Having led four major REALTOR® associations (Philadelphia, Albuquerque, Sacramento, Las Vegas) in four very distinct markets over the past two decades, Nelson Janes brings a unique perspective to association financial management.
“Since real estate markets are influenced by national and now even global trends, while being subject to uniquely local pressures, each association faces its own financial challenges,” he says.
Janes’ solutions to fiscal challenges, which have varied with each association, have included reducing staff and expenses, generating revenue by launching a commercial overlay board, and servicing local chapters of the NAR societies, institutes, and councils.
“The downturn hit at the third association and it hit hard,” says Janes. Fortunately, investment income kept the association in the black and helped maintain full services “when the members needed them most.”
After taking the helm in Las Vegas in 2012, Janes says, he found responsible reserves, a balanced investment policy, and conservative budgeting practices. “Today we are able to maintain reserves while continuing to offer members new business tools and services.”
Q. You’ve been at GLVAR for more than a year now. What were the biggest challenges you as the new AE faced, and how did you manage them?
When you have some experience in this or any job, management and operations are not the challenge. The challenges become—especially when following an AE of long standing—your credibility and the culture. So I would not say that these two challenges have been managed yet—they both take time. At some point, through your decisions and interpersonal relations, you either gain credibility and trust or you don’t. When you do, you can genuinely become a leader with big-picture goals rather than a manager with day-to-day checklists.
Culture is the most important component of any organization. How do the members perceive their association? Do elected leaders and senior staff collaborate well with a clear understanding of their roles? Do the staff enjoy coming to work and feel that they are part of something important and larger than themselves? A healthy culture engenders professional and personal development for volunteers and staff. That’s my ultimate goal as an EO.
Q. What are the most effective ways you’ve been able to weather the economic downturn?
I believe in trimming and reorganizing staff through natural attrition whenever possible. Reorganizing always results in economizing. And the staff needs to be instrumental in trimming operating expenses in their areas and are generally very effective at doing so.
As long as there is a responsible reserve on hand, I don’t believe in cutting or even trimming services in times when your members need you most. In fact, we were able to give each member a credit at the end of this past year toward their dues or continuing education.
Q. What is the biggest challenge facing REALTOR® associations?
The biggest challenge is keeping the REALTOR® in the center of the transaction. Real estate is such a major component of the economy and, as such, is constantly experiencing incursions by outside entities that want some of the business. For example, we spent years at the federal level keeping banks out of the industry. Now they are deeply involved through short sales and foreclosures.
The latest trend is lawyers advertising that they should be the first point of contact in a transaction involving a distressed property.
I agree with NAR’s emphasis on reaching out to the consumer on behalf of the membership. Make consumers aware of their most reliable source of information and service. Eventually, get them on board with REALTORS®’ protection of private property rights. Our legislators and regulators won’t like getting that number of calls.
Nelson Janes is chief executive officer of the Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS®. Contact him at NJanes@glvar.org or 702-784-5000.