After working as the Director of Marketing & Professional Services at the Naples Board of Realtors in Florida, Paine moved on to the head position at the Bonita Springs-Estero Association, which, at the time, was a small association sandwiched between a megaboard in Fort Myers and another in Naples. As a contiguous market, all three were collaborating on building a jointly-owned and controlled MLS called Sunshine MLS. Uniquely, at the time, the project involved writing and producing MLS software.
“It was a very educational experience that really prepared me to understand the critical technology pieces that have become the life bread of what the MLSs have become – technology companies,” says Paine.
Growing An Association
Even while sharing an MLS and geographic borders with larger regional competitors, Paine led Bonita Springs’ growth from a small board to a medium board and boosted agent count under board of choice. A key strategy he employed was raising the profile of the Association by creating partnerships with the town to sponsor public events such as movies in the park as well as organizing charity golf tournaments to integrate the Association into the community. By bringing greater publicity to the Association, Paine provided his agents with venues to meet prospective clients and helped drive appreciation for the positive role that brokers and agents played within the community.
Within the Association, Paine engaged the membership by providing hands-on computer training seminars for agents to help them make the most of Sunshine MLS technology. “It sounds completely antiquated now,” explains Paine, “But, at the time, most of our agents had desktop computers and there was no GoToMeeting, which meant they had no way to learn technical skills in a supportive, informational environment.” The training was especially successful because it was delivered in a small group environment and focused on helping agents deliver consumer-centric service. “I developed relationships with a large number of our members simply by providing help in areas that they needed it. That ability to meet a need quickly and in a friendly way really helped to build a sense of community that helped us to compete more effectively.”
Nourishing Ideas for Growth
In 2006, Paine was hired as the founding CEO of the Connecticut MLS, a newly created non-stock, broker run corporation, where he was tasked with an ambitious project to become a regional MLS and possibly a statewide MLS. At that time, there was significant concern among the brokerage community that their needs were not being met by the Data Co-op, which involved six of the ten Connecticut MLSs. Even 10 years ago, Brokers were looking for a way to remove the artificial MLS areas and be bound by a single set of MLS rules and policies.
When working with the CTMLS Board of Directors, Paine believes his role as a the CEO is as an educator. Like most Boards, Paine’s directors possess diverse talents and backgrounds that, when well educated on topics, enable them to make informed, strongly reasoned decisions. To keep the board informed about industry trends and opportunities, Paine takes leadership to NAR meetings as well as CMLS or Clareity meetings, but his primary education strategy is through personal communication during monthly board meetings. From his perspective, you get more buy-in when you have an educated board that knows the issues and asks the difficult questions. “It’s the most beneficial for membership to have really bright, really well educated, Board members working with the CEO because the CEO cannot always be right,” says Paine.
Vision for Transformation
“My end goal is to completely automate the customer experience. I want a new agent who wants to join the MLS to be able to do everything they need to online, says Paine. “They will apply online, automatically have their Realtor and license status checked, provide payment, then get access all within the same amount of time that it would take to join Amazon or Ebay.”
With the goal of becoming a world-class MLS, one key strategy that Connecticut MLS has focused on the last few years is raising the game on their customer service and technical support. The company recently transitioned all customer services and technology support in-house to standardize operations and ensure quality control. So while Associations remain industry partners, the shared members can now rely on a centralized, high-quality call center that can answer questions about the MLS or their iPhone. With online chat response times of under 4 seconds, members have responded in an overwhelmingly positive way because the MLS is meeting their needs, rather than being forced to do things the way the MLS has always done it.
For real estate consumers, CTMLS is partnering with the Broker Public Portal and with Homesnap, a next-gen mobile application that provides homebuyers with real-time MLS data that is branded for communication directly with the listing agent. The BPP selected Homesnap for its ease of use compared to other products, beautiful design, and the fact that it could stand on its own against what industry leaders like Zillow, Realtor.com, and others have to offer.
“For an industry that generally has not been great in being innovative, it makes sense to partner with a company that IS innovative, explains Paine. “It helps Broker Public Portal ensure that consumers get the best of both worlds: The scale and quality data of the MLS/brokerage partnership and the technology expertise of Homesnap.”
The CTMLS Board of Directors encouraged Paine to initiate a project to provide the industry with a viable, competitive choice of consumer facing portals. Without the initial concept and strong early support by Paine and his Directors, then followed by growing industry support the Broker Public Portal would not have become a reality. Today, the Broker Public Portal is set to transform the industry by aligning the visions of real estate professionals nationwide to deliver a home search experience that directly connects consumers with consolidated broker data—and its representing broker. Unlike other consumer-facing home search websites that rely on advertising for revenue, Broker Public Portal is an ad-neutral source for listing data. Even more, the product is backed by a partnership with a best-in-class technology firm, Homesnap.
Looking Over the Horizon
“There’s a powerful resistance to change in our industry, but we need overcome that reluctance it if we want to stay competitive,” according to Paine. “But, with improvements comes standardization, so the tech barriers that have traditionally prevented companies from getting into the brokerage/ MLS game are almost nonexistent today,” Paine asserts. “Our job is to support brokers and agents to deliver the best possible experience to today’s consumer. To do that, MLSs and the industry must be open to transformation. Being flexible and adaptive to change will fuel our success and help protect the role of our brokers and agents at the center of the transaction.”