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How NAR’s New CEO Intends to Change the Paradigm

An enthusiastic and confident Bob Goldberg is fresh off his first live address as CEO during this week’s National Association of REALTORS® Leadership Summit. In this exclusive interview, find out how Goldberg is ushering in a new day at NAR, one that is centered on a high-touch and high-impact approach.

Maria Patterson: Thanks for making time for us during a very busy week! You made it a point not to do media interviews prior to the Leadership Summit. How come?
Bob Goldberg:
I wanted to make sure REALTOR® leaders and the NAR staff had the chance to hear from me directly about my vision before talking to anyone on the outside. I also wanted to address this group of association leaders so they could hear from me firsthand, which included all of the incoming 2018 leaders of state and local boards, plus the current NAR president (Bill Brown) and the 2017 president-elect (Elizabeth Mendenhall). We also broadcast my remarks through Facebook live.

MP: What will you do differently as CEO? What will change?
It’s more about the advancement of what we need to do to achieve the goals of a new paradigm. The biggest change I will bring to the table is listening to our members, instead of pushing information down to them. We will immediately start to change the perception that we at NAR sit in an ivory tower.

My mantra has been that we have to come up with a more high-touch, high-impact approach—that means specifically going out and connecting with members. It means getting NAR employees connected within social networks so we can become more engaged with our members every day. Senior VPs and VPs will be responsible for reaching out to members and responsible for their satisfaction and engagement. We have a world-class team at NAR and their feedback about engaging more with members has been very positive.

MP: What do you consider to be your biggest challenge?
It’s both a challenge and an opportunity to find a way of engaging more of our members to care about what it is NAR stands for and does on their behalf. We have members that love what we do, and members that are not happy with NAR, who let us know about it, which is fabulous because it means they’re engaged and offering their feedback. Our biggest challenge is members who are indifferent toward us. We have to change that through high-touch and high-impact interactions.

MP: You outlined a new program, A Day in the Life, which speaks to this new level of NAR engagement. Please explain.
BG: Every employee will be responsible for working hand-in-hand with local boards and in brokers’ offices to learn and understand what our members do every day in the trenches. In order to be empathetic to the trials and tribulations of our membership, we have to live in their shoes. If we can do that, we’ll be better able to serve and support them.

MP: How will you logistically accomplish this?
BG: We have to meet our members and brokers on their turfs, through more programs like our recent Broker’s Edge event in New York City, and at an event geared toward agents in Florida. These are quick-hit, high-impact meetings with members who don’t normally get involved in NAR. Also, when I travel, I’m going to build in time to meet with members and brokers and smaller boards who never interact with senior leadership.

MP: How will things change structurally at NAR under your leadership?
I’m bringing in an outside organizational design company to look at our structure and see what we do really well and where we’re not as efficient as we should be. I’m going to make sure we’re structured to be more responsive and more member-centric.

MP: How would you respond to those who thought your appointment as CEO didn’t represent the type of change that NAR needs?
BG: I know the complexity of this organization and what we’ve done to get to where we are today, as well as how to get us to where we need to be tomorrow. We are one of the most successful trade organizations in the world and one of the most powerful PACs in Washington. But moving forward, the status quo is not an option. I appreciate the confidence and trust that the member search committee and NAR Leadership Team have placed in me to lead the organization in tackling those necessary changes.

MP: What steps are you taking immediately to go beyond the status quo?
I’m immediately looking at broadening and being more inclusive of players who have influence in the industry, as well as players we don’t yet know about. We need to bring them into the tent. We will be proactive in looking at macro companies and innovators, or potential disruptors, who are not playing in real estate today, but will be one day. We want to look at those companies in advance and bring them into working with us in our industry.

MP: How will you go about identifying and courting such companies?
We’re going to form a strategic think tank of the best and brightest minds outside and inside the industry to access the emerging threats and technologies that we’ll have to deal with. We will come up with a strategy and a plan to collaborate. Those companies are not going away, and if we push them away, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

MP: What are the biggest concerns currently facing the industry?
Professionalism is a very pressing issue that we have to tackle once and for all. We need to figure out how to ensure agents who call themselves REALTORS® operate at a level that allows them to attach themselves to a $5 billion brand. This is one of Elizabeth Mendenhall’s missions for 2018.

The other is an initiative started by Bill Brown to help our members think about their future. We’re putting in place a series of products and services to help members with investment and retirement programs to better their lives.

MP: What government regulations/legislation are of the greatest concern?
Property ownership is being challenged by the new administration. Two weeks ago, I met with several leaders at the White House, including National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. We stressed the importance of the mortgage interest deduction. The administration doesn’t see the difference between homeownership and renting, and that’s a real concern. Their tax reform plan de-incentivizes homeownership.

MP: Lastly, I know you’re a big family man. How do you plan on maintaining some work/life balance as CEO?
My wife Susan and I are joined at the hip on this. She is a former REALTOR® and a great ambassador. We have two fabulous children who are now in their 20s and we’re in the right position to take this challenge on. The people in this industry have become part of our family, so I don’t really think about this as a job but an opportunity. And I’m not doing it alone. NAR has 350 employees taking this on as their challenge, and a great leadership team. We’re all here supporting each other.

Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your story ideas at

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