Getting involved in her Realtor Association allowed this broker to create a network of support that helped drive her success and starting in the industry during the Great Recession.
Growing up in a household where both my parents were REALTORS®, the talk around the dinner table always made its way to real estate. I knew what a contingency was at age 6 and how to spell it when I was 8.
My parents were also active in the industry as part of the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS®, Kansas Association of REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS®. I saw the joy they took from this involvement and learned from them that the benefits far outweighed the time commitments. Little did I know, I would follow in their footsteps.
I’m 14 years into my real estate career and I believe that so much of the success I’ve had has come because of what I’ve learned and who I’ve met through my leadership work in the REALTOR® community. I believe so strongly in the rewards that I've made a personal commitment to promote the work our Associations do and guide as many as I can to taking an active role in their local or state associations, along with NAR.
Like many second-generation real estate professionals, I resisted following in my parents’ footsteps. But after 10 years in the corporate world and the birth of my daughter, I made the leap and obtained my real estate license with the intention of doing it “part time.” Never in my life had I not given 110% to anything, so the idea I could do it part time lasted about three days. I threw myself into the deep end...right as the water was being drained from the pool.
It was 2007. Phones weren’t ringing. Real estate was taking a massive plunge. Everyone kept asking me if I had bothered watching the news before I decided to get into real estate. While some might wither and look for other employment opportunities, I did what I always did: I viewed it as a way to prove I can do anything I set my mind to.
Instead of throwing myself into actually selling (since that wasn’t exactly robust in 2007), I threw myself into volunteering. Some would say I was drop kicked into it: My parents had always served the industry on the local, state and national level so getting involved wasn’t really a conscious decision but rather a “that’s just what we are supposed to do” decision.
It was at our local association prom, err installation, in December 2011 that a big light bulb went off for me. At age 34, I remember looking around the ballroom of about 500 of my peers and seeing very few that resembled me. Nearly every person in that room could have passed as my parents. Where were the young people? I knew they existed but why weren’t they here? My neck hair stood on end as incoming President Lee McClelland outlined his goals, including a desire to get more young REALTORS involved.
At the after-party, I made my way to Lee and tapped him on the shoulder. “I'm in,” I said rather excitedly. “I want to help you figure out a way to accomplish your goal. I want to see younger people here.”
I found out soon after about a very small but growing movement nationally called YPN or Young Professionals Network. I gathered a group of young industry peers and founded the YPN Kansas City network in 2011. That August, I was invited to attend a YPN networking event in Chicago at the NAR Leadership Summit. I had no idea what this “Leadership Summit” was or what to expect.
While I had been involved on the local and state level, I had yet to dip my toes into the NAR scene. That evening I went down to the lobby to meet up with 38 strangers from around the country. We went from strangers to fast friends in a matter of minutes. My NAR journey had begun. And I was hooked!
Since that event, I've rarely missed the opportunity to attend an NAR event. It wasn’t the education or the speakers that drew me in, it was the connections and relationships from like-minded industry professionals from every corner of the country. I've sat in countless hotel meeting rooms, and many lobby bars, learning from the best and the brightest. The experience and knowledge has proven to be a priceless asset throughout my leadership journey.
I tell my story often to our agents and managers, along with countless other professionals. I want more to join me in participating at the local, state and national levels. Many of them only know about my involvement because of the accolades – like Rookie or Realtor of the Year. But, I remind them these awards pale in comparison to the important work the Associations do, the education you receive from being around other brilliant leaders, the business relationships and deep friendships you acquire.
We are in a noble profession made up of a diverse group of professionals, many of whom have had a former career in another industry. We therefore have individual skills that can benefit others and move our profession forward. For those of us who enjoy policy work, there's so much to do. I view the Associations as I do a college campus: There is so much more than just the classroom. Those who take advantage of campus activities will benefit the most.
I know many of you are already engaged because real estate is a passion. But I want to remind all of us to talk about our involvement and encourage others to engage with the appropriate Association. We shouldn’t just do so to remind our agents to take CE courses or pay their dues.
I have made incredible connections and some incredible friends by simply showing up. The residual benefit of the knowledge I gather has a huge impact on my work, my clients and my community. Being able to help shape the future of our industry drives me, but the relationships and friendships I have built by ‘just showing up” have had a profound impact on who I am today as a proud, involved REALTOR®.
Christian Barnes is President and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Kansas City Homes.
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