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Not Chuck Norris, but…

This week, I had the pleasure of bugging Agent Genius contributor Ben Martin over the phone while he drove back home from D.C. I’ve been curious about the launch of and wanted to get the scoop, so after torpedoing Ben with questions, he proved that he is bullet proof. Well, okay, maybe he’s no Chuck Norris, but I learned a lot about VARbuzz.

Ben Martin is already hip-deep in two other blogs outside of AG- one that covers the “code of good business” campaign which is sort of the business side of The Ted and another regarding the annual convention, both of which are over but those blogging efforts are being rolled into VARBuzz. Ben still saw potential in a blog that would create a greater presence for their corporate blog, generate conversation and engage members. “We want to show that we’re proactive, that we get it.”

Future of,

Ben has already recruited several bloggers to author the site with him, helping to amplify the voice of the site with blog backgrounds ranging from a few weeks old to years old, so the mix should definitely create an interestingly diverse product.

Regarding the site design, they’re testing the full vs. partial feed subscriptions (be sure to let him know your preference) to see what best serves their site. The logo is intentionally highlighting the “social” aspect of social media and social marketing and aims to be clear to the audience that the site is interactive.

Much more than a tool

Ben sees as much more than a tool- the blog will “enhance and extend relationships” with the benefit being “creating personal connections between VAR and their members.” Putting a real face on the blog “humanizes it and connects people, and ultimately they’ll appreciate more what [VAR] is doing.”

By humanizing what people at the association level do, there is a posibility that VARbuzz will “change some attitudes of the naysayers about the whole association machine.” VAR progresses while NAR is tied up in traditional media and overly controlling the message while being unwilling to acknowledge the shift in control has gone to the members who now control the message because of online communications.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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  1. Matthew Rathbun

    February 12, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    We’re rather proud of our Ben! I am pretty excited about VAR embracing this technology. Ben’s done a good job of finding a diverse group of Bloggers and to widely spread the social media word. I think he’s why there are soooo many Virginia twitter’s and bloggers.

    VAR is going a step further and not just getting out the word, but also doing workshops on doing it right. Ben’s working to not only educate on how to do this, but how to do it ethically and legally. Efforts from folks like Ben, Jim Duncan and Daniel Rothamel have been great inspirations for a lot of folks.

  2. Heather Elias

    February 12, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    As a VA Realtor, it’s great to see our association being proactive and reaching out to the member base in new ways. Even the monthly magazine put out by the association this month was full of articles on how to use technology to grow your business…written by people that I already know and respect from the community. Maybe VAR will light the way so that NAR can catch up? =)

  3. Ines

    February 12, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    very impressive – I said it last week when I posted the video of the TED on Miamism – Realtor Boards across the nation should pay attention……..and learn.

  4. Ben

    February 12, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    I’m just glad to be a part of the conversation. Stay tuned to VARbuzz this week as VAR holds its annual Legislative & Education Conference. Thursday, I am told, we’ll have a special — and perhaps controversial — guest.

  5. Jay Thompson

    February 12, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    The VAR leadership sets the bar, VERY high, for all other associations.

    I left a comment on the VAR CEO’s post today that he needs to either move to Arizona and head up the AAR, or pack his bags for Chicago/DC and do it right at the “Big House” — the NAR.

  6. Jeremy Hart

    February 12, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Ben’s been a great addition to the Association! It’s been interesting, in the limited time I’ve been at the Legislative & Education Conference so far, the number of people who’ve *already* mentioned the site, that they’ve read it, heard of it, etc., and are interested in what’s to come! The BUZZ is already there among our members, thrilled to see this take off under Ben’s guidance! Thanks for bringing it to everyone’s attention …

  7. Sara

    February 13, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Hi everyone-

    Kinda off topic but I am trying to see if anyone else is attending the RE online Convention at Its free so it hasn’t hurt me to attend, and I have been finding some cool services and software at some of the booths. One thing I wanted to get your take on was has anyone used it? Thanks!

  8. Brian Block

    February 14, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    I just found VARBuzz the other day shortly before reading your post about it. VAR and certainly Ben are on top of all things W2.0 and I’m happy to be associated with a state association that has it together like that. It was a pleasure meeting with Ben last month at the Inman Connect NYC.

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Opinion Editorials

The secret to self improvement isn’t always about improvements

(EDITORIAL) Self improvement and happiness go hand in hand, but are you getting lost in the mechanics of self improvement?



fitness happiness

Think back to your New Year’s resolutions. Now that it’s summer, how many of them are you still keeping? Think about which ones stuck and what went by the wayside.

If you’re like most of us, you had big plans to make yourself better but didn’t stay the course. I’ve only managed to keep one of my resolutions, but it isn’t always easy.

I want to take a look at why we can’t keep our goals. I think we’re always on a journey of self-improvement. It’s easy to get obsessed with reading self-help books or trying to learn new things. We want to be better. This spring, I went through a Lent study with a group of people. Lent is a time of growth and self-reflection, just six weeks. And yet many of us are struggling to keep up with the daily reading or maintaining a fast of something we willingly chose to give up.

Why do we fail?

I think we fail because of three things.

You might think I’m going to say something like we fail because we don’t have willpower, but I think that is the farthest thing from the truth. I’m no therapist, but I’ve read the literature on alcohol and drug rehab. It’s not willpower that keeps a person sober. It’s community. One reason I think we fail at our goals is that we don’t have a cheerleading team. I believe that we need people on our side when we’re trying to improve.

Secondly, I think we fail because we want immediate results. We have this mentality that things should happen quickly. I’ve written about this before. It’s like you workout once and want that swimsuit body. We get frustrated when we don’t see results right away. So, we move on to the next pursuit.

Do your goals lead to happiness?

Failure can also be because self-improvement goals don’t always lead to being better person. We do a lot of things because “we should.” Your doctor might think you need to lose weight. Maybe your boss wants you to be a better speaker. Meditation should make you a better person. Maybe you ran a marathon, and now you think you need to run an ultramarathon because that’s what your best friend did.

What makes you happy isn’t always what you should be doing.

Your doctor might be right, but if you’re choosing to lose weight because you want to make your doctor happy, you’re probably not going to stick with a program. If you’re trying to learn Spanish to make your boss happy, again, you’re probably not going to enjoy it enough to really learn. If you’re chasing after goals just to say you’ve done it, what value do your achievements bring to your life?

If you’re obsessed because you “should” do something, you’re going to get burned out and fail. Whether it’s New Year’s resolutions, a self-improvement project or giving up meat for Lent, you need solid reasons for change. And if you give something a try that isn’t for you, don’t soldier on. You don’t need to spend years taking yoga classes if you don’t enjoy it.

When something becomes a burden rather than bringing benefits, maybe it’s time to take a look at why you’re doing it.

When you don’t know why you’re knocking yourself out to be better, maybe you need to figure out a reason. And if you feel as if what you’re doing isn’t enough, stop and figure out what will satisfy you.

I’ve been doing a lot of meal prepping on the weekends. Sometimes, I want to quit. But it pays off because I have less to do throughout the week. It might seem like a burden, but the benefits outweigh the burdens. I’ve been able to eat much healthier and use more vegetables in my meals, which is the one goal I’ve been able to keep. I have some good friends that help me stay on track, too. I choose to eat more vegetables for my health. I think it’s a combination of all these things that is helping me meet my goal this year.

Don’t give up on making yourself a better person. Just don’t become obsessed over the program. Look at the outcome. Are you pursing happiness on a treadmill or are you really working to find happiness?

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Opinion Editorials

What I wish I knew about finances in my 20s

(EDITORIAL) They say money makes the world go round. So, let’s discuss how to be smart with finances before it’s too late.




Being in my early twenties, something I’m still getting used to is the fact that I’m making my own money. This is not to be confused with the babysitting money I was making 10 years ago.

Twice a month is the same routine: I get my paycheck and think, “Wooo! We goin’ out tonight!” but then I snap back to reality and think about what that money needs to be put towards. The smallest part of it going towards fun.

It’s been tricky to really start learning the ins and outs of finances. So, I do what I usually do in any type of learning process? I ask for advice.

I used to be fixated on asking those more advanced in age than I what they wish they knew when they were my age. Now that I’m determined to learn about finances, that question has been altered.

I reached out to a few professionals I know and trust and they gave me solid feedback to keep in mind about building my finances, about what they wish they had known in their 20s. However, I don’t think this only applies to those just starting out, and may be helpful for all of us.

“It’s important to simply know the value of money,” says human resource expert, Nicole Clark. “I think once you start earning your own money and are responsible for your housing, food, etc. you realize how valuable money is and how important it is to budget appropriately and make sure you’re watching your spending.”

Law firm executive director, Michael John, agrees with Clark’s sentiments. “I wish I had kept the value of saving in mind when I was younger,” explains John. “But, still remembering to balance savings while rewarding yourself and enjoying what your efforts produce.”

There are so many aspects of finance to keep in mind – saving, investing, budgeting, retirement plans, and so on and so forth.

In addition to suggesting to spend less than you make and to pay off your credit card in full each month, Kentucky-based attorney, Christopher Groeschen, explained the importance of a 401k.

“Every employee in America should be contributing everything they can into a 401k every year, up to the current $18,000 maximum per person,” suggests Groeschen.

“401ks present an opportunity for young investors to 1) learn about investing and 2) enter the market through a relatively low-risk vehicle (depending on your allocations),” he observes.

“An additional benefit is that 401ks also allow employees to earn FREE MONEY through employer matches,” he continues. “At the very least, every employee should contribute the amount necessary to earn the employer match (usually up to 4%) otherwise, you are giving up the opportunity to earn FREE MONEY. Earning FREE MONEY from your employer that is TAX FREE is much more important than having an extra Starbucks latte every day.”

Whether we like it or not, money is a core aspect of our daily lives. It should never be the most important thing, but we cannot deny that it is, in fact, an important thing. It’s tricky to learn, but investing in my future has become a priority.

This editorial was first published in May 2018.

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Opinion Editorials

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

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



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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