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Advice from a 24-Year REALTOR® Organization Veteran

May 14, 2012

Cindy Butts Departs After 24 Years with REALTOR® Organization

In May, Cindy Butts, CAE, RCE, CEO of the Maine Association of REALTORS®, will move on to new career opportunities. “My husband accepted a new job and moved to Hartford, Conn., more than three years ago but we decided to wait until our son left for college for me to make the move, too,” says Butts.

Butts has served on NAR committees since 1992, including the Membership Policy and Board Jurisdiction committee, the AE Institute subcommittee, the Mold Workgroup, and the Association Executives Committee. Prior to moving to Maine, Butts worked in both the Chicago and Washington, D.C., offices of NAR. Her sessions at the AE Institute for new AEs, “I’m a New AE—Now What?,” have trained and inspired dozens of new executives.

Butts was the 2010 NAR liaison to technology; and a past chairman of the NAR Association Executives Committee. She’s a recipient of NAR’s William R. Magel Award of Excellence and the Almon R. Smith Honor Society. Although May 31 will mark the end of Butts’ REALTOR® career, her contributions will be felt for years to come. Here she bestows some parting wisdom. 

Q. What advice do you have for your fellow AEs on staying relevant and leading their organizations today? First, don’t fall in love with the programs you manage, because you need to be able to let things go so you can move on to whatever is next and more important. 2) Do not keep staff if they are not doing their job well. You have to have a flexible staff who can move on to new programs, too. 3) Listen to your members more than you listen to visionaries. For example, I’ve been reading for the past 25 years that the MLS is irrelevant. It wasn’t irrelevant then, and it’s not irrelevant now. 4) Be sure to attend professional development courses, skills training courses, and conferences with your peers. 5) Learn social media, even if you think it’s ridiculous, because it’s going to be a part of everything, and it’s important to personally understand it. 6) Be fearless—you’re hired to get into the fighter jet so just get in there and fly. There’s nearly always the chance to make a mid-course correction or head back to the runway if necessary. 7) And lastly, watch, learn, and talk with other association executives—your peers are a great source of knowledge and advice.

Q. You’re not retiring and your career isn’t over, so what do you feel your REALTOR® position has prepared you for as a second job? I’m probably over-prepared for a wide variety of things because, as AEs, we’re expected to learn and deliver positive results in many areas including government affairs, fundraising, meeting management, public relations, strategic planning, volunteer recruitment and recognition, accounting, technology, communications, media relations, mediation, facilities and staff management, public speaking, community affairs, PAC management, and more. And do it all in a short period of time.  So I am prepared to do anything, quickly.

Q. What have been the most significant advances or game-changing initiatives in the REALTOR® organization in the last 24 years?  a) The PAG on agency that has us all rewriting our agency statutes for buyer agency and other brokerage relationships; b) The elimination of the MLS book and what both technology and regionalizing brought to multiple listing services; c) NRDS; and d) The one happening now, which is figuring out how we’re going to address all the staggering costs to remain not just relevant but successful politically, in light of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that changed how politics are funded.

Q. In what significant ways so you feel the job of the AE has changed over the years? The biggest way it has changed is that it is now finally recognized as being a specific and complicated profession needing specific talents, skills, and experience. When I first started it wasn’t unusual for the AE to have the title executive secretary. We evolved from largely administrative, into having a voice in deliberations, to being CEOs and full partners with our leadership.

REALTOR AE, Spring 2012