers and innovators.
Make sure all the people appointed to committees understand the commitment that will be required, especially the time.
Always bring in an outside facilitator for your strategic planning process.
Chairs and vice chairs must develop plans of action to implement the strategic plan (possibly at a workshop that will help them write and build their POA's (Plans of Action). This should be done in November and before the annual leadership meeting.
Participants in the process will gain experience and information that they can take back to their companies and daily life.
It is an educational process. Only people who are interested in being part of the future, acting instead of reacting should be made part of the team.
Strategic leadership is in the follow through. How is it carried out and monitored?
The budget process should be integrated into the strategic planning process. Members of B & F should be on the strategic planning committee.
This person must be able to work with you or your scheduling entity to coordinate your time. He/she should confirm all your travel arrangements three weeks from the scheduled event, even if you make the reservations yourself. There are so many people flying to CAR/NAR if you don't make your reservation early enough, you may not get departure and arrival times you desire.
Keep notes and even make recorded voice memos using your phone. You must discipline yourself to do this. It will create a valuable record not only for you but also for the Association. Often we need to recall decisions of past leadership and it is always nice to hear from someone who was there and in the proper context.
Call in at least three times a day and check your messages. If possible, be reachable by cell phone (call or text).
Accessing Member's Needs
Must be done at least semiannually, and the organization must respond to the needs of the members in a timely manner.
Your association must be a resource to its members, a partner, indispensable to their business. Have a great year and feel free to add to this.
What if you're working with a client who is buying or selling a piece of property and its use is outside of the current zoning guidelines? Can you ask for an exception to the rule, or maybe the property is grandfathered for this use?
The intelligent real estate agent understands the lingo of the trade and delivers the value of their knowledge to their clients. Do you understand the difference between these often confused terms? Variance vs. Nonconforming Use, each represents an exception to the current zoning code, but in very different ways.
Understanding a Variance
Getting permission from governmental zoning authorities to build a structure or conduct a use that is expressly prohibited by the current zoning laws or an exception from the zoning laws represents a variance. A variance gives some measure of elasticity to the zoning game.
The use of variances can have many forms. Many variances are granted conditioned upon the commencement of construction within a certain time period (for example, 12 months). This helps to eliminate land speculation.
There are also use variances such as for apartment use in a single-family residential area. There is also an area or building variance where the owner attempts to get permission to build a structure larger than permitted.
To be granted a variance, the applicant usually must:
- Describe how they would be deprived of the reasonable use of the land or building if it were used only for the purpose allowed in that zone.
- The request should be due to unique circumstances and not the general conditions in the neighborhood.
- Detail how the use sought will not alter the essential character of the locality or be contrary to the intent and purpose of the zoning code.
Understanding Nonconforming Use
This exception is a permitted use of real property that was lawfully established and maintained at the time of its original construction but that no longer conforms to the current zoning law.
The nonconforming use might include:
- The structure itself
- The lot size
- Use of the land or use of the structure
The use will eventually be eliminated, although the nonconforming use status does not necessarily have to be discontinued upon the sale or lease of the property.
By allowing the use to continue for a reasonable time, the government can assure itself that the use will not continue indefinitely and, at the same time, avoid having to pay just compensation for taking the property through condemnation.
When purchasing a nonconforming structure, a buyer should be made aware that in case of substantial destruction by fire or otherwise, the zoning statutes may prohibit reconstruction of the structure. In such a case, a buyer should discuss the possibilities of purchasing demolition insurance from an insurance agent. A nonconforming use can also terminate upon abandonment of the property.
So in the simplest terms, a variance is an exception to the existing zoning, whereas a nonconforming use (also known as a grandfather clause) arises when there is a change to the zoning, but an existing use is still permitted to continue.
What is your experience with Variance vs. Nonconforming Uses? Have you ever had to deal with one? And if so what was your experience with the process?
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