VAR Convention Speaker Rushkoff Speaks The Hard Truth

The speaker chosen for closing session at the 2008 VAR Convention was Douglas Rushkoff. And what a great choice it was. Why? Because he told it like it is and the blunt truth is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Rushkoff spoke about the current economic turmoil, the changes going on in and outside the real estate industry and the effect it’s having on our profession. Here are some of the highlights:

  • the current method of doing business began 400 years ago
  • the current business cycle is coming to an end
  • lending business model is set up expecting businesses/people to fail (hence interest to cover losses)
  • money is only a medium (check out a related post on Agent Genius)
  • outsourcing stops us from actually doing something and makes us managers
  • a return to core competencies is coming (and necessary)
  • focus on “self-interest” is shifting to the “experience of life”
  • the more educated a consumer is, the more value they will find in an expert
  • being a community expert is more important to consumers than you being a “top producer”
  • Rushkoff told a story of how he thought one person’s blog showed they were the community expert and how he later found out they were a REALTOR® – (community expert first, REALTOR second)
  • personally reaching out to your community builds bonds large companies can not
  • be on the side of people and not business/your own self-interests
  • the contraction occuring due to market conditions will separate the real RE professionals from the fake ones

The two things that really stuck out for me personally because they most directly relate to a REALTOR’s® business success were:

  1. Be the community expert.
  2. The real RE professionals will separate themselves from the fake ones. 

Consumers are now looking for community experts, not just “top producers”. They want someone who knows the ins and outs of a local area, knows what the builders are up to, where the ammenities are, future development plans, upcoming infrastructure changes, etc.

More importantly, they’re looking for someone who is connected to the community on a personal, not just a real estate level. Consumers want someone who knows the people, the businesses, key contacts, etc. They want someone who knows that the produce section at the local mom-and-pop market is better than at Harris Teeter or Safeway.

In regards to how the real RE professionals will separate themselves from the fake ones, I say “AMEN!”. Too many shady and inexperienced agents and brokers who were only looking out for their own self-interests (one of Rushkoff’s points) gave the industry a bad name. A huge number of agents and brokers jumped into the profession thinking they could make a ton of money by doing very little. They didn’t bother to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to be great REALTORS®. Too many agents and brokers didn’t take their jobs seriously nor did they realize that they were dealing with people’s livelihood’s, their family’s well-being and thousands of consumer’s dollars.

Those agents and brokers are quickly dissappearing while the agents and brokers who take their jobs seriously, know what they’re doing and do it well are the ones rising to the top. And more importantly…these are the agents and brokers that will survive.

There’s a reason why real estate agents are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to trustworthiness in the eyes of the public. And there’s only one way to get that trust and credibility back – earn it. This shift in the market and the weeding out of those who thought real estate was an easy-money gig with few responsibilities is a first step. Personally, I’m thrilled to see it happening.

These are things that some of you may not want to hear. But I believe that they are the truth and must be heard. The economy, real estate market and consumers have all spoken and we have to adapt and respond.

IMHO, Rushkoff’s session was as much of a wake-up call as it was inspiring and we all needed to hear it.

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15 Responses to VAR Convention Speaker Rushkoff Speaks The Hard Truth

  1. I have to say that I agree with Mr. Rushkoff on being community involved and knowing the what is going on in a hyper local level. I have found that to be true for the past year, and believe that it will become a growing trend.

  2. Jeremy Hart says:

    Danilo, it was one of the best speeches I’ve heard given on how to separate yourself from the crowd; he looked at the industry with an honest eye, then framed the solution in a really easy to understand way.

    Take the opportunity to earn the trust of the public. Take responsibility. Be the expert through your actions, not because you say you are.

    Thanks for recapping this, I was trying to make some notes from memory last evening – this post is getting saved.

  3. J – “A growing trend” that will soon be the norm…

    Jeremy – Welcome and thanks for helping recap the session through your Tweets.

  4. I’m so glad for all your tweets during his session. I had no idea what he was saying. I kept reading in between the lines and coming up with my own notes, but after a while I just had a lot of trouble. The fact that I was exahusted had nothing to do with it – really!

    Anyway, your tweets told me that I was on the right track and while driving south on I95, I was able to understand more of what he was trying to say. Thank you so much!

    Thank you for these summary notes!

  5. I agree with Jennifer. Thank you so much for the concise overview. Either it was too early in the morning for comprehension or I was just plain tired as well. It was such a shame though that the last session was not as well attended as the other two. Last day–party the night before—maybe we should suggest that the Delegate Body be the only event on the last day and start that meeting earlier–maybe around 9.

  6. Dave Phillips says:

    Wow! I was surprised to see this post. I thought this was one of the worst closing speakers I had ever seen at a convention. It was not his content that bothered me, it was the timing of the presentation. He was a rambling economics professor that was not on point as much as he should have been. He could have really made the presentation pertinent, but failed to show the relevance to Realtors. Confession: I, like many others, left early, so maybe he had a wizbang conclusion that brought 400 years of economic history home.

    Your post is much better than the reality I experienced. He would have been a good presenter during a break-out session, but as a closing act he bombed. You are the first person I know to see this as an hour well spent. Packing after 5 days in a hotel was more appealing to me.

  7. I would comfortably say that there were a number of current community builders in the room Sunday morning. Some of them even had little whales on a silly pin attached to their name tag. Their positive effect on their communities most likely includes using blogs as a lens into the community.

    To have spent hours using my blog to create a welcome mat for people thinking of relocating to my region, I was so relieved that I was already headed in the right direction. Seriously, how often does any one head in the right direction in front of the herd? How nice is it to have your own thoughts reaffirmed and then validated?

    We should have a positive net effect on our community. Forget extracting from it. Thanks, Dr. Rushkoff.

  8. rushkoff says:

    Hi All-
    I’m glad for those who I inspired, and I apologize to anyone I kept away from their packing! I’m no economics professor, alas. Just an author and thinker who – I hope – understands the difference between WealthExpo insanity and the lingering potential for real estate professionals to serve communities.

    If anyone didn’t see the talk and wants to judge for themselves whether I’m a rambling academic or a compelling speaker, I invite you to check out some of the streams on my website at

    The summary on this page is fair transcription of what I meant to communicate – so thanks for this. I shared some history so that people would realize this isn’t just a current problem: it’s actually built-in to our markets and currency. We’re not in a real estate crisis as much as a crisis of lenders looking for borrowers. How do you become part of the property market instead of the banking industry? That’s the question. As well as what to do during this quiet period. You can invest in your communities and be ready for the next upturn.

    Not rocket science, and not to hard to grok, but maybe not the best material for early morning after major drinking. But I do think it was continually and consistently tied to the real estate industry, and most of the email I received was from people thankful and surprised I didn’t just deliver a canned speech.

  9. I must admit, I agree with Dave Phillips. The content was certainly there but the rambling nature of the talk had me drifting in and out. Reading Danilo’s overview helped bring focus to what Rushkoff was conveying but in all honesty, I would have been better off missing the talk and just reading the post on line when I got home.

  10. Man I wish I was able to be there at that meeting. It sounds very interesting about the history of the current business model that started 400 years ago. I do not know about any of that. This is a really great post about some really good information.

  11. Scott Rogers says:

    Amazing to see the different perspectives! I really enjoyed Rushkoff’s talk. I especially enjoyed his perspective on how we have grown apart as a society — with bigger houses, bigger yards, and each of us with our own BBQ. I read the book he referenced, Bowling Alone, a few years ago and I think we’re missing out on a lot of the community interaction of the past.

  12. I live in Austin and did not attend this seminar but still agree with the content as presented here. Giving back to the community and becoming an expert are two big ways I set my own business apart from the others. We cannot simply be “license holders” but must have knowledge and authority to back it up. I will keep Dr. Rushkoff in mind for future events at my local association. Thanks for the post.

  13. Candy Lynn says:

    It’s interesting reading the posts above.

    I thought Rushkoff’s closing presentation was the best presentation of the week. His conversational style was compelling & inviting. His message was to the point & timely.

    Meetings with him on the schedule will get my attention & my registration.

  14. Candy Lynn says:

    One more thought on Rushkoff’s presentation.

    It was not only the material presented BUT the passion he presented it with.

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