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Making Merger History

January 1, 2011

It took only one meeting for the leaders of the REALTOR® Association of Greater Miami and the Beaches and the REALTOR® Association of Miami-Dade County to decide to merge. Then, in August 2010 (a mere five weeks later), members voted to approve the largest merger in NAR history, creating the largest local REALTOR® association in the country. Since then, the leaders, brokers, managers, and agents have remained “pumped,” says Teresa King Kinney, CEO of the merged association, called the Miami Association of REALTORS®, which includes 23,000 REALTORS® in south Florida. “It has been an amazing time and we’re all still excited.”

The merger brought together two large associations with very different philosophies and different services in an effort to provide members with the best, most comprehensive programs, products, education, and resources, says Kinney, who shares more merger tips and details below.

Why was 2010 the time to merge, as opposed to 5 or 15 years ago?

Our merger was not market oriented or financial—both associations had strong revenues, reserves, and member counts. But we had been in a very difficult board-of-choice environment for many years. During a meeting of the leaders on opposite sides of an issue on exclusive services, one of the leaders commented that the dispute would be a moot point if the associations were merged into one. Surprisingly, leaders on both sides agreed and decided to hold a merger committee meeting the next week. One merger meeting later, every decision needed to complete the merger had been agreed upon, including name, leadership, process, and timetable.

Did you explore alternatives to merging associations, such as sharing services and partnering?

Over many years, offers to share services or partner had not been productive, so a merger was attempted 12 years ago and was abandoned by one association as unsuccessful after months of meetings. Each association then went its own separate way and developed and marketed its own unique services.

The merger of two large associations happened in a very short period of time. What do you attribute this to?

The right leaders at the right time made the right decisions to get the members what they needed as quickly as possible. Before the merger, both associations had allowed member offices to split their MLS participation between the boards, which offered them a common database but a different set of services and benefits. Because agents in the same office had access to different services, it began to create a compelling desire on behalf of the agents and brokers to have a collective package of services. The latest dispute over exclusive services, coupled with the members’ growing desire for all the services, created the right environment for a merger.

When members asked, “why merge?” what did you communicate as the best advantages and benefits for them? How did you convey this information?

Members never asked, “why merge?” because the benefits were clear. The comments were more about why it took so long for someone to suggest it. We did a Q&A on both association Web sites and linked it to the frequent e-mail announcements about the merger. We began to implement and expand the combined services immediately after the directors’ approval, which brought a new service announcement every week—the excitement was amazing.

If you had to do it again, what might you do differently?

From our side, the merger was absolutely perfect. But my advice to others would be to decide only what needs to be decided in order to merge. Don’t complicate things; focus on what’s important and never forget, it’s all about the members.

Teresa King Kinney, RCE, CAE, CIPS, CEO, Miami Association of REALTORS®. She can be reached at 305-468-7010 or tkinney@miamire.com.