CEO’s Message: An Industry in Flux — The MLSListings Evolution

Jim Harrison: MLSListings Inc CEO and President

Jim Harrison
President and CEO, MLSListings

“When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it is time to die.”  Lillian Smith

That Lillian Smith quote can apply to all of us. She was an author and social critic or what we would call today a disruptor in her time. And her observations apply today.  We all learn that time doesn’t stand still, and that means we must continue to adjust our business models, our goals and operations, according to the dictates of cultural change, over time.

In the brokerage world consumer empowerment in its various iterations have greatly impacted the institutions and traditions of the real estate industry. Who would have assumed that one day ibuyers, internet searches, and automation would change the methods of practice? Did we ever anticipate real estate property information would be available to the public? And could we have imagined a media company kidnapping and holding hostage the real estate brand in fewer than a tenth of the years organized real estate has been in existence?

In the MLS world, the issues are similar, and then some. We have existed as a committed supplement and partner to the real estate industry. We were vendors-plus; entities joined at the hip in understanding industry nuances and needs.

Today, we are challenged by third party services, consumer demands and the increasing free will and choice of brokers and agents. Those third parties are often publicly traded and monied-up by investors. I will admit, it is difficult to compete.

However, it occurred to me recently that we don’t have to compete. Our mission, our vision and our goals are not those of a publicly traded company, we are industry partners and service providers. Even when we fall short, we are on a path to industry service. It’s who we are and the reason we exist.

Case in point; I recently asked staff to analyze their functions and relate them to broker/agent service. Their data surprised me. Let’s look at my Customer Support staff. Did you know that 97% of their work could fairly be classified as virtual assistant-like activities?  They enter listings, adjust statuses, upload photos, among other functions—and do it, gladly.  That means 3% of their calls involve the escalation of technology issues to technical teams.

Another example; my staff is often asked to adjust our platform to customize it to the needs of real estate professionals, whether a change in areas or listing management fields, we do it. We must. We are local and directly connected to the brokers and agents of MLSListings.

Those two examples serve as a symbol of learning, listening and looking in this new world of organized real estate. Some industry pundits predict the end of the MLS, and others even foretell of the end of Associations. I believe they are both wrong. I believe the future belongs to those who can evolve in the realization that it is crucial that we listen and hear what real estate professionals need from us. After all, we are uniquely designed to deliver as no third party can; with a commitment to the traditions and institutions of organized real estate and an eye on the future—as we learn, listen and look.




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