Meet the President: Sherri Souza, PMN
Sherri Souza, the 2017 National President of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® and a broker/owner with Broker in Trust in Livermore, California, has become a passionate member and advocate of Women's Council. So it’s surprising to hear she initially hesitated to join the organization. “I was a new REALTOR®,” Souza says, “and needed to learn what I was doing first.” At her husband’s urging, however, she attended a local meeting.
That encounter prompted Souza to take on increasingly challenging roles at the local, state, and national levels of Women's Council. These have included treasurer, secretary, and president for California, co-chair of the business development committee, chair of the leadership development and influence forum, National Financial Secretary, and now, President. “I think our organization as a whole does really good things for the real estate industry,” she says.
Advancing Women's Council
Throughout her many positions within the Council, Souza has helped bring about change. In California, Souza and other leaders changed the process for electing state-wide leaders, and shifted to the model used by the national organization. Previously, members had to be present to win, and each member could vote. Given the size of the state, not every member could attend each meeting. That gave candidates from the region in which the meetings were held an advantage.
Under the new system, delegates vote on behalf of the thirty members they represent. “We moved away from a popularity contest,” Souza says, and attained more control over the process. The new approach also compels candidates to develop networks of members who believe in their capabilities.
She also helped to move the state organization’s finances from word processing documents and onto spreadsheets, and then to Quickbooks. She and the other leaders have encouraged the local networks to also make this shift, as well.
Shifting from Corporate Work
Before starting in real estate, Souza worked in the corporate world, where she’d developed business and leadership skills that transferred to her career in real estate and her roles with Women's Council. “The more I saw how my skills could contribute, the more passionate I became,” about the organization, she says.
She started as a sales associate with ReMax Executive, where she spent five years. Souza and her husband then formed Livermore Valley Brokers. Unfortunately, the downturn in the real estate market hit shortly after they launched their firm, hindering their efforts to gain traction. They closed the business, and Souza joined Alain Pinel REALTORS® as a broker associate.
After several years with Alain Pinel, Souza decided to head off on her own. She formed Independent Women Brokers, with a goal of franchising the firm. Despite her efforts, however, it became clear she lacked the resources needed to develop a sustainable franchise model.
About this time, Souza met several of the founders of Broker In Trust, a network of independent brokers operating under a single brand. Each broker pays a monthly fee, and then is able to share the firm’s technology and other resources. Essentially, they’d done what Souza had hoped to do when she started her own firm, she says.
Souza now works independently with home buyers and sellers in the Tri-Valley region of northern California as a broker/owner with Broker In Trust. Her daughter, who recently earned her real estate license, soon will be assisting Souza with marketing and transaction coordination.
As president of Women's Council, Souza says she hopes to lead the organization toward the goals already established by the executive committee. One is to provide more tools that can help members successfully run their real estate businesses. “Our mentality is that this is your business. If you don’t take yourselves seriously, no one else will,” she says.
"I'd like to see us explore education possibilities on topics like running a business, and cover areas such as marketing, business finance and ethics," Souza says. "We also need to look at our education mix in leadership development, public speaking skills and industry collaboration, to ensure that we are helping our members grow personally and professionally."
Local governance also is changing. To start, in an effort to use up-to-date terminology, the word “networks” will replace “chapters.”
The network structure will be streamlined as well. Previously, chapter leaders were required to host at least eight business meetings and two to three fundraisers annually. The schedule meant taking on leadership roles became “a very heavy burden,” Souza says, and made it difficult to find people who would volunteer.
"Going forward, network leaders will be asked to coordinate six business resource meetings with four of them designated as industry events, although they can do more, or host social events or fundraisers to keep with consistent member engagement," Souza says. The lighter schedule is expected to make it easier for members to take on these responsibilities and still run their real estate businesses.
"In addition, the governing boards at the local level will drop from eleven to six people. That lowers the quorum and means network governance won’t need to require so many people and business can be done faster," Souza says.
The goal is to implement these changes over the next few years. “I’m so excited about the direction of Women’s Council,” Souza says.
Karen M. Kroll is a freelance writer from Chanhassen, MN.
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