August 03, 2015

Strong Leaders Drive Commercial Council

By Lance Allan
– The Daily News –

Any organization needs strong leadership to thrive. The Memphis Area Association of Realtors Commercial Council considers itself lucky that it has been blessed in the leadership arena since its inception two years ago.

Joel Fulmer, a veteran of Memphis’ commercial real estate industry, currently serves the group as president. The Boyle Investment Co. senior vice president has been involved in commercial real estate for more than 30 years.

Fulmer’s expertise will be followed up in January by Jon Albright, a commercial Realtor since 1988. Albright took on the challenge of starting his own firm, Jon Albright Real Estate Services, in 1997.

“When you have somebody of Joel’s stature who chooses to lead, that’s a tremendous credibility statement to any commercial practitioner,” Albright said. “When you have people like that who take a lead, everybody stops and pays close attention.”

Member benefits. Though it’s a relatively new organization, the MAAR Commercial Council’s membership is strong, at more than 300. It launched in January 2004 with 100 members.

“I don’t know the exact percentage, but an extraordinarily high percentage of people who belong to the board are commercial practitioners,” Fulmer said. “We have been very fortunate to have a number of firms who had never participated in board activities before to join the board because they saw value in the activities of the commercial alliance.”

The past year under Fulmer’s watch, the council has not only strengthened its membership, but has made a strong commitment to a member education.

A tailored focus. Commercial real estate associations are a relatively new phenomenon. Just six years ago, there were only five groups across the nation associated with local Realtor organizations such as MAAR. While some commercial Realtors participated in MAAR prior to the formation of the council, the group believed it was important to unify commercial practitioners in an organization with a tailored focus.

“The Memphis Area Association of Realtors, the bulk of the membership was residential in nature,” Fulmer said. “So this group really gives the commercial practitioners a voice for the first time. We have a separate identity, a separate voice. The other thing that it has allowed us to do in conjunction with other people within the community is to be much more active politically, both on a local and a statewide basis. That’s been a real focal point, as well.”

Forum for interaction. Response to the council has been strong among the real estate community.

“I personally, have been very gratified by the response we have gotten,” Fulmer said. “We have people who have been around Memphis for 20 years who have huge offices. When they were kind enough to allow us to tell them our story, they embraced it. We’re just very gratified for the support that we’ve gotten and the depth of that support.”

The objectives of the organization include recognizing members who engage primarily in the practice of commercial teal estate, providing a separate identity and voice for those members and providing a forum for business interaction within the commercial community.

Membership is open to Realtor, Realtor-associate and Institute affiliate members in good standing with MAAR.

Improved communication. Albright was involved with the MAAR board of directors prior to becoming involved with the leadership of the Commercial Council. He said he is pleased that the council includes a broad representation of the industry.

“It’s been very gratifying just to see so many cross sections of our industry come together,” he said. “When I started, communication was not nearly what it is today. Now you can pick up the phone, and whether it is community involvement or something in our industry, you can bounce it off a number of different people who have all had those experiences.

“It’s just a wealth of knowledge, and I think the camaraderie is dramatically enhanced since I got in the business. Rather than a group of separate voices possibly saying the same thing it’s far more of a collective voice on a variety of issues. To me, that’s very gratifying.”

Fulmer agreed.

“I think Jon and I both have had a lot of the same reaction to is,” he said. “The real estate business is very much a relationship business. We have made and strengthened a lot of relationships with other practitioners within our industry as a result of our involvement.”

Major initiative. Building and reinforcing relationships is an important function of the council, but the group furthers the profession in other ways. MAAR CommLink, for example, is a database featuring commercial properties in the Memphis area that are available for sale and lease. So far, it has almost 1,000 properties listed.

“This is something we have devoted a lot of energy to, and it looks like it’s going to be successful,” Fulmer said. “Think about how valuable that will be to provide that type of service – not only to all of our brokers, but the general public, as well. It’s a one-stop place where you can find out what’s available in the Memphis real estate market.”

Albright has good feelings about the future of the council.

“I think my main responsibility is not to mess up the momentum that so many have really started,” he laughed. “One of the things we’re working on right now is a community service project. We’re in the preliminary stages, but it will be branded with Commercial Council. We’re hoping to roll that out sometime next year. We’ve got so many programs, so many different events that the commercial folks pay attention to. It’s specific for them, whether it’s education, seminars.

“So much positive momentum has occurred, you just want to continue to ride that even further.”