Closing out a difficult year, the leadership of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors plans to focus inward in the months ahead, seeking ways to strengthen the organization, tailor services to needs of an ever-changing industry and retain and recruit members.
Adam D. Cockey Jr., who became president of the 3,500-member trade group Thursday, said the board has hired a public relations consultant and expects to establish a leadership training program and forge relationships with smaller, neighboring Realtor boards.
The board installed Mr. Cockey, a slate of officers and the board of directors during the group's ninth annual convention at the Baltimore Convention Center, attended by some 1,000, according to preliminary board estimates.
In handing the reins to Mr. Cockey, the board's former president, David W. Baird, acknowledged a year fraught with challenges. Since taking over a year ago, he has had to deal with an antitrust lawsuit -- filed against the board two weeks after his installation -- the revamping and ultimate closing of the advertising publication Real Estate Review, which faltered in a weak market, and -- in the wake of revenue shortfalls -- the sale of the board's West Mount Royal Avenue building.
"These problems were forcing us to look at the organization and business in a completely different way," Mr. Baird told members gathered for an annual meeting during the conference.
Subsequently, in seeking ways to increase income without increasing membership dues, he established a for-profit holding company in which GBBR staff members act as consultants to real es-tate-related companies.
Mr. Cockey, managing director of W. H .C. Wilson & Co., credited Mr. Baird's handling of mostly inherited situations with helping to put the board back on track financially. The board lost money investing in Real Estate Review, launched by former Executive Vice President Fletcher R. Hall, but it has reduced its debt by selling its building to Maryland General Hospital. The board, with a 17-member staff, is leasing back 8,000 square feet.
In June, the board also settled a lawsuit filed by the Real Estate Brokers of Baltimore, an association of black real estate agents and brokers. The settlement granted licensed real estate agents hTC and brokers access to electronic home sales listings without first requiring that they join a Realtor association.
The board has been left with little time to take a hard look at itself from within, Mr. Cockey said Thursday.
"We've tried to solve some of our membership concerns by ourselves," he said. "Because you're so close to the problems, you don't see them as clearly as an organization outside the day-to-day operations. I'm concerned about trying to strengthen the internal aspects of the organization."
The board has hired Timonium-based Badmington Holecheck Public Relations to review operations and services and develop a strategic plan for the board, Mr. Cockey said.
He also would like to make leadership positions available to more members by establishing a leadership training school. Real estate brokers and managers would nominate agents, who would be eligible for training by the board.
"We need to bring new people into the industry and the board," Mr. Cockey said. "We have for so long taken membership for granted."
Mr. Cockey said he also hopes to broaden the GBBR's relationship with neighboring boards, exploring ways to expand regional services while keeping expenses down.
In another initiative, he plans to explore whether the board should establish defined policies for making political endorsements.