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CEO_2014_crowd_clappingAny successful real estate professional will tell you that the work they do never ends. And really, it never ends. For those in real estate, striving to improve isn’t some lofty goal—it’s a necessity.

While many look to industry leaders for the best practices to succeed, few take the time to evaluate what not to do. At this year’s CEO Exchange, a panel of Power Brokers did just that.

Taking place on day one of RISMedia’s annual CEO Exchange at New York City’s esteemed Yale Club, the session, Turning Don’ts into Do’s: How Brokers Can Benefit from Their Biggest Mistakes, underscored how brokers everywhere can grow from poor decisions. In the discussion, panelists recounted tales of business gone wrong, throwing out the proverbial real estate success book along the way.

Helen Hanna Casey, President of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, headed up the session, accompanied by panelists John Heithaus, Chief Industry Relations Officer for BuyerMLS, David Romero, President and CEO of CENTURY 21 Award, and Joe Rand, Managing Partner of Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate Rand Realty. Interestingly enough, all panelists are involved in family real estate businesses.

Casey set the tone for the panel with table cards relating mistakes to frogs: “If you have to swallow a frog, don’t look at it too long; if you have to swallow more than one frog, swallow the big one first.” Panelists and attendees alike appreciated the unorthodox comparison, and panelists revisited the analogy several times throughout the session.

CEO_2014_John_HeithausHeithaus recalled a mistake made in his former position as Chief Marketing Officer of MRIS. Many of MRIS’ product offerings were not marketed appropriately, causing confusion among agents. His solution was two-fold: rebranding to separate core and premium products, and zeroing in on top-producing agents. The mistake was a beneficial one, teaching the organization how to leverage what they already had, target specific groups, and have a thorough understanding of customer needs – or, as Heithaus noted, “Don’t sell diapers to bachelors.”

Romero relayed situations centered on fear-based decision-making, which often held him back from doing what was best for agents at CENTURY 21 Award. He shared stories in which inaction proved detrimental—waiting too long to terminate an ineffective manager, waiting too long to cut expenses pre-recession, and waiting too long to implement minimum standards for the company.

In all cases, the end result was far from what fear compelled him to believe. One firm’s profitability soared after hiring a new manager; three offices in a one-mile radius merged into one; and new agents were recruited after requiring that they complete a minimum of four transactions each year.

Rand wrapped up the panel by stressing the importance of evaluating a decision from all sides. One of his mistakes was offering free CMAs to anyone interested in the value of their home, believing it would create opportunities for agents to secure listing appointments. However, the decision was made from too narrow a perspective, he said, and the idea was later perfected by Zillow.

The lesson learned, Rand emphasized, was to consider all possible outcomes of a decision. “Search aggressively for disconcerting evidence that your decision could go wrong,” Rand recommended. “Think of things from the perspective of your biggest competitor or your hero. What would they do in that situation?”

This unique session gave attendees the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of mistakes made by some of the most highly regarded leaders in real estate. The takeaway? Big blunders, misfortunate mishaps and epic errors can lead to unexpectedly rewarding opportunities.

Stay tuned for more coverage of panel discussions from RISMedia’s 2014 CEO Exchange.