“Convergence” is the term applied to what happens when two significantly powerful real estate industry forces come together in a defined space and create a new energy or reality. A coupling or convergence process might be coincidental such as the current convergence between the forces of the consumer centricity and the fast growing emphasis on brokerage profitability. In the alternative, convergence can be purposeful such as the recent announcement of News Corp’s purchase of Move, Inc. Either way, moving forward, convergence will be one of the most powerful dynamics impacting our industry.
The origins of any specific convergence really won’t matter to the average reader as much as its ramifications and impact. Predicting a probable convergence event represents a specific skill set. Monitoring the industry universe for possible convergence events should be on every leader’s and decision maker’s “top 5” list. It is essential that visioning and anticipating how potential convergence events might affect the industry, the marketplace and the transaction occupy an ever greater share of every industry leader’s time and energy.
Such were the circumstances in Houston, Texas last week. During the course of the week two dominant Houston Association of REALTORS® regional events, the Large Brokerage Summit and the Strategic Leadership Conference presented substantial evidence that a convergence event was about to occur. In this case, it was the convergence between the activities of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFB) and the increasing need for brokers to gain control of their businesses in the face of increased regulation, consumer power and ROI issues.
Marvin Stone, Senior Vice President of Stewart Information Systems and the head of its current CFPB project was the perfect subject matter expert relative to the activities of the CFPB. Stone’s credentials are flawless. He is a career real estate industry executive and is fully engaged in the CFPB’s current activities, especially those focused on providing the American real estate consumer with an acceptable new real estate transaction experience. He is a natural teacher and was able to explain a very complicated and sophisticated emerging regulatory process in a relevant and easy to understand manner.
Another star of this series was Cindy Arioso, a senior vice president with the Long and Foster companies. With over 170 offices and over 2800 agents the independently held Long and Foster Companies can lay claim to a number of statistical distinctions in our industry. More importantly, Long and Foster isn’t just big, they are also distinguished by the quality and leading edge attitude of their management program. Ms. Ariosa’s experience, knowledge and command ability was more than obvious during her several presentations. She has been there through growth, success, audits and lawsuits and knows how to handle each with dignity and class.
Stephan Swanepoel’s presentation, as always, provided event participants with the industry big picture. Swanepoel, an industry icon, has over the past few years, utilized his ubiquitous trends report (found on virtually every desk of significance in the industry) coupled with his Swanepoel 200 Power Listing and his T-3 Leadership Summit event to become the official industry chronographer. Swanepoel weighed into the events with an insightful and stimulating presentation on trends that are either currently or will, in the near term future, impact the industry. As always Stephan’s presentation provided the participants with a much-needed personal GPS.
Curt Beardsley, Zillow’s VP for Industry Relations, provided what only Curt can provide. After two days of listening to presentations that discussed lofty, overwhelming and almost always highly sophisticated current industry developments and events the participants were beginning to suffer from a form of intellectual valve float. One of Curt’s unique talents is the ability to create a human interface between the participants and the materials. On this occasion he used references drawn from the history of Greenland and the South Pacific to establish that, however challenging, the events of our world are in the natural flow of such things. They are the circumstances and opportunities that create great leaders and masterful decisions.
Finally, these comments would not be credible without calling attention to Bob Hale’s role. Of course he was the senior architect and a major contributor to these events. But Bob has long been more than the president and CEO of the Houston Association of REALTORS®. His unique contribution to everything he does is common sense and raw unmitigated passion and he has become a major vendor of these commodities throughout the North American real estate industry.
While few of us believe in such dynamics, one cannot help but wonder what influence the fact that Bob’s offices are but 900 feet away from those occupied by a certain Joel Osteen has had. Perhaps nothing. Bob doesn’t advocate for political or market causes. He is the industry’s senior advocate for rational leadership engagement in both organized real estate and the corporate sector. Bob’s legal background can be seen in the fact that he speaks to sensible and reasonable behaviors based, not on individual agendas, but rather upon the overwhelming evidence. Over the past several years, he has been the industry’s chief spokesperson for leadership focus, follow-up and commitment. This is what Bob brings to our industry and the difference he made to these events.
Some folks got together last week in southeast Texas. They used some experts to share what they didn’t know and to help them make sense of what they already knew. They carefully listened and interacted with a number of learned presentations. They learned about what was likely to happen to their members over the next twenty-four months. They learned about what trends, forces and directions are currently impacting the real estate industry. They debated the subjects at hand, asked some very intelligent questions and talked among themselves. They focused on how their organization could assist its members and consumers at this critical state of their life styles, careers and businesses. Most importantly of all they rediscovered the fact that their organization is more important than ever and that their leadership can make a huge difference while significantly contributing to the success of all involved.
There are many in our industry today who are confused, intimidated and anxious about its current events and direction. Rumors, distractions and negative stories are all too often the rule of the day. The ultimate solution to this situation and the salvation for all involved is focused and knowledgeable leadership. Leadership and knowledge is the ultimate convergence.