Over the past decade the Real Trends annual Gathering of Eagles (GOE) conference has been the intellectual highlight and industry-defining event of the year. This “by invitation only” event brings together the best of the best and the “who’s who” of the American residential real estate industry.
The GOE conference for 2011, held in early May, in Denver continued the great tradition of these events even as it reflected the uncertainty of the current industry and marketplace.
The first observation that one familiar with the industry would make was that the event’s “Time for Focus” title had many meanings the first of which was that the stars of the show and virtually every aspect of the industry and its transaction has changed. Gone where the industry kings and queens of the past and in their place was a whole new and “mixed bag” of brokers, owners and executives. The program made it clear that there were no guarantees moving forward and that innovation and creativity were going to be the benchmarks of success in the new real estate industry.
The second sense that one would have drawn from the mindset of the attendees was that the industry is in a complete state of transition or as one presenter put it “in a renaissance.” More over, based upon the information presented it is clear that times will remain highly challenging over the next two years.
During its three day run the program sometimes played to the new but more often found itself addressing how to do the old ways better. Some program elements introduced the new face of real estate while others seemed to say that it was all right to keep doing things the traditional way. For some it was confusing and for others it was a message that seemed to defy the formation of a meaningful strategic response. Yes, there were answers, but what did they mean? Among other messages, real estate has become a thinking person’s business opportunity.
The opening session presented a number of the up and coming stars to discuss their formulas for success in the new era. Again, in many cases this involved going back over the basics with new focus and energy. Especially noteworthy in the opening session was Dan Duffy’s (from United Country Real Estate) comments regarding how the definition of franchising is expanding to include a direct impact upon the consumer. Surprising everyone was the energy and enthusiasm demonstrated by ERA’s new CEO Charlie Young as he explained how this venerable senior brand was repositioning itself.
The industry’s library has been expanded by “Game Plan” a new book that profiles the industry by conference host Steve Murray of Real Trends and Ian Morris of Market Leader, Inc. Game Plan has already become a “must read” for anyone who hopes to make sense of the new real estate marketplace.
The careful observer found themselves remembering those times five or six years ago when the industry thought it had heard everything there was to hear about brokerage websites. Mitch Joel, a Google recognized social media marketing expert from Montreal was facing that same predicament at the beginning of his comments. Most of the attendees seem to think that they have conquered the social media scene and that there is nothing more to learn. Joel’s 60-minute presentation clearly established the fact that social media, like all other Internet generated business opportunities, will continue to evolve and to deepen as time and the consumer moves forward. Brokers and agents alike can only leave their minds and their businesses open to adjust to the next iteration and generation.
The next session, Examination of Business Models was probably more valuable for what wasn’t said than what was said. Presenters representing traditional, Assist2Sell, 100% shops, capped company dollar and freedom shops all attempted to set a stage for the success of their models moving forward. It was interesting to note however that some had apparently not reviewed Game Plan prior to their program. Among the book’s many important points is that an essential element of brokerage success moving forward will be to determine your business model and get really good at it. A number of speakers seem to believe that the secret to success was going to be found in trying to be all things to all agents and consumers.
One of the outstanding sessions dealt with the rapidly expanding rental market and its focus on property management. Again there was a strong representation of the traditional process. However the star performance in this category clearly was delivered by Real Property Management (RPM) CEO Kirk McGary whose organization has not only emerged as the largest property management organization in the country but also the one that has set the new standards for productivity and profitability. RPM’s systems and automation approach has simply rewritten the property management handbook.
Another great session focused the attendees’ attention on the continuing dilemma of the MLS and its apparent inability to understand its own potential as an information utility. Representatives from CoreLogic, RPR, and REALTOR.com all agreed that regardless of where expanded information was going to come from or from where the consumer would get it that more and more information was going to be the order of the day moving forward. As always Errol Samuelson from REALTOR.com was especially impressive.
But without question host and program major domo Steve Murray saved the best for last. The closing session played to an auditorium full of attendees whose minds had been reshaped and to some extend challenged from two days of possibilities and potentials. Rather than use the closing session as a review opportunity he unleashed a mind warping session entitled “The Future of Teams.” Three agents (from Ontario, Washington and Texas) started the program with comments regarding their current mega-team operations and what track records they were setting. The most profitable of the three was on line to generate 2.9 million in GCI this year with the other two reporting in at 1.6 and $600K respectively. One could feel the annoyance of the audience at these announcements. (After all, why should these teams be making this kind of money and why are the brokers?) But that wasn’t enough, over the next forty five minutes Murray carefully and effectively cross examined the three team czars and disclosed an entire array of amazing electronic and automated management tools and benchmarks being used by these super stars.
Of immediate interest was how effectively these teams were closing on Internet leads and the processes that lead to that success. But the real showstopper was the levels of performance, productivity and accountability that team members were expected to deliver upon. The quote of the hour was “I am not Sister Theresa, I am here to make money.”
In what was perhaps the most telling moment of the entire conference one could feel the hostility in the room began to give way to curiosity and interest. Hands went up everywhere and questions regarding the application of these new concepts began to emerge. It was as if in the closing seconds of a great event everyone had suddenly come to grip with the real issues being faced by our industry.
The times aren’t changing, they have changed and with them so have the rules, expectations and accountability that must be applied to every broker and agent in the industry. Thanks to Steve and his partner Nicolai Kolding this message has been delivered and will hopeful set the stage for the industries next era. Thanks guys.