Leadership Lens: 'We need to get out of our own way'

Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors (HGAR) CEO Richard Haggerty shares his outlook for real estate leadership in 2018

SALE! Save $150 off
Inman Connect San Francisco tickets

Use code 'MDsale150' at checkout

Inman is exploring what the future of real estate leadership should look like through a series of articles, Q&As with industry pros, and an upcoming 5-part series called Leadership Week. Please send your feedback to leadership@inman.com. If you’re a leader who wants to join us for our exclusive Disconnect in The Desert event on March 26-28, or want to recommend a colleague, send a note to brad@inman.com explaining why.

Richard Haggerty is the CEO at Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors (HGAR). Since 1916, HGAR has been the advocate for buyers, sellers and agents in the Hudson Valley and Manhattan. They help consumers buy and sell real estate in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Orange, Bronx, Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan counties, and in Manhattan.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Richard about his organization’s work, and how leadership has changed for him over the past few years.

As a leader, what keeps you up at night?

Trying to ensure that the organization is more than just “relevant.” At the end of the day, the future of organized real estate rests in the hands of the individual agent. Agents and brokers pay dues out of their own pockets, and we never forget that. They have a choice. We need to deliver services to them that matter and help build a future that keeps the Realtor at the center of the transaction.

Even though the current structure of organized real estate often compels agents to be a member of the association and multiple listing service (MLS) in order to do business in their local markets, that model could be broken if agents and brokers come to believe that we are not just relevant and useful, but truly impactful in their success.

Richard Haggerty

If you could change one thing in real estate, what would it be?

The speed with which organized real estate can make big decisions. We need to get out of our own way, ditch politics and start acting as nimble, customer service-focused organizations that make decisions in real time.

Business and real estate specifically are moving at the speed of light. As associations and MLSs, we need to move as quickly as our members to ensure that we meet their needs. We have to stop getting lost in the details of decisions, and start actually making them based on facts, not politics.

How have your expectations of your management team changed over the past two years?

They have to think “bigger, bolder, better.” The average tenure of most association and MLS management teams is well over 15 years. Loyalty and institutional knowledge is a wonderful thing in organized real estate, but it’s far too easy for seasoned executives to look to the past for solutions, rather than the future.

We need to think bigger, bolder and better, and embrace ideas and solutions that work outside the industry to improve our operations. I would be happy if I never again heard the words, “That will never work in real estate because it’s not the way we do business,” or “… because it’s too hard” or “… because it’s too political,” etc.

How do you keep your team competitive?

Involve and immerse them in the decision-making process, from beginning to end. They have to know they are making a difference. People do their best when they know that they are making a difference and have a say in what’s going on in the business.

We keep our team motivated by involving key stakeholders early and often in the decision process. In our case, key stakeholders include everyone who interacts with our members and subscribers. Though we’re by no means perfect, we constantly strive to improve internal communication, including reporting on the results of our programs, so that our team is tied to strategic imperatives, in addition to tactical initiatives.

With so much disruption in real estate, what’s your best advice for managing change?

Embrace disruption. It’s healthy for you and the organization. Stagnation and boredom are the real threats. The only constant is change, so you can either embrace it and use disruption to your advantage, or allow it to run you over.

It’s my responsibility to look well beyond the horizon to keep our leadership and management team up to date on the trends, threats and opportunities in the industry. For us, the best way to handle change is to make our organization highly communicative, flexible and responsive, and never settle for the old ways of doing business just because things have always been done that way.

But the most important change management methodology we have is simple: we listen, we digest, then we act.

Want to connect with Richard? You can find him on LinkedIn.

Email Matthew Shadbolt