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If brokers don’t push for MLSs to consolidate, business will suffer, as will consumers

If you belong to one, six, or 20 MLSs, it is time to take action. Today, we explain the common objections from MLSs, and business benefits of brokers pushing for change. Without brokers asserting this change must come, it never will.



home buyers

Whether you are someone that belongs to two MLSs, seven MLSs, 29 MLSs, or know someone who is, you may understand how truly problematic this challenge is. Is it really feasible for the broker to sit on several MLS boards of directors and participate in all their committees – and still run the brokerage?

Is it reasonable for the broker to have to manage all those data license agreements and download data from multiple MLSs to bring together for their website, app, and back-office systems? Not really.

How about markets where the data is split between multiple MLSs (and agents have to belong to multiple MLSs) learn to use multiple MLS systems, and run multiple prospecting searches for a single client just to make sure they’re seeing all their options? Or brokers and agents having to deal with different MLS rules and inconsistent compliance departments – that may even conflict with one another – for the same listing? That’s just crazy.


MLS “data shares” are only the beginning

We’ve all heard about MLS “data shares,” which solve some, but not all of those problems. And some brokers are working on a project called Upstream, but that doesn’t solve all of those problems either and is a long way from completion.

While the aforementioned initiatives have merit, to really solve these problems, brokers need to take a more active hand in MLS consolidation or, as it’s sometimes called, MLS regionalization.

The goal of this article is to explain the benefits of MLS consolidation so brokers in leadership positions can better articulate them, then look at why the consolidations aren’t happening, and finally explain what brokers can do about it.

A strong business case for MLS consolidation

First, let’s articulate the potential benefits of MLS consolidation:

1. Reduction of arbitrary information barriers
a. Reduce need for multiple memberships
b. Reduce number of data feeds for participants’ use
c. Provide more comprehensive / accurate statistics
d. Provide wider listing exposure for sellers

2. Reduce number of systems some users need to learn

3. Improve MLS rule and data accuracy compliance
a. Providing uniform rules and enforcement

4. Provide efficiency for governance involvement

5. Improvement in scope of MLS products and services

6. Associations can focus more on association functions

7. Reduction in cost (balanced against improvement in scope)

That’s a lot of potential benefits – for brokers and agents, as well as for associations and MLSs themselves to stay strong and relevant. There’s a clear business case for MLS consolidation.

Most common excuses for MLSs not consolidating

Next, let’s look at the most common excuses for MLSs not consolidating, which as CTO at Clareity Consulting, I hear when facilitating MLS consolidation meetings:

  • “3 years to retirement … They’ll take US over when I DIE!”
  • “But next year I was going to be MLS president”.
  • “But what will 25-year loyal employee Mary do if we eliminate the redundancy?”
  • “What if we lose MLS revenue to the association?”
  • “My MLS is worth a lot! Why would I give that away?”
  • “What about our association’s IDENTITY?”
  • “Their members benefit more than ours.”

It’s amazing, but I hear these excuses all the time!

What I like to do is relate these to the association or MLS mission statement. These organizations do not exist in order to provide jobs to leaders and staff. They don’t exist to provide volunteerism resume padding for agents.

While associations need money, they need to charge association dues as needed to fulfill that role and let MLS be a separate business. The “us versus them” attitude some associations and MLSs have about their neighbors is likewise not serving member needs. Again, it all goes back to the organization mission, which should be about providing benefits to the members.

One final fear that is totally unfounded

There’s one more objection that people use to try to put off MLS consolidation that bears special attention: “If we consolidate, their agents will come to our market and sell homes they know nothing about.”

All I can say is that, in the history of MLS consolidation, other than anecdotally, that fear has never played out.

There are answers to all of the consolidation objections – and compromises that can be made to address them if needed. For example, associations can still get revenue from MLS by providing value as MLS service centers, and often existing staff can be re-deployed to a regional MLS. This is the kind of thinking that can reduce the strength of the objections to MLS consolidation.

Some MLS boundaries hurt the industry

Still, sometimes leadership is focused on parochial interests, and acts in a manner contrary to the organizational mission. Bluntly, if the leadership is acting against the mission, it’s time for new leadership.

I understand that there is a fiduciary responsibility that leadership, including board members, have to their organizations. However, plenty of associations and MLSs have shut down or merged in the last few years, because it was clearly the right thing to do for their brokers and agents. This has been a good starting point for erasing the arbitrary MLS boundaries that are hurting our industry.

It takes a long time, so brokers must push

You should be aware that MLS consolidation is usually a several year-long project, given the business and legal complexity of merging organizations, as well as the nature of MLS software contracts, which sometimes have multi-year terms. I’m involved with several consolidation efforts right now, and they take patience – but if brokers want this to happen, they need to start the efforts now.

Brokers in positions of power with associations and MLSs, formal or otherwise, need to work together to demand MLS consolidation. Brokers have been successful in these efforts before, forcing the issue to form regional MLSs around the country, but there are still hundreds of markets where it makes sense for MLSs to consolidate and brokers need to take responsibility for driving the process to completion…

Sitting back and blaming “them” for not consolidating is not a good strategy for change.


Matt Cohen has been with Clareity Consulting for over 17 years, consulting for many of the real estate industry’s top Associations, MLSs, franchises, large brokerages and technology companies. Many clients look to Matt for help with system selection and negotiation. Technology providers look to Matt for assistance with product planning, software design, quality assurance, usability, and information security assessments. Matt has spoken at many industry events, has been published as an author in Stefan Swanepoel’s “Trends” report and many other publications, and has been honored by Inman News, being listed as one of the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders.


5 secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?



distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions

    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions

    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.
  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items

    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.“There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.
  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation

    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.
  5. Optimize Your Workspace

    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.



too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: Being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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Burn out might be a signal calling for your attention

(EDITORIAL) Many people face a burn out in their career, but what are the signs? Are you able to pivot into a new career? And if so, is that a good idea?



woman experiencing burn out

It’s not something they tell you when growing up that you may experience burn out and to be honest, it almost feels like our society raises us to march in a straight line and be careful not to ask too many questions (i.e. Go in to business or engineering to get a job but there are PLENTY of people with Liberal Arts degrees working too). As a former marketer on big name brands like McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, NAVTEQ, for example, my path was pretty fascinating and not anything I can pretend like I manifested into existence while sitting in my dorm room, sorority house or apartment senior year of college.

I chose a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from a Big 10 University, I moved to the big city after graduation (Chicago) and worked my way through agencies and corporate environments. My parents were teachers – amazing and award-winning – and I felt they didn’t get paid enough for how hard they worked which is why I ignored my 8-year old self who REALLY wanted to be a teacher.

I found a thrill in it all – the constant stream of “problems” from our clients or internal departments and I felt lucky to be on teams who were always up for the challenge of finding “solutions”. I am not super sure what I was chasing other than it seemed to be totally normal to climb the corporate ladder and want more responsibilities and higher pay. I did decide to pursue an MBA in 2008 as a personal goal to achieve a graduate degree (I also had an Education grant from doing an AmeriCorps program that I wanted to use) and yes, I utilized that degree to request higher pay. By the way, at every job, I really loved my coworkers. Some of the most fascinating, amazing and talented people I have ever met (they tell you it’s about the people you work with and I’m not sure really believe it until you’ve experienced it.)

Check out this list of intelligent reasonings behind a burn out from Frank Chimero. Do any of them strike true for you?

His #2 and #4 really resonated with me:

2. Achievement culture: believing that identity and safety are only available through high achievement
4. Visibility leading to hyperactive comparison: passivity and visibility locking together to invite comparison and create a debilitating scarcity mindset. Comparisons leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, or fear of failure. Constant self-reproach and self-aggression.

I was completely caught up in the above – constantly trying to improve, be better, move into the next company or position. I also tripled my salary in ten years and finally was like “is this enough?” I’m not sure my mentality could keep up with going from not much money after taxes to plenty.

I’ve started to question a lot of the things I thought I knew to be true. The research articles that say the magic salary number of $75,000 annually is what will make you happy. There is no more happiness beyond that point and hell, you must be crazy if you’re happy making less than that. That’s what marketing and advertising tell you. Don Draper establishes himself as an Advertising genius when he states in Mad Men, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.”

Look, please don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for my 12+ years working from Assistant Account Executive to Senior Manager, Digital. I am grateful for my 10-month AmeriCorps Service Leader position with City Year Chicago right out of college. I am grateful that when I reached burn out in 2012, when I realized that I didn’t give a schhhh if anyone bought more of my client’s product (sorry), I was part of a lay-off of 5% of the staff and forced to take a step back and figure out what I wanted to do. What I did learn is you cannot imagine the amount of research, passion and intelligence that goes into marketing when you are 19 years old or if you’ve never worked in it. There are so many incredible things that come from marketers and I do believe they help make the world go around.

I will say thanks to my burn out, I made a career transition and now I’m a big believer in that. I became a Creative & Marketing recruiter and I loved it. I also became an Adjunct Instructor and I loved that. Those two combined is what lead me to my ultimate career switch where I work in Career Services in Higher Education (which I could not have the job I have without a Master’s degree).

That burn out from what I refer to as “Marketing & Advertising world” lead to a beautiful new career where I feel fulfilled and excited and engaged. But for transparency sake, I took a pretty significant pay cut to switch in to Higher Ed, and this has angered me a bit about the values in our country as it relates to education. I know they say money doesn’t buy happiness, but I will say that I think it’s ok when it allows you to buy experiences and do things that make you happy and share that with your friends, family and community.

As a Career Coach and talking to hundreds of people about what they want to do professionally…honestly, we have a lot more in common than you would think. We want to do work that we feel passionate about, interested in, constantly learn and contributing to a bigger picture – while be compensated fairly for what we do and able to afford lifestyles that matter to us.

In these new times, where many have lost their jobs or been forced to work remotely and/or work while also taking care of family members, I’m just going to say it. Are we finally going to realize the value of skilled and/or tenured employees, our teachers, healthcare workers, grocery store clerks/stockers/managers and restaurant/hospitality folks, local artist and makers (to name a few)? Because they may be wondering about the $75K/year thing. And as for small business owners and entrepreneurs, they give us their passion and craft and many that I have met don’t go touting around their financials.

Whatever the case may be for you, I hope your journey is bringing you to what really makes you happy and that you don’t feel that happiness has been unjustly sold to you. If you’re experiencing a burn out, I’d like to think it could it be a signal calling out for your attention.

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