A Message from President Mike Theo: Competitors or Collaborators?

 September 07, 2017

Some 32 years ago, I became a lobbyist and a member of the REALTOR® family at the same time. From Day One, I was struck by how our members could be such fierce competitors in the marketplace yet work so closely together in our association on issues that impacted the industry. At first, the leaders I worked with were visionaries but from smaller markets. The next crop of leaders, while no less visionary, were big brokers and owners from large metropolitan markets, including my hometown of Madison. I grew up watching these brokers compete. As a young staffer, I marveled at the cooperation and compensation rules embedded in the Multiple Listing Service that brought structure and uniformity to that marketplace. I witnessed a well-developed culture of giving to the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) by politically divergent people who strived to promote and protect an industry rather than a political philosophy or party. To this day, I continue to be impressed by REALTORS® because I see with clarity the value of cooperation with one another through our association. 

As state and local association staff, we would do well to exhibit fidelity to our members’ sense of community and cooperation. The challenges we face today are many, and they come from external and internal forces. External challenges include technology and data dealers altering consumer attitudes and behaviors; regulators and lawmakers advancing major tax, finance and regulatory reforms; and changing economic realities that impact generational attitudes toward homeownership. 

But perhaps more vexing are the internal challenges we face within the REALTOR® organization. Relationships between some state and local associations, as well as between neighboring local associations, have created organizational stress that often puts association executives and staff between a dog and a fire hydrant. Don’t get me wrong, association relations here in Wisconsin are as good as anywhere in the country. But there are pressure points — board of choice, core standards, changing MLS operations, RPAC competition, and a wide range of governance models that are often of our own making but have nonetheless strained organizational relationships within our REALTOR® family. To be sure, these and other changes have been adopted in pursuit of improving our organizations, but the competitive pressures they foster, here and around the country, are real and in some cases, acute. 

As we navigate these internal challenges, staff and members alike should remember what REALTORS® have always demonstrated — we’re stronger together. Like my early years when I watched market competitors work together as industry partners, we too must resist organizational rules, structures, personalities, procedures and operations that protect our turf over serving our members. We must remember that wildly disparate cultures, organizations and structures are good things that make us stronger — so long as we keep what’s best for the members in our crosshairs. We, as association professionals and industry leaders, must ensure that association objectives never obfuscate the objectives of the members we serve and share. 

I know this is easier said than done, but few things essential are simple. 

What unites us has always been stronger than what divides us. As we face the challenges from inside and outside our organization, let’s remember the lessons from our own past and seek to be less competitors and more collaborators.

Copyright 1998 - 2024 Wisconsin REALTORS® Association. All rights reserved.

Privacy Policy   |   Terms of Use   |   Accessibility   |   Real Estate Continuing Education