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Mentors Tell All

January 1, 2006

By Kelly Quigley

Reading books and taking classes go only so far in preparing you to be an association executive. The most valuable career guidance comes from successful colleagues who’ve been in the profession long enough to put things into perspective. Here, recipients of the prestigious William R. Magel Award of Excellence share wisdom with those fresh to the field of Realtor® association management.


Cindy Butts, cae, rce, CEO of the Maine Association; 2005 Magel Award winner  Don’t be afraid to use all the resources available to you. Call other AEs (even if you haven’t met them before), ask questions on e-mail lists such as AETalk, find AEs inside and outside your state whom you can ask about how to accomplish something, attend educational programs, and read the AE section of REALTOR.org. By learning to ask other AEs how to do something, I’ve made a positive change to the quality of my career and what I’ve been able to deliver to members.

William E. Malkasian, cae, president of the Wisconsin Association; 2001 Magel Award winner  Understand what’s important to the members by joining industry groups, arranging meetings with Realtors®, and staying on top of industry news. Make sure you know the concerns of both the very large brokers and the very small ones; AEs must ensure that their organization provides services beneficial to both. Finally, keep an open mind, and be flexible. New issues are always emerging, and it’s important to have a decision-making system in place so that you can respond quickly.

Gar Anderson, NAR vice president of AE Leadership and Development, former executive vice president of the Vermont Association; 1999 Magel Award winner  None of us in the AE community have made it on our own. We’ve succeeded because we used the networking, resources, and friendships that the Realtor® family freely offers. Never be afraid to ask questions and always strive to develop relationships. The success you achieve will come with “a little help from your friends.”

Ty Strout, cae, rce, CEO of the Arizona Association; 1995 Magel Award winner  It’s important that you understand and believe that you don’t work for the (your name) Association of Realtors®. Your job is to provide input based on your knowledge and skills without taking too much ownership. Whether the elected leadership agrees with you isn’t the primary issue; the important thing is that you provide your best counsel. You’ll hear from time to time, “Is the association member driven or staff driven?” The association should be member directed and staff driven. Work diligently to forge that type of partnership with your association’s elected leadership.

James A. Link, cae, executive vice president of the Southland Regional Association, Calif.; 1998 Magel Award winner  Adapt to the strengths and weakness of the elected leadership. Formal position descriptions define the roles and responsibilities of staff executives. While these position descriptions generally don’t change from year to year, the personalities and abilities of the elected leaders do. You may have to step up in certain areas where the elected leader isn’t comfortable one year and then take a back-seat role the next year. Work in tandem with leadership in support of a common goal.

Judith Lindenau, cae, rce, executive vice president of the Traverse Area Association, Mich.; 2002 Magel Award winner  Get your management house in order. Develop and use policy manuals, internal fiscal controls, long- and short-range planning, and good governance structures. That’s the infrastructure upon which your successes in other areas will be built. You’re fortunate to be working in an environment in which so many are willing to contribute to your success by sharing what they know about best practices.

Dr. Almon R. (Bud) Smith, cae, rce, former executive vice president of the National Association, Ohio Association, Cincinnati Area Board, and Cleveland Area Board; 1990 Magel Award winner  Know your members, and I mean really know them. Find out what they do for a living firsthand. Go to their sales meetings just to listen. Discover how hard it is to live with no assurance you’ll earn anything that week, month, or quarter. Find out how you can make members’ lives better and help them become as successful as they can be.  Also, recognize that much of what goes into being a successful AE is the ability to see things through. Make sure plans don’t fail because a member got busy and couldn’t complete the volunteer task—you have to take it on without expecting or needing to be thanked.  Finally, never stop learning.

Christine Todd, cae, rce, CEO of the Northern Virginia Association; 1997 Magel Award winner 1) Choose your battles carefully. With so many decisions to make, it’s important that you don’t argue with leadership over something trivial; 2) Beware the “vocal minority.” Try to separate them from the silent and most often content majority; 3) Resist temptation to do things the same way; 4) Have fun with your members. Get to know them as people, not just volunteers; 5) Keep your eyes on the horizon. Don’t get so mired in the details that you can’t see beyond tomorrow; 6) Practice the art of public speaking. It’s an invaluable skill in our profession; 7) Take care of your health. Watch the calories and alcohol—both prevalent in our job; 8) When you no longer love the work or the members, it’s time to go.

To read more about the Magel Award, click here.