experts: real estate column Monday, June 03, 2002

It’s time for decisions, not recommendations

In five years many of today's Realtors will be gone if CREA’s predictions of declining membership are correct.

By Marty Douglas

As published in REM - independent news and opinion for Canada's real estate industry.

Two days after the Ides of March, on the Seventeenth of Ireland, I facilitated a panel presentation to a Leadership Conference of the BC Real Estate Association. A cross-section of “experts” addressed the issue “Where to from here?”

Based on what I can decipher from the shredded cocktail napkin found in my suit three weeks later, I apparently said, “What’s your sign? This Moonchild will be rising in Room 514 after 8PM.”

Just kidding. The napkin was from a conference in the eighties. What can I say, it’s an old suit.

On being asked to predict the future and observing the gender make up of the panel, my first comment is - any group who would ask five men for direction should have their motives questioned. Secondly, please remember the reason a magician can pull a rabbit from a hat – he put it there before he went on stage.

Magician David Ben, in his management book “Advantage Play” insists “Don’t predict the future – make it happen.” While pointing out incompetence is not the exclusive domain of the inexperienced, he observes predictions are made to inspire confidence and attract customers.

Ozzie Jurock, the most frequent real estate forecaster of the Wet Coast is blunt. “Forecasting is hard, particularly if it is about the future.” Besides, 80% of all predictions are wrong. William Sheridan in “The Fortune Sellers”, reviewed a century of predictions for life at the end of the 20th Century – today. Many realities - the telephone, the computer, and the laser – were discovered by accident and were unforeseen. Predicted luxuries of home robots, radio-controlled cars, weather control and undersea colonies never materialized.

We need look only to our junk cupboards for 8-Track tapes, Beta Players, CB Radios and polyester leisure suits to see the reality of sure-fire predictions. Radio and newspapers flourish despite television.

In other words, whatever any panel of futurists predicts is likely wrong. But we don’t care because in five years, most of you won’t be here if CREA’s predictions of declining membership are correct, and those who will be here won’t remember because of the only certain prediction I can make – we’re getting older.

It seems we are doomed to repeat history whether we study it or not. In BC, the real estate landscape is littered with studies and inquiries dating back to 1956, probing the same navel. Moreover, like the navel, we have found a seemingly endless supply of the same lint. If our goal was to make the pile of reports higher and wider then we’ve been fantastic.

A satisfactory review of history would require reasonable progress. Jim Rohn says reasonable progress is why they make the desks so small in grade four. If they want a passing grade in the future, real estate leaders must move along a clearly indicated path.

The next two to three years of strong markets in Canada will give the industry disposable income. Where will we spend it? In ancient Rome, faced with citizens rioting because they were starving, the Emperor had a tough choice. The Roman fleet was in Carthage and could bring grain for the ravenous rabble or sand for the Coliseum games. Theorizing the games would take their minds off their stomachs, the Board President, er, the Emperor chose sand.

We need leaders: leaders who will stick around for a little longer than the past-president’s pin ceremony, leaders who will see the job through and not just launch some rocket in the general direction of their successor. More importantly, leaders need followers. Loyal and numerous followers. Without followers, there is no religion.

We need to make decisions, not recommendations. My family crest is “After all is said and done, more is said than done.” Don’t make the same mistake.

We need fewer consultants – someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time. For God’s sake, it’s your watch – look at it! We need to be unique service providers. The easier it is to imitate what we do, the more replaceable we are.

Boards need to find new members who will value unique services. Current enrollments in the licensing process will not sustain existing membership levels.

If Boards don’t merge – many should – they must partner and avoid duplication. Administrative boards should be smaller, more representative of owners and brokers and the public. Yes, the public! Past presidents and directors should not be allowed off the hook to rest on their laurels. Communication systems should reevaluate their online effectiveness and publish effective print communiqués. The newspaper lives!!

I believe the same issues continue to re-surface in study after study because – as one recent study observed - “... solutions offered frequently reflect the mandates of the component parts . . . . not the industry as a whole. There seems to be inadequate recognition of the common thread that binds the industry . . . to place the interests of their clients, the community and the real estate marketplace ahead of their own self interest.”

My goal is to be like the cross-eyed javelin thrower - never set any records but keep the crowd alert. If we do not follow the path above, then my prediction for the real estate office of the future is simple. It will have two employees – a man and a dog. The man is there to feed the dog. The dog is there to make sure the man doesn’t touch the computer.

Have a good life.

Marty Douglas is the sales manager for Coast Realty Group (Comox Valley) Ltd., one of nine Coast Realty Group offices on Vancouver Island. He is a past Chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Corporation of BC, the Real Estate Council of BC, the BC Real Estate Association and the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. email 1-800-715-3999 fax 250-897-3933

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