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I’ll Take The Blame, Will You Take Some With Me?

San Antonio Board Of Realtors - Board Room

…but this isn’t about pointing fingers.

When I became an agent, I thought I was insignificant as far as the larger world of Realtors® went. Seriously, who was I compared to the juggernaut that is the National Association of Realtors®? Heck, who was I even in the San Antonio Board of Realtors® realm? Or even just my broker’s office? An absolute nobody. The new guy. An agent who still had wet ink of his license and a head full of finance, appraisal, and contract information that is hardly useful today, because they’ve changed the rules fifty times since I passed my exam. The world of real estate changes quick and it all seems a lot quicker when you’re just trying to figure out the basics.

I paid attention though and took what I could from agents I hoped to be like someday. One of the things I took away was involvement. I’ve never had a problem opening up my mouth and giving my opinions, right or wrong, but in the world of real estate I felt intimidated at times. Not because anyone pushed me around or called me stupid, but because I wanted to be the best at what I do and there were plenty of people who knew way more than I did.

With the recent articles and comments revolving around Todd Carpenter and Greg Cooper, I kept a lot of my personal opinions to myself. That’s not to say I didn’t have plenty of them, but in this case, I was more interested in watching things unfold and seeing what I would take away from them.

Realtor® vs. NAR vs. Realtor® vs NAR

It’s no secret that there is often dissent in the ranks of the NAR membership. There always will be. Get over it and move on. There will always be an us vs. them mentality, even if NAR became exactly what every individual agent dreamt it was. As long as there is money flowing out of the pocket of the Realtor® to pay for NAR, there will always be some vestige of us vs. them. I think it’s the natural course of paying any dues to an association. Maybe in other industries it works better, but I bet they have the same problems all the time.

The best way to combat these frictions? Open your mind and your mouth. Greg took issue with something he felt strongly about and he did both. “Right” or “wrong” in the manner he did it, Greg took the time to state his case and for that I admire him. I also admire Todd for the same reason, whether “right” or “wrong”, Todd has always been willing to speak up. (Please note, “right” and “wrong” are used in a very loose sense here – not as “absolute obvious correct answer” or “outright how-could-you-be-so-stupid false answer.”) I don’t wish to argue who was right or who was wrong, who went about it the correct way or who went about it all wrong. I wish to see it for what it was…an opportunity.

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Advice I was given.

A long time ago, a wise sage gave me some advice. It was slipped into the comment section of one of my posts here at AgentGenius and I looked it up while I was writing this. I was going to link to the article, but I thought I’d just reprint the quote right here:

My advice; listen, listen, listen, think dimensionally, present patiently, eat your Wheaties, keep the faith, have fun.

Most of you can probably guess who said this just by the way it was written, but in case you’re stuck, it was Ken Brand. Read it again. I’m not sure what you take away from the quote, but I received a clear, strong message that day.

It’s not going to be easy; so listen carefully, digest, and speak your mind. You may run into a wall more than once – don’t get discouraged. P.S. Bruce Jenner had cool hair in the 70s.

Maybe Ken didn’t mean to make me dream of Bruce Jenner’s hair while discussing my recently fulfilled goal of gaining committee membership at my local board, but the rest of it I’m sure was his intention. I’ve joined those committees and am now working my way into the “system.” I’m not there to subvert it, I’m there to make it. I’m there to change, evolve, and improve it. I’m there to be a part of it and learn a thing or two. Do I think I’ll solve the world’s problems over the course of the year? No way. It’s not going to happen. I won’t even solve all of them before I leave the world of real estate. Perhaps though, I will be able to lay the foundation for the road that has yet to be built. To help pave the way for a guy like me many years for now. To set up the shot, but not necessarily score the goal. To me, that’s what this is all about. We know things don’t change overnight (or over years at times), but change is inevitable – sometimes it’s not for the best, but even that “wrong” change will adapt and evolve over time. I’m sure many people at NAR laughed at the thought of communication over the computer – look at them now.

I have only myself to blame for sitting by and not speaking up. I wish I had started sooner. Speaking up involves work, and sometimes, that work seems out of reach or too daunting a task to take on. But do it we must. If not, we have only ourselves to blame. I said I didn’t want to point fingers and I certainly don’t want to point them back at myself for failing to take the risk of trying. Sitting idly by and letting things happen to my Association is certainly not the answer. Get in, get involved.

There is nothing wrong with putting yourself out there and being shot down. There is everything wrong with not trying. You have only yourself to blame if things remain stagnant.

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Written By

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."



  1. Russell

    February 3, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    I saw this on Twitter and came right over. Nice points especially when referring to having an open mind with an open mouth. The two are NOT mutually exclusive but sometimes it appears that way. Whatever the situation, nothing can change without direct involvement and it does not take Bruce Jenner’s hair to get it done!

  2. Matt Stigliano

    February 3, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Russell – Open mind and open mouth can go hand in hand as long as you allow time for open mind and closed mouth once in awhile. The idea of involvement really is a product of my time at AgentGenius, so I often come back to it. Bruce Jenner’s hair can save the world – then again, I think your beard might have mystical powers too.

  3. MIssy Caulk

    February 3, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Matt you are pretty young to come to that conclusion…I thought it came with age.

    My favorite Dr. Suess quote is, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

    I’ve made a few enemies this year on my local board, rocking the power structure. (or trying to)
    It has been hard, speaking the truth or your perception of it, is not easy.

  4. Brandie Young

    February 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I knew that you were quoting Ken! He’s awesome. (So are you, BTW) Sage advice and Missy’s Dr. Suess quote is apt as well.

    I was chatting with Bill Lublin yesterday and asked him if tempers flared this much when everyone was making money. Of course, that was then, and there wasn’t as much SM interaction as now, but still.

    At the end of the day, of course we should express problems, concerns etc. not with the intent to derail but to move forward. And, since communication is subjective to the listener be prepared to explain if your message didn’t come through as desired.

    Thanks, Rockstar!

  5. Matt Stigliano

    February 4, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Missy – Thanks to the “is Google a scraper” saga I was kind of drafted into my thoughts quickly. I got my education fast and was able to form thoughts and opinions a lot easier and faster than usual I guess. It also helped that part of why I wanted to be a real estate agent was to be different from some of the things I had seen in my own dealings with agents as a consumer. Call me idealistic, but I do think we will always have room for improvement (both as an industry and as individuals) and if we forget that, we might us well hang up our licenses.

    My committee work is just getting underway and I’m still feeling out my surroundings, but I already have one thing that I’m ready to take head-on that I know won’t be popular with some and might even get some people on the offensive. I’ve been carefully laying out my plan from the actual body of it to the objections and counter-objections.

    Brandie – As someone who started his internet life in chat rooms and bulletin board systems while the internet wasn’t even a household name yet, I find that the internet will always draw out conflict. For whatever reason, we feel safer here than we do elsewhere. We’re more open and willing to express our opinions in type. Add in an Association that hasn’t always been looking kindly upon and a web of agents, all with different opinions, feelings, and agendas and suddenly you have a powder keg.

    With more and more agents getting involved online (whether social media, reading sites like AgentGenius, or just learning to blog or email), I think we may be in the very early stages of communication through the medium. Sure, some people have been doing it since the MLS was first computerized, but not everyone has. As more people get involved, we will have to naturally seek out the comfort level. It will only ever be an average as some will still not be comfortable and others will feel it’s “old hat” and not be afraid of anything. And that’s not just for agents, it’s for consumers as well. I have clients who wouldn’t know where to find my blog if I showed them how. I have clients who found me that way. It really depends on the consumer to open up as well, because the more they get involved in communications of this sort, the more we can improve and perfect our communication with them…and each other.

  6. Duke Long

    February 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I have publicly asked Ken to marry me…. of course to no avail…His wisdom reaches far and wide.

    • Ken Brand

      February 4, 2010 at 6:18 pm

      Duke, in the wee hours, between 1am and 3am, I am penning a collection of love poems, e.e. Cummings style. I’m keeping them hidden away in black velvet box, twice the size of a shoe box, it’s filling fast. One day, when my soul has flown to heaven, you will receive my collection via personal messenger. Of course all bets are off if you expire before I, in which case I will have them incinerated with me.

      While I can’t marry you, it’s the best I can do.

      Cheers Duke.

  7. Ken Brand

    February 4, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Matt – You Strong Like Bull! And generous too, thanks.

    On reflection, you called it, I think the Wheaties reference was subconsciously all about Bruce’s cool hair (Why no mustache Bruce? Why?) and the fact the my hair is turning clear, which saddens me. Although, checking in on Bruce and the Kardashian’s, his hair is losing some luster, but his face looks tighter, weird…but I digress.

    I remember when you wrote that you were joining a committee, I thought, ugg, we have plenty of Wind Mills to tilt, why fight that one, but you’re making a difference – awesome.

    I thought I’d NEVER involve myself in another local board mish-mash, but recently I was asked to help out with a little technology project and I thought, what hell, all this talk on Agent Genius about helping things change, including your contributions, I said yes. I’m enjoying it.

    Rock on Matt, stay STRONG, like BULL.


    • Matt Stigliano

      February 7, 2010 at 8:44 am

      Ken – I worry that some of the negative connotations of involvement (from “Old Boys Club” to “it doesn’t help any”) will discourage the younger, newer generation of agents. I know because I was told our local board was very close-knit and getting in sounded more like a country club membership than a board committee. Lucky for me I didn’t listen. Sure, there is probably going to be some of that attitude anywhere, but to ignore your boards and associations because of it? Just seems like accepting what you’re handed and nothing more. I’m not into “settling” just because it’s easier.

      Jenner would have looked pretty tough in those days with the addition of a Brand-stasche. He missed a great opportunity.

  8. Bob Wilson

    February 4, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Matt, if you feel like sharing blame, go ahead, but dont assume that it is to be shared by everyone. I have a 20 year history with NAR and many of their local offspring associations. I will not take on any blame for their shortcomings.

    For most of those 20 years, NAR has taken the attitude that if dont like it, tough luck. Getting onto committees with the local boards here happened only if you were part of the club. If you were a broker, you had a say, but not if you were just an agent.

    There are many of us who have way more knowledge and first hand experience with many of the issues that face the agent in the trenches than most of the people NAR goes to for advice. Just look at the number of so-called consultants who dont sell real estate that populated their panels in Nov)ember.

    I admire your zeal as a new agent, but many of us have the benefit of history that you do not. The ongoing chant online this past year to quit bitching and start volunteering is disingenuous. The fact that NAR has plucked a few from the real estate blogging community doesnt prove anything. I see it more as a token gesture.

    You may take this as a flame, but that is not its intent. Its meant more as a reminder that what the Kevin Tomlinson’s and others in the RE world complain about is based on real experience with an organization that has had little regard for its membership, and has come under fire for this actions and omissions.

    Instead of finding a SM director and arguing over stupid stuff that they dont understand, like the difference between scraping and indexing, maybe NAR should do something truly groundbreaking, like coming up with a health care plan for its 1.2 million members.

    Until then, feel free to share with NAR whatever blame you want, but please do not assume that it should be shared by the rest of us. As Bill Lubin stated, its not like we all have a voice, and NAR folks like Bill dont believe we should.

    • Matt Stigliano

      February 7, 2010 at 9:20 am

      Bob – It was certainly not my intention to make anyone feel as if I was shoving the blame in their laps, but I do feel that more people could benefit from removing their “it’s going to fail mentality” when it comes to association involvement.

      I am well aware of the difference in experience between myself and others and while I recognize that some of my zeal is from being a new agent, I also hope that some of that zeal might rub off on a few people here and there. I’m not kidding myself into thinking that I am some sort of “savior” for our industry, but rather I want to be part of the solutions.

      The fact that NAR has plucked a few from the real estate blogging community doesn’t prove anything. I see it more as a token gesture.

      Let’s assume that it is nothing more than a token gesture. Is it not feasible that those that were plucked might go on to bigger and better things. That their interest might be sparked and they might step up and become a bigger part of the association in the future? Token gesture or not, I think it has long term implications.

      As a side note, I’m not 100% behind everything NAR does either and know that historically they’ve screwed more than a few things up…quite royally. I will be willing to be they will in the future too. That’s not to say they have to…things can change.

      My excitement over changes and new ways of doing things is all a part of feeling that I’m part of my own association. I am only one voice, but I hope my voice will be heard. If I don’t try to speak up, then I can’t complain that no one heard me.

      You’re right, not everyone can be on a committee. I don’t think you should be if the desire is not there. Like anything in life, you need to want to do it, not just do it because someone told you to. Your own convictions play a large role in the outcome of any involvement. Believe that it’s all for naught and you’ll probably get zero out of it, believe otherwise and you may get beaten down from time to time, but your positive look at it can help create an environment where things can be done.

      P.S. I didn’t see this as a flame in anyway. Your concerns as far as NAR goes are clear and (obviously) you’re not alone. Even I have doubts about NAR sometimes. That’s not going to change, much like I mentioned in the “us vs. them” mentality section – as long as money comes out of our pockets, we will always have doubts and complaints.

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