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RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Forum at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo (Above, L to R) James Dwiggins, CEO, NextHome, Inc.; Vanessa Bergmark, Owner/CEO, Red Oak Realty; Chris Kelly, President and CEO, Ebby Halliday Companies; JP Piccinini, Founder/Broker, JP & Associates REALTORS®; and Mary Lee Blaylock, President and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

The industry is in a constant state of flux, and for RISMedia’s Power Brokers, surviving into the future of real estate means staying ahead of any apparent challenges, as well as preparing to adapt for the obstacles that are less expected.

The way forward was discussed during RISMedia’s Annual Power Broker Forum, “Building a Future-Focused Real Estate Business,” on Friday, Nov. 8 at the 2019 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

“We clearly know some of the challenges we face, but we don’t yet know what some of those are amidst the other chaos that occurs and takes us away from that focus,” said Mary Lee Blaylock, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, kicking off the forum. “Every good comes with unintended consequences, but every challenge is met with vigor.”

(Above) Blaylock co-moderates RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Forum. (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

Co-moderated by RISMedia President and CEO John Featherston, the forum tackled everything from competing against iBuyers and other disruptors to meeting changing consumer expectations. But what was acknowledged by nearly all is that every brokerage should play to their strengths.

“If you focus on what you know best and you stay in the lane you are really committed to, and inspired by, you will thrive,” said panelist Vanessa Bergmark, owner and CEO of Red Oak Realty. “Some of us should not be selling mortgages and titles. Some of us should just be selling homes.”

Oftentimes, branching out and diluting the value of the brokerage is a response to feeling threatened by all-in-one, full-service competitors.

(Above) Dwiggins and Bergmark (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

Bergmark said, “We are an industry that lacks confidence. Know who you are and that there is a value for what you provide.”

With all the new choices available to today’s consumers, panelists agreed that there is a lack of communication when it comes to helping homebuyers and sellers understand the value of working with an agent.

“As an industry, we have to do a better job of articulating our value proposition,” said panelist James Dwiggins, CEO of NextHome, Inc. “We are not telling them about everything that we do that occurs within a transaction timeframe, and that’s the problem.”

(Above) Kelly, Piccinini and Blaylock (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

But with distractions at every turn, sometimes keeping the focus on the value proposition isn’t so easy. Brokerages today are often overwhelmed by so-called “disruptors,” and instead of adapting and moving forward, they jump to conclusions.

“As an industry, we are 100-percent a ‘hair on fire’ industry. One new business model comes along and we say, ‘It’s over. We are done.’ But everyone has to take a pause and breathe a sigh of relief,” said panelist Chris Kelly, president and CEO of Ebby Halliday Companies.

Kelly pointed out that the U.S., and really the world, is plenty big enough for many different business models to co-exist.

(Above) RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Forum (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

“We might have to retell our story of the value that we bring, but it doesn’t mean that we have to fundamentally change that value,” Kelly said. “We just have to position ourselves as protecting homeowners’ wealth—and for most Americans, equity is the largest percentage of their wealth.”

What it comes down to overall is that every brokerage runs differently and has its own predictions of what strategies will win out in a changing industry. For example, panelist JP Piccinini, founder and CEO of JP & Associates REALTORS®, believes focusing on agents in a consultative role is the key to flourishing in the years to come.

“I think agents are going to be consultants in the future. There is going to be less of running around across town to host open houses,” said Piccinini, who sees less of an emphasis on the relationship aspect of real estate, and more services catering to improving the transactional portion.

(Above) RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Forum (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

But against Piccinini’s statement, Blaylock believes the consumer relationship should remain at the center of a brokerage’s growth strategies.

“There’s so much noise about what’s happening in our industry, but the growth component only comes with the desire for growth—and it has to be sustainable. You can peak or you can have slow and steady growth,” said Blaylock. “If we can focus on the consumer and keep it there, then we will succeed.”

“Incorporate new ideas, have passion with focus, stay connected and deliver the expectations that consumers are looking for,” said Featherston, summarizing some of the session’s key takeaways. “Don’t survive, but thrive. Focus on all the things mentioned and better articulate to consumers that we are going to do the best job possible to exceed their expectations.”

(Above, L to R) RISMedia’s 2019 Power Broker Forum Panel: John Featherston, President and CEO, RISMedia, along with Dwiggins, Bergmark, Piccinini, Blaylock and Kelly (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

For continuing coverage of the REALTORS® Conference & Expo, please visit

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at