The Council of Multiple Listing Services, a nonprofit trade group whose MLS members represent nearly 1 million subscribers, is in search of its first-ever CEO.
Formed in 1957 with three founding members, CMLS now has 234 members, 163 of them MLSs representing 977,509 subscribers.
“We … recognized that the organization had grown in complexity to a level that we really needed that one point person” to implement CMLS’ strategic plan and handle day-to-day tasks, said CMLS President Art Carter. Carter is also CEO of the largest MLS in the nation, California Regional MLS (CRMLS).
“A lot of it came from a push from the industry to push forward with a lot of strategic initiatives. Placing it on an all-volunteer group of people is pretty difficult given the scope of what is being discussed.”
When hired, the CEO will be CMLS’ first and only employee. The trade group is run by a 12-member board of directors and four officers, each of whom are volunteers and elected by the membership. An association management firm handles daily activities and helps put together the trade group’s annual conference.
Carter said CMLS is looking for someone with well-rounded experience leading an organization and delivering against a strategic plan. He or she doesn’t necessarily have to come from the industry, but experience in organized real estate would be “a big plus,” he said.
“It’s a little bit of a different business model, and somebody who understands all of the different levels of organized real estate and how they work together and how those relationships work and how they must work in order to bring our strategic plan into fruition is going to be important,” he said.
“You have multiple levels of organizations that cooperatively work together yet compete with each other. Also, we’re ultimately serving a real estate professional that ultimately does the same thing — cooperates, yet competes — and understanding how to navigate those waters is going to be important.”
Part of CMLS’ strategic plan is “big policy leadership,” which means taking stands on items that are of interest in the industry — typically policy decisions being made by the National Association of Realtors — and working closely with NAR to understand the issues and express what CMLS feels is the best direction for the industry to go, Carter said.
“Our goal is to work closely with NAR to move the industry forward as we possibly can,” he said. “There’s 900 some odd MLSs in the country and making sure that brokerages across the country are receiving the best possible service that they possibly can get out of their local MLS is something that CMLS is very interested in.”
“We believe the more that MLSs in this country work together the better it will be not only for the brokers and their agents but for the consumer as well. ”
The LinkedIn job posting for the CEO position notes that the ideal candidate is “apolitical, meaning you will not be a visible leader or advocate for any particular party or movement within the real estate industry or seek public office.” Rather, the CEO will represent the stances of CMLS’ president and board, the posting said.
There will be some travel required to help support CMLS initiatives and make information presentations to groups such as state Realtor associations, Carter said.
Nonetheless, he said the role of the president will remain very active in CMLS.
“My guess is when policy decisions are made and issue papers put forward that it will be the president that will handle the more political parts of the interaction,” he said.
Also part of CMLS’ strategic plan is the development of a book-length MLS “best practices” white paper for members that will detail how top MLSs deal with financial management, technology, human resources, and relationships with big brokers, among other things. Currently in development, the white paper is slated to be ready shortly before CMLS’ annual conference in September.
“Making sure that our membership is informed about the issues that are going on and can make informed decisions is really one of the key driving factors of what we do at CMLS,” Carter said.
To that end, CMLS has also formed LinkedIn groups for MLS staff to interact with one another, post questions and comments, and learn how problems are being solved by fellow MLS staffers across the country.
Another of CMLS’ strategic initiatives is CMLX, a three-year designation program to certify MLS management specialists. The program, which is entering its second year, has been “very, very successful,” Carter said. Nearly 100 MLS staffers completed level one of the designation last year.
Part of the CEO’s job will be to oversee the development and execution of training plans with an aim of self-funding CMLS, according to the job posting.
“It’s an organization that is basically run on revenue from membership dues and conference revenue, so the ability to generate revenue from (other sources) is something we’ll always push for,” Carter said.
Because CMLS is a dues-driven organization and doesn’t fundraise, it hopes to attract more members into the fold, he added.
Another CMLS strategic initiative is not meant to generate revenue, but rather to offer a leg up to MLS members.
It’s called sourceMLS. The idea behind it is that listings on brokerage websites will have a “sourceMLS” badge displayed next to them to indicate that they have come directly from an MLS.
It is currently in beta testing with Chicago-area MLS Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED). At some point, CMLS plans to give it away to their members as a way of setting their listing content apart from the myriad of other listing sources on the Internet.
“The intent is to help consumers understand what MLS data can do for them as far as accuracy and freshness,” Carter said.
The sourceMLS badge will not appear on listings sent from MLSs to popular portals Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com — it is intended to be a brokerage-only tool at this point, Carter said.
CMLS started advertising the CEO job in May and thus far has received more than 70 applications. The application deadline is Friday, July 25. The trade group hopes to hire a CEO sometime in the next two months.
Russ Bergeron, former president and CEO of MRED, is no longer a member of CMLS’ board. The trade group’s bylaws require board members to be active MLS executives, and Bergeron resigned from MRED in June. Tim Dain, executive director of Southwestern Illinois Regional MLS (SIR/MLS), will serve out the rest of Bergeron’s term through the end of this year.