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Taking It To The Streets Information Superhighway.

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The Stigliano Chronicles - Taking It To The Streets

They’re only words.

Words. Words are powerful stuff. Words can hurt, elate, destroy, and effect change. They can be designed to do any of these things (and much more) or they can do it without intention. Words can be anything we want them to be. Being a blogger, I’ve become a bit more fond of words lately. I try to mix them up, use them effectively, and make sure their message is clear. I don’t always succeed. More than anything though, is the ability of words to change someone’s mind. To effect change through conversation. To influence decisions based on what you say. Power.

Yesterday was a crazy day here at AgentGenius. If you somehow missed it all (how, I will never understand), a large outcry began over a post by Paula Henry involving Google, scraping, IDX, and as many people felt, the future of internet based listing marketing and whether or not the National Association Of Realtors® really understood what’s going on in the “real world.” I spent quite a bit of the day thinking about all I was reading and the implications of the story. I read through the comments and picked up some insight I had missed and applauded some I had thought of myself. I added my views as well. Anyone that knows me, knows that I think the meat of a post is often in the comments. When you start a conversation, a post can take on a life of its own. And man oh man, did that post have a life!

Powerful words, powerful results.

If you’re out there and not convinced about the power of blogging, you need look no further. The final results of the post won’t be known for sometime, but it brought immediate attention to the issue, brought agents to the comments that you don’t see here on a regular basis (can someone say “call to action?”), and got responses from NAR itself. It opened up a next step process with Jay Thompson and Paula Henry being invited to speak before the MLS Committee next week (at NAR’s expense I might add). I fully expect the two of them will speak with passion, conviction, and the general betterment of real estate in mind. I think they’re both gifted writers and will be able to get their points across. I hope it will effect the change that will prevent this issue from spreading to other boards and associations.

The bigger picture.

Although I hope for the best from all of this, I see something else that I am excited about. Reaction. Conversation. Plans. (And hopefully) Resolution. Have you fully comprehended what just happened in a day and a half? Some of NAR’s members took a stand, voiced their opinions and were heard. This is what I envisioned the social media position at NAR should be all about. Todd Carpenter took a lot of flak as he was first on the scene (and whether or not he was speaking on behalf of NAR, as Jay pointed out, there will always be that association) and even I jumped to conclusions about his answers as I read them. Unfortunately, until the dues-paying members fully trust their own association, I feel Todd will always be a bit of a whipping-boy for the social media sect of Realtors®. Many people know him personally and although I don’t, I’ve spoken to him briefly on Twitter once or twice and know enough about him to know that he’s well respected by many. Regardless of what happens, there was a conversation at least and an opening to more in front of one of NAR’s committees.

With the internet, it’s easy to expect immediate results. Unfortunately, I don’t think those are going to be the first changes we see. I view this as a test of the might of the internet and social media to effect change. Of course, if it fails, we could easily slide backwards at a fast pace. If it succeeds, it should make all us all think of ways to continue pushing the envelope to bring about the changes that we desire. Todd said we need to get involved and I think many did, but perhaps in a new way. I don’t think we’ll see change tomorrow, but I think we may have just seen a glimpse of a possible future.

photo courtesy of alanwoo

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Lee Ellis

    May 7, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    That post is having a good, long life, indeed! Part of that future includes people who have commented, taken action and “met” online to meet in person and continue turning powerful words into meaningful actions. So before hearing Paula’s and Jay’s comments at the MLS Forum, I hope to meet many of you at the “REALTOR Mixer” next Wednesday night at Petits Plats co-hosted with Deborah Madey.

  2. Monika

    May 7, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    We’ll be at Midyear and will attend the MLS meeting to lend support.

  3. Matt Stigliano

    May 7, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    I look forward to hearing all the reports.

    Lee – I had written something for my site that I was considering converting for here, but I decided to go a completely different route. I just thought the idea of what happened as the comments unfolded was worthy of its own mention.

    Monika – I wish I was heading there to listen in.

  4. Missy Caulk

    May 7, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Matthew, this was the power of social media. Our voices were heard, and it could not have happened without the blog and the passion of so many.

    Some folks just “get it” faster than others, the early adopters. I know in my own office and in Ann Arbor in general. Folks are just starting to get on board with social media and very few blog.

    They are totally in the dark on all of this and I dare say wouldn’t have understood most of what occurred. Usually 20% adopt early on and then you hit critical mass. We are not at critical mass for social media yet.

    I’m happy Paula and Jay are getting to go. Todd is a great guy and I’m glad he is there.

  5. Matt Stigliano

    May 7, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Missy – It really served as a prime example of the power of social media and being able to get involved. I saw it mentioned in several places (so it was spreading news) and could see how it was being passed from one person to the next and then to their “friends” and then on and on. I think the whole post/comments could be printed and shown to anyone who says, “I don’t get social media.” If that doesn’t explain it, I don’t know what will. AgentGenius became the town hall of the RE.net for a meeting on the new plans for our town. Arguments were made, discussions were had, and solutions were proposed.

    I wrote this about an hour ago – I forgot how to hit “submit” apparently.

  6. Joe@Augusta GA Homes

    May 8, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Matt, As an agent who has invested a significant amount of time and money in to moving my site up in the Google rankings, I hope and pray that the NAR talking heads shut those heads up long enough to open their ears to Paula and Jay at this meeting. As a dues paying member of NAR, I cannot believe they would classify the #1 search engine on the planet this way – to the detriment of our clients. I have fought tooth and nail to move my rankings up the Google ladder, and the last thing I want is to turn off that money stream because of archaic rules that do nothing to help my clients sell their home.

  7. Matt Stigliano

    May 8, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Joe – I agree that its shocking to see that Google would be classified as any thing other than a search engine. I do hope that Paula and Jay are well received, listened to, and have enough time to get their points made. I know they will do a great job, I just hope that it goes well.

  8. Austin Smith - Goomzee.com

    May 8, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I hope so as well. As a blogger, I can’t think of two people I would rather have represent our community than Jay and Paula. Good luck, guys.

  9. Paula Henry

    May 9, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Matt – I am only beginning to get back to look at all the posts written in support of the post I wrote. What has happened here is truly the power of social media. It’s true, there are many who do not understand and many more who don’t want to. The point is, those of us here who do understand have the power to reach across boundaries we would not have otherwise had.

  10. Paula Henry

    May 9, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Austin – Thank You!

  11. Matt Stigliano

    May 10, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Austin – It is good to have such great representation. I have admired them both for their blogs in the past, but now I have more reason to. I wish them the best in their travels. I just hope that NAR will truly listen to what they have to say.

    Paula – With the bazillion emails, posts, and comments you’ve probably generated, I’m sure you’re swamped so I appreciate you taking a few moments to stop by here. You’ve been given a heavy burden because of your post, but luckily, I know you can take it on. I have full faith in you and Jay and wish you the best. Imagine this had happened ten years ago, it would probably happened quietly and never been seen by most. Thanks to your post, the word is spreading and people are reacting.

  12. Valorie Stover

    May 11, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Glad this is going to be heard by NAR and thanks to Jay and Paul,a know they will serve us well.

    Social media gets the word out faster than any the old gossip line ever did.

  13. Matt Stigliano

    May 12, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Valorie – It was fast. Although your mention of the word “gossip” brings up a good point too. It’s easy to spread rumors, false claims, gossip, lies, and sow discontent a lot faster than ever before. Everything always has a down side to it I guess.

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Opinion Editorials

How Gen X is nailing the COVID-19 social distancing order

(EDITORIAL) Of course, someone found a way to bring up generational stereotyping during COVID-19 and claim who is best, but are they onto something?

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Demographics and categorizing people helps us to process groups. A huge part of demographics and how we market ourselves in a job search, for example, is sharing our level of experiences and skill sets related to our profession – thus alluding to our age. Millennials (b. 1981-1996) received a lot of generational shame for being elitist and growing up in a time where they all received participation trophies – therefore being judged for not always winning a fair competition.

Gen X (roughly b. 1961-1981) has often commented that they feel like the forgotten generation which so much attention being play to the Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) who seemed to be born in to a great time of prosperity for “The American Dream” and then the Millennials who overtook Gen X and some of their jobs while they weren’t enough Gen Xers to fill them.

In this article “It Took a Global Pandemic, But Generation X is Finally Getting Love”, it is discussed how great Gen X is at this social distancing thing and maybe this will be helpful to anyone who feels like they are losing their mind. This is by no means an intent to shame any generation nor claim no one else knows how to handle it but this article does a great job about why Gen X might be primed to be handling the global pandemic well with the times they were raised in.

Right now, it’s a waiting game for many people who’s professions and lives have changed in what seemed like overnight. The patience required. The uncertainty of it all. The global pandemic forced (without any forgiveness), a swift move to new ways of life. The busy-ness of our days came to a crashing halt when we were no longer allowed to be out and about in places with large groups and possibly sent home to work remotely.

Many non-essential businesses were forced to close which meant people could not only not work at the office, but also had to cease their extra-curricular activities like working out at the gym, shopping, eating brunch with friends or taking their kids to their sporting events, a playground and/or coordinating a play date or sleepover. The directive from our local and federal government was for “social distancing” before the shelter in place orders came.

Gen X may agree that there were some pretty great things about their childhood – the types of things you do with your time because you don’t have a smartphone or tablet addiction and the fact that there was no way for your work to get a hold of you 24/7. Gen X did have TV and video games and sure, Mom and Dad didn’t really want you spending all of your time behind a screen but it also seemed that there wasn’t as much of a guilt trip if you did spend some of your “summer vacation” from school playing Nintendo or Sega with your neighborhood friends.

It seems like the article alludes to the idea that COVID might be helping people to get back to some of those basics before smartphones became as important to us as one of our limbs.

Gen X has had no problem adapting to technology and in their careers, they have had to adapt to many new ways of doing things (remember when caller ID came out and it was no longer a surprise who was calling?! Whaaaat?! And you can’t prank call anyone any more with your teenage friends at a sleepover! Gasp! You also wouldn’t dare TP an ex-boyfriend’s house right now).

Regardless of the need to learn new hard skills and technologies, everyone has been forced to adjust their soft skills like how technology and still being a human can play well together (since it is really nice to be able to FaceTime with loved ones far away). It seems those slightly unquantifiable adaptable and flexible skills are even more required now. It also seems that as you grow in your career, Emotional Intelligence might be your best skill in these uncertain times.

And not that we are recommending eating like crap or too many unhealthy items, Gen X has been known to be content surviving on Pop Tarts, Spaghetti O’s, Ding-dongs and macaroni and cheese which are all pretty shelf stable items right now. Whatever way is possible for you, it might be a good time to find the balance again in work, technology, home, rest, relaxation and education if at all possible.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms. 
 
Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.
 
The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.
 
And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.
 
We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.
 
That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

I just got furloughed. Now what?

(EDITORIAL) Some companies are furloughing employees, betting on their company’s long-term recovery. Here’s what you can expect and should plan for in your furlough.

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furloughed woman

Are you furloughed? You are not alone! What now? What does “furlough” even mean? How will I get money? Will I still keep my insurance?

A furlough differs from a layoff in a few ways. Whereas a layoff means you are definitely unemployed, a furlough is at its core unpaid time off. Not all furloughs are created equal, though the basic concept is the same: to keep valued employees on ice without being on the hook for their pay until a financial turnaround occurs.

The good-ish news is that a furlough means the company wants to keep you available. When a company is unable to pay their employees for an extended (often indefinite, as is the case with COVID-19 closures) period, they may opt to furlough them instead of laying them off. This virus has decimated whole industries, at least temporarily.

Furloughed employees are forbidden by law to do so much as answer a work email or text while furloughed–or else the company must pay them. The first large waves of COVID-19 furloughs are in obvious sectors such as hospitality (Marriott International), airlines industries (Virgin Atlantic), though other industries are following suit with furloughs or layoffs.

Some furloughs may mean cutting employees’ hours/days to a minimum. Maybe you’re being asked to take off a couple days/week unpaid if you’re hourly, or one week/month off if you’re on salary. With the COVID-19 situation, though, many companies are furloughing bunches of employees by asking them not to work at all. This particular furlough will last ostensibly for a few months, or until business begins to bounce back, along with normal life.

So, what are your rights? Why would you wait for the company? Can you claim unemployment benefits? What about your other work benefits? I’d be lying if I said I knew all the answers, as the furlough packages differ from company to company, and the laws differ from state to state.

However, here are some broad truths about furloughs that should apply. I hope this information helps you sort through your options. I feel your pain, truly. It’s a tough time all around. I’m on your side.

The first answer people want to know is yes, if you’re furloughed and have lost all or most of your income, you may apply for unemployment benefits. You can’t be expected to live off of thin air. Apply IMMEDIATELY, as there is normally a one or two week wait period until the first check comes in. Don’t delay. Some states provide more livable unemployment benefits (I’m looking at you, Massachusetts) than others, but some income is better than none.

Also, most furloughed employees will likely continue to receive benefits. Typically, life and health insurance remain intact throughout the length of the furlough. This is one of the ways companies let their employees know they are serious about wanting them back as soon as it’s financially realistic. Yet some other benefits, like a matching 401k contribution, will go away, as without a paycheck, there are no contributions to match.

Should you look for a job in the interim? Can you really afford not to? What if the company goes belly up while you’re waiting? Nobody wants that to happen, but the reality is that it might.

If you absolutely love your job and the company you work for and feel fairly confident the furlough is truly short-lived, then look for a short-term job. Thousands upon thousands of positions have opened up to meet the needs of the COVID-19 economy, at grocery stores or Amazon, for example. You could also look for contract work. That way, when your company reopens the doors, you can return to your position while finishing off the contract work on the side.

If the company was on shaky ground to begin with, keep that in mind when applying to new jobs. A full-time, long-term position may serve you better. At the end of this global health and economic crisis, some industries will be slower to return to their former glory–if they ever do. If you’re furloughed from such an industry, you may want to shift to something else completely. Pivot, as they say. Now would be a good time.

The only exceptions are “Excepted” government workers in essential positions, including public health and safety. They would have to work while furloughed in case of a government shutdown (and did previously).

Furloughs are scary, but they offer a greater measure of security than a layoff. They mean the company plans on returning to a good financial situation, which is encouraging. Furloughs also generally offer the comfort–and necessity–of insurance, which means you can breathe a bit easier while deciding your next move.

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