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Forge a Vision, Drop Rhetoric, & Lead Foward

Defining the Environment

So, you write a blog….do you consider yourself a leader when you do so? Maybe you should. I’ve been reading a great book, called Born Digital and a lot of it is resonating with me. For a long time (other than when I am beleaguering someone for being antiquated) I have been trying to dispel the notion that the industry changes we’re seeing are relative to “generational trend”. I fully believe that the changes in the industry are a result of industrial evolution.

An excerpt from Born Digital: “Rather than calling Digital Natives a generation – an overstatement, especially in light of the fact that only 1 billion of the 6 billion people in the world even have access to digital technologies – we prefer to think of them as a population.”

See, here’s my quandary. What came first the chicken or the virtual egg? I don’t think that there is some conspiracy of the Generation X and Y to blow traditional Real Estate practices from the face of the earth – frankly we’re collectively not that intelligent. To support my opinion, I offer American Idol. Any generation that makes American Idol the number one show for several years in a row, should be subject to punishment, not admiration!

Mr. Swanepoel offers this opinion: “Generation X and Y are growing up with a poor perception of the real estate industry.”“They believe they can and should fix it.” (Swanepoel Trends Report)

I have great respect for Mr. Swanepoel and his reports, but I respectfully disagree. I think that this move toward redefining the industry is not limited to one generation, but to a movement. The difference is that online media has developed and evolved to a juncture where we can be more collaborative in our thoughts and ideas. This release of platforms and formats, by which we can share has released the flood gates of ideas and innovations. We can easily share what we’ve found to be some truths and untrue ideology of the industry.

As exhibits to support further my statement: Teresa Boardman, Jay Thompson, Russell Shaw, Jonathan Dalton. There are many more, but these are leaders in our industry and not of a demographic that would include them into my “generation.” Even if they don’t consider themselves leaders, they are nonetheless. It’s not happening fast enough for most, but change is happening. The immovable dinosaurs in the industry that simply wish to fight the metamorphosis of the consumer is feeling the pressure for the first time in decades. But how do we move forward?

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Rhetoric WAS the Groundwork

Now, let’s not take rhetoric as a negative insertion. I am talking about the idea phase of vision casting. Word pictures, oratory and development are necessary parts of any plan. Conveying our hearts and visions is fully necessary. However, I think we’re at the next step. We’ve got some great concepts that we’re all rewriting our personal spins on: Divorcing the Commission, Blending healthy Agent Skillsets with New Techniques, Giving Room for Various Commission and Business Plans, Using Blogging to Attract Clients, The End of Dual Agency, just to name a few. So, now what are we going to do? We know that change is needed, we know that the answer and the industrial culture is going to change – but how? There is evidence that the is influencing policy and consumers. We’ve found that we’re nibbling about the edge of real change.

Now it’s time to move forward. Those leaders that history reflects well on, started with a passion… a dream. I’ve been reading some old training material from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Over and over again I see where the material is calling “change”, “setting the bar higher” and “greater educational requirements.” Sound familiar? For the first time in history we’ve been empowered by the social media and technology medians to make real change possible and to enhance the culture in real estate.

What do we want change to look like?

I am not convinced that a complete dissolution of the current real estate practice is in order or even practical. Much of the way we do things is a result of looking at history and finding that it’s a necessary aspect. We have to provide exceptional customer care, we must have licensing laws and oversight, we must use the current market appliances that reach the consumer where they are. There are things we must maintain; agents need to get paid for their services, they have to watch costs, trained and competent Brokers (company owners) are necessary… But having said all of that – we know that the industry needs work.

It needs a fresh look and the institution who should be in the watch tower has become complacent. There is very little stopping us from becoming more unified and continuing to raise our “virtual voices” until we stop merely influencing the industry and start molding it. In my opinion, that means that we need to get our respective houses in order. It does no good for bloggers to all be writing and opining about what should be, only to start arguing about who is more right. I’ve seen a great and awesome series of examples of how we should be sorting our differences in the past few months. I’ve seen people who disagree; come to the plate and “talk” out their difference in a professional manner and enlighten everyone. We need more of that.

Lead or get out of the way

It’s time for us to stop just being soldiers with opinions, it’s becoming clear that the collaborative tools that we’ve all been talking about and learning about are effective. We should start encouraging those who are naturally leading and promote their ideas and thoughts (Russell Shaw, Benn Rosales, Jim Duncan, Mariana Wagner, Teresa Boardman, etc…). Egos aside, boys and girls! It’s time to help develop the ideas we have and start creating a “population” that can eventually organize and challenge legislators and industry leaders outside of the to move forward!

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Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. Matt Wilkins

    September 10, 2008 at 10:09 am

    I do agree that the evolution of the industry spans the generations in many ways. The reason I think the focus is put on Generation X nad Y is the old adge “you can’t teach an old dog new ricks”. Many people just assume that the older members of our industry can’t and won’t learn the evolving tools of the trade.

  2. Janie

    September 10, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Change is always hard. We either help influence the changes or bemoan the fact that they are changing and get lost in the changes.

  3. Lisa Sanderson

    September 10, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Well done, Matt. This post is an excellent call to action for us all, and on many levels. ‘We need to be the change we wish to see.’

  4. Susie Blackmon

    September 10, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Impressive post Matt. I’m glad I saw it in Twitter. The changes in the RE industry are amazing and exciting, and so very interesting to attempt to keep up with. Also amazing is the talent and leadership of those I so admire, like you and the AG gang, and “T” Boardman, etc.

  5. Teresa Boardman

    September 10, 2008 at 11:28 am

    LOL, I defy every demographic profile by the way I use the internet and other things. So do my 80 year old, blogging twittering parents.

  6. Lorin Martin

    September 10, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I especially like your comment about American Idol. I fully agree with you on that statement. I’ll have to check out the book Born Digital. Seem like an interesting read.


    September 10, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    I really agree with your points Matt. Good job on spelling it out and telling it like it is. Keep up the blogs and I’ll have to check out the “Born Digital” book.

  8. sheilabragg

    September 10, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Forge a Vision, Drop Rhetoric, & Lead Foward: HEY, come over and leave a comment on this article- it ..

  9. Jay Thompson

    September 10, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    but these are leaders in our industry and not of a demographic that would include them into my “generation.”

    In other words Matt, I’m old. 😉

    Can’t really argue that. But if nothing else, I’m living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks and it’s not just Gen’s X and Y that dig this technology stuff. Heck, I’ve even got a MySpace account (basically abandoned as I grew weary of friend invites from 13 year olds. But it’s there).

    (did I just say “dig”?)

    This is a great post. I think in many ways those with a “voice” out there are leaders, or at least considered by some to be leaders, whether they like it or not. Personally I think one can lead and affect change in “non-traditional” ways via social media. It doesn’t have to be running for office on a board or sitting on committees.

  10. Jay Thompson

    September 10, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    By the way, I’m actually on written record as admitting I like American Idol. Sad, but true…

  11. Bob

    September 10, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I have been trying to dispel the notion that the industry changes we’re seeing are relative to “generational trend”. I fully believe that the changes in the industry are a result of industrial evolution.


    I’m going to overlook the American Idol crack as I have used up my quota of bloggers I’m allowed to tick off this week.

  12. Matthew Rathbun

    September 10, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Matt: Sometimes I think that we fail to give “props” to the “old dogs” that have gotten us this far. This is an industry that just won’t allow you to stop learning. There’s too much to know.

    Janie: I LOVE change. I get bored way too easily! Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

    Lisa: That’s what charges me up every day. I want to better than I am, in many, many ways. I like seeing improvements in myself and my practices.

    Susie: Thanks for reading AG. I am being mentored by the rest of these folks, I’ve often said that I wish we could get all these authors in ONE Brokerage. That would be one heck of a company!

    T: You must Twitter DM me your 80 year old parents Blog! LOL My 51 year old mother called and asked me to install software so that she could blog 🙂

    Lorin: It is a great read! “Our Iceberg is Melting” by John Kotter is a good one I finished last weekend, too.

    Eric: Thanks for hanging out at AG and the encouragement.

    Jay: I think you’re “young at heart” 🙂 Duuuuuddee, you just said “dig” laugh-snort-giggle-snot That’s groovy. Seriously, I think that history tells us some of the greatest leaders were not those who were elected by popular vote. They simply arose because of their passion and vision. That’s who I want to follow!

    Bob: I had no clue there was a limit of the folks we could tick off…. Honestly I jest about American Idol. I’d addicted to it, as well. I just wish I weren’t. It’s the Jerry Springer mentality, I guess. Watching AI (during the auditions) makes me feel better about myself, however watching real talent humbles me. It’s a roller coaster.

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