Image of Chess BoardThe real estate industry is in a state of flux – many of the rules as we know it are changing before our eyes. Demanding consumers now require a lot more from their agents. Agents expect more from their brokers. Brokers believe their Associations and MLSs need to do more to help them survive. Every group in the real estate “food chain” is at risk of becoming overpriced, irrelevant or both by the changes before us.

So what is YOUR organization doing to prepare for the inevitable changes being thrust upon it?

Is your group looking at “worst case” scenario planning?   Are you consciously thinking about all of the entities that may threaten your very existence?   If you are thinking about the threats to your businesses, are you thinking about how to proactively prepare for the worst?  Are you thinking about ways to shore up your organization and even make preemptive strikes to fend off potential new competitors?

Let’s start at the beginning.  Does your organization conduct a strategic plan annually?   If so, do you talk about tactical, evolutionary changes or do you question everything about?  Do you think about your business models?  What about your leadership or governance structures?   Do you critically evaluate whether your company is truly poised for growth? Does your business  have the resources, human or otherwise, to implement breakthrough new strategies you may be considering?  Do you think about where you’re spending your money and whether you know if the monies are truly providing the return on investment that you would like?

Importantly, when you think about yourself as a leader, are you truly open to embracing the potential for fundamental changes to the way you do business or are you trying to make the current models “fit”?   If you are open to changes, are you putting together a strategic planning initiative that will help others around you understand the need for evolution and maybe even “revolution”?

Now here’s the even tougher question…when you look in the mirror can you truly say that you are leading your organization to be driven by the ever-changing needs of your customer base?   Are you as close to the needs of your customers as you need to be? When is the last time you listened to your paying clients tell you about what they really need from you?   Can you clearly articulate who your customer base is?  Do you have more than one type of customer?   Are you satisfying the needs of every one of your target audiences?

In the case of an agent, your customer is clear – it’s the home buyer or seller…. When you think about where to spend your time and how to spend your hard earned commission dollars, do you frame your decisions around the needs of your customers?   Do you think of your broker as one of your customers?  Do you do what it takes to help your manager be completely satisfied with your efforts and results?

Brokers serve multiple customers. They need to exceed the expectations of their agents, but most importantly, need to prepare their agents and their companies to serve the needs of those that provide the MONEY – the consumer. Without them, there is no brokerage, after all.

Associations and MLSs have even more target audiences to serve. They need to provide tools and service to agents and brokers to manage the fundamental elements of listing and selling a home.   Many also believe they need to better understand the needs of the consumer so they can help prepare agents and brokers to serve the needs of today’s real estate consumers effectively.

When thinking about your strategic plan for 2012, consider the following steps to make it the most effective it can be:


Prepare the participants with inspirational and thought-provoking reading and presentations to help them open them to new possibilities. Think about those that will participate in the session carefully. You need to surround yourself by people that are going to help you push the envelope, not cling to outdated models or programs.

Do your homework

Get a good read on what each of your customers thinks about your business – How satisfied are they, how loyal are they?  How frustrated are they?   What’s your competition doing?  What do you envy about them?  Where do we think you have advantages against them? How do you capitalize on those advantages?  What is your staff saying? How satisfied are they?  What do they believe will move the needle for the company.

Question everything

Think about every element of your business and question every “given”. Do we have the right staff, are we focused on the right issues, are we positioned well against our competition. Be critical, be thoughtful, and don’t hold back. Are you using the same technologies as you have because you’re comfortable with it or because it is most effective tool you can use.  Are you managing the quality of service effectively?  Do you have processes that don’t make sense, but you stick with them because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

Layout some bold new steps

Anyone can inch along the lines of status quo…It takes a real leader to encourage the company to break its own molds, to move on to untested idea…think about ways to take your company from “A to Z”, not just “G to H” like most of us do.  They may not all happen overnight, but it will give you an idea of the longer term “end game”.

Don’t bite off too much at once

When you get rolling during  a strategic plan meeting, your group can come up with all kinds of great ideas. Have the discipline to focus your strategic goals to more than 5 to be accomplished in the next 12 to 18 months. Any more than that may spin your group out of control and eliminate the possibility than any of the strategic goals get accomplished effectively.

Make it more than “Forced Family Fun”

Anyone can get together for a day and talk about how exciting the future looks.  That’s the fun part. In order to make a strategic planning session more than just a “forced family fun” session, there needs to be follow-up.  Every strategic goal needs to have a specific action plan with timelines, responsible parties and budgets. Each goal also needs at least one benchmark to quantitatively measure progress against the goal. It may require metrics for participation in a program, for example.  It may also include ongoing customer research to measure changes in customer perceptions.  Financial trends, of course, can also be one of the benchmarks used to measure progress.

Stay “on it”

Unless there is continual focus on the strategic goals and accompanying action plans, the plan will quickly fall apart. Create a discipline where you revisit the strategic goals at least monthly. Hold those that are responsible for executing the plan accountable, requiring them to update the action plans with tangible results that have been accomplished to date.

Stay Flexible

A strategic plan, by definition, is meant to be dynamic and flexible.  The strategic plan should be a “living, breathing document”. Make sure you give it a lot of water and air to breathe and grow, as it needs to.

WAV Group conducts strategic plans for many of the largest Associations, MLSs, technology companies and brokers in North America today. If you would like to learn more about our services, feel free to contact us at