Ann Guiberson, CAE, said goodbye to the REALTOR® family in December after 32 years of serving several associations, most recently as president and CEO of the Pinellas REALTOR® Organization, Fla. Although her area’s real estate market is still struggling, Guiberson says she has left her association in good shape with savvy long-term planning, strong reserves, and a mortgage just recently paid off.
“We’ve done really, really well because we were realistic at the start of the recession,” Guiberson says. “I didn’t believe in hunkering down and letting it blow over. We took a proactive stance.”
Early on in the recession, as membership was beginning to drop, Guiberson launched an analysis of the organization’s core purposes. “We cut entire departments and services,” she says. “Although it was very painful at the time, one thing we did early on was cut staff deeply. I’m glad we did it early because all of those people were able to find new jobs, and we didn’t have to make many cuts after that.”
Guiberson went on to automate processes for efficiency—mainly in the areas of member intake, dues processing, and administrative tasks. “We put all of our applications and our orientation online, even though we prefer the personal touch,” she says. “But we learned that you can’t automate everything. New members and affiliate members need a lot more handholding, so we had to go back to the old model a bit.”
Ultimately, Guiberson says, “I’m glad that the recession forced us to look at our core purpose and become more efficient.”
The association also stopped publishing a paper newsletter as well as the newsletter’s digital (flipbook) version because members weren’t reading it. “We went to a blog format entirely because it’s more timely,” Guiberson says.
For Guiberson, life after being an AE will include a little travel and more involvement with her church. Her parting advice: “Take care of yourself; make sure that you’re expanding your own capabilities. Make sure you have a network outside the REALTOR® family. And make sure you’re taking care of your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical self.”
David B. Bennett, CAE, is the organization’s new CEO.