Mergers have certainly been a hot topic throughout organized real estate’s Futures initiative. Several Boards and Associations, such as the Saskatchewan Association of REALTORS® and Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS®, consolidated their resources a few years ago, while others are considering the benefits. You could say it’s a sign of the times. As Jerry Matthews writes, “recessions change businesses, forcing them to cut costs, change philosophies, or alter their structures… Often this means acquiring, merging, or cooperating with other companies to remain viable.” The Ontario Real Estate Association1 recently contracted with Zzeem to identify lessons learned surrounding mergers, including the one between Georgian Triangle and Southern Georgian. The top 10 lessons included:
- It is easier to do a bite-sized merger than a mega-merger.
- Gauge commitment throughout the process.
- Address negatives upfront.
- Create a budget for the project.
- Agree on the messaging after each meeting and send out communications to members promptly.
- The ideal role of a provincial Association, if involved, is as an observer.
- Visit with the members; listen first, then present the benefits.
- Survey, survey, survey.
- Presentations should be made by members, to members.
- Think bigger picture and what’s in it for the members.
Close to CREA’s backyard, last summer, several Boards in Ontario went through discussions, resulting in the merger of the Orillia and District Real Estate Board Inc. with the Muskoka and Haliburton Association of REALTORS®. The new organization is called Muskoka, Haliburton, Orillia – The Lakelands Association of REALTORS®. The interested Boards hired consultant Theresa Kane to facilitate the potential merger process. Here is a summary of the lessons learned from her report2:
- Establish and agree to a process upfront, including member communication strategy.
- Audited financial statements must be shared by all participants.
- Consider hiring a third party auditor to review the financial statements and contracts.
- All participants must sign and adhere to confidentiality and full disclosure agreements.
- Task force members must include the most senior members of their respective Boards, specifically the President and either President-Elect or Past President.
- Don’t bring on any new players during the process.
- Each Board must cover their expenses or some portion of them to demonstrate buy-in.
- EO’s need to have the confidence and assurance that they and their staff will be treated fairly and ethically.
- REALTORS®, not staff, should make the pitch to REALTOR® members.
So what does all this mean for REALTORS®? If your Board or Association is considering a merger, you can be assured that they will carefully weigh the pros and cons and will keep the best interests of their membership top of mind throughout the process. If you have any questions or concerns, you should let Board/Association staff know – they want to hear from you. For more information on mergers, including articles from Inman News and the William E. Institute for Association Research, visit the Association Executive Council’s Member Resources on REALTOR Link®.