Leading Women: Elizabeth Mendenhall
Carrying a Family Legacy into a More Innovative Future
When Elizabeth Mendenhall, ABR, CRB, says, "I come from a long line of REALTORS® and volunteers," she's not kidding. Members of her family have worked in real estate in various roles for six generations. She is carrying on the tradition as CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty in Columbia, MO, a city of about 115,000 midway between Kansas City and St. Louis.
When Mendenhall's dad Richard – who served as the 2001 president of the National Association of REALTORS® – had an opening for an administrative assistant while Mendenhall was still in college, she came on board. Her decision appears to have been a wise one.
Along with rising to her current professional role, Mendenhall has followed a family tradition of service to the industry through leadership positions in a number of professional groups. She was president of Women's Council's Missouri Chapter in 2004, president of the Missouri Association of REALTORS® in 2010 and vice president with NAR in 2011 and 2014, among other posts. She's also earned myriad honors, including RE/MAX International Broker-Manager of the Year.
That doesn't mean it's all been easy. Like many REALTORS® and professionals in other industries, the recent recession was challenging. Within the Missouri association, the number of agents dropped from 680 to 400. Within Mendenhall's firm, the number dropped from about 115 to 100.
"We saw a lot of good, talented mid-level agents deciding between a commissioned career and a salaried career," Mendenhall says, adding that many opted for a salaried career, "not because of a diminishment of their skill set, but because of a change in the market."
Innovation and Automation
To ensure those who stayed with the firm survived, Mendenhall and her team doubled-down. Always cost-conscious, the firm became even more so. At the same time, they made investments that would position the firm for the future, such as technology that automated many of the administrative tasks inherent in real estate transactions.
The firm also implemented a number of automated marketing tools, such as online home tours, that make it easier for agents to showcase properties to a wider audience. "We adopted new, more innovative practices and relinquished some of the older, stale practices," Mendenhall says.
Another area of investment has been in training programs. The company offers its agents access to top trainers and programs, Mendenhall says. In addition, they provide agents with information that can help them help their clients, such as market statistics and data on industry trends and shifts in the political landscape.
Mendenhall credits her volunteer work within the industry for helping her both give back to the profession and boost her leadership skills and insight into the business. Participating in national meetings, for instance, has given her access to negotiating and management classes, and helps her remain abreast of industry trends. She can share the information and skills she gains with the brokers and agents with whom she works.
As a result of these efforts, Boone Realty has been ranked fiftieth in the country in terms of transactions per agent. Even when the market tumbled, it remained a leader. "Our agents are very productive," Mendenhall says.
Along with her volunteer work within the industry, Mendenhall has devoted hours to several causes dear to her heart. These include United Way—she's chaired the local REALTOR® division several times—the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association.
One cause to which Mendenhall remains tirelessly devoted is the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She was organizing chair for the Mid-Missouri organization and has been president several times. "My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer while in her thirties," Mendenhall says. While she lived into her eighties, making her one of the longest survivors, the cause remains important to Mendenhall. "We've raised millions for research, education and screening," she says.
Evolving REALTOR® Role
While the real estate industry continues to change, the need for talented, dedicated REALTORS® continues. Mendenhall notes that buyers today have so much information at their fingertips, yet they still need the expertise of a REALTOR® to help them assess it.
In addition, because the inventory of homes in her area is low, many sellers can be choosier and force buyers into paying premiums. REALTORS® can aid in the negotiations that take place. "There's a little more discourse in the transactions," Mendenhall says. "The negotiations are a little tougher."
Indeed, learning to negotiate and advocate on behalf of their clients – many of whom are making one of the largest purchases of their lives – is key to REALTOR® success, Mendenhall says. While people enter the business for a number of reasons, including a passion about homes or enjoyment working with people, their sustained success requires an ability to sell themselves, she says. "They have to be comfortable with the skills they provide and have to be willing to learn their craft."
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