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RISMEDIA, July 21, 2011—Some 15 years ago, I read the book Control Your Own Destiny or Someone Else Will, a showcase of Jack Welch’s leadership and turnaround of GE. Like him or not, the book is full of anecdotes, leadership philosophy and application-level stories from one of the most reputable business leaders of our time. Today, that book holds a lot of significance: where we are as an industry and the delicate tipping point between the past and the future. This quote from the book is incredibly relevant: “If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside the end is in sight.”

We look around us see a deluge of innovation from the outside; we see new technologies, practices and information surfacing—being integrated into our lives (and business) on an almost daily basis. We see the industry power players continue to grow and hone their story; withdrawing control, profit and power from our model. And what is happening on the inside? Are we educating our boards and key brokers to what’s happening? Are we presenting potential outcomes and solutions in a passionate and compelling way? Are we breathing to life the threats and opportunities ahead and influencing change? What I see tells me we are not. Why? Because we are reticent (and at times nearly obstinate) to lead survival-level change.

Solutions that foster increased relevance, business control, financial power and stability are within our reach, yet we hesitate to make bold decisions. We wait patiently as more of the pie is taken away from us. Committees form opinions. White papers are written. One or two bold leaders choose a course. Third parties talk about how they are going to better manage our product. We tweet, blog, have endless forums and summits exposing—even quantifying—the risk. Yet more often than not, we (as a majority) avoid the big, bold, game-changing decisions. Ultimately leaving our destiny in the hands of outsiders.

As Welch pointed out in a recent Financial Times article, “We need leaders with real conviction in their beliefs and ideas, and who can and will execute, even at the risk of losing their jobs, because that’s what drives corporate success.” As appointed executives, you all have the power to influence and the authority to execute and lead our business into an “age of success” rather than an age of diminishing value. That age of success encompasses the following:

• Full control of our product (distribution, terms, usage, price)
• Appropriate dissemination of power to external parties and control of those relationships
• Delivering what the consumer wants without a middle man
• Opportunities, innovation and job growth

The age of diminishing value lies ahead if we don’t take action:

• Others controlling our product and profiting from it
• Power in the hands of others who use it to control relationships
• A middle man delivering value to our customer, devaluing our industry professionals
• suppressed innovation, monopolization of power, lost opportunities, lost jobs

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside the end is in sight.” We can tip the scale of change, but the time is now.

As a tenured industry professional, Kim Prior’s viewpoint comes from her decade-plus of real estate and significant leadership experience. While Onboard Informatics is a vendor in the MLS community, this post provides Prior’s impression as an experienced business professional in the industry.

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