When Clareity Consulting facilitates Multiple Listing Service (MLS) strategic planning sessions, one agenda item is almost always to discuss the MLS Mission Statement. Sometimes the group just needs to be reminded of the Mission Statement, other times the group may want to discuss and change it, and sometimes the MLS doesn’t have a Mission Statement at all and Clareity needs to work with them to develop it.
Mission Statements are very important for a complex company to have. These statements embody the organization’s purpose and values, define the stakeholders and what the organization will do for them. While some Mission Statements contain additional elements, those are the basics. Typically, a Mission Statement is both clear and brief. In the strategic planning context, it can serve as a guideline for evaluating the relevance and priority of both current and new initiatives. Without a clear understanding of the Mission Statement, it is much more difficult to discuss, frame, and gauge the relevance of strategies, let alone the specific lower level critical success factors, initiatives, tactics and action plans.
Let’s look at a few actual MLS Mission Statements as examples.
[MLS Name] is the recognized source for reliable, integrated Real Estate information services for the [MLS Geography] area.
In this example, the customer is not clear. Other than defining a specific service activity, neither the purpose nor values are made clear.
Here’s another one:
To facilitate cooperation and compensation among its members through a common database of real estate information.
This one defines the customer as “members” – this is good, but it doesn’t differentiate between agents and brokers as customers, and not being clear about that can cause tensions on a board. It’s also defined the specific purpose the company will engage in – “to facilitate cooperation and compensation” and how it will accomplish that “through a common database of real estate information”. This is a fairly complete mission statement, based on the definition provided at the beginning of this article, but is it a good mission statement for today’s MLS? It doesn’t address the service and support provided by the MLS, or provide any context for the MLS’s public property listings site or other initiatives undertaken by this MLS. It’s okay to have a limited mission statement – but maybe this one needs to be revisited to encompass what is now clearly a larger mission.
Here’s another one:
The function of [MLS Name] is to provide to the shareholder and customer associations a basic core of MLS services that are dependable, efficient, and cost-effective and to encourage vendors to introduce into the [MLS Name] marketplace optional products that REALTORS® may choose to purchase.
Maybe a bit longer than a typical mission statement, but a lot has been said here. The customer is clearly defined as the Association. I’m not sure what happens when Association, broker, and agent interests are not aligned – that’s a situation that should be considered. The basic purpose from the previous example, cooperation and compensation, is implied, though not explicitly stated in “core of MLS services”. But, this mission statement is especially interesting because it makes it very clear the method and business model that will be used for non “core” MLS services – that these will be optional, for REALTOR® purchase. The site licenses many MLSs purchase for transaction management, digital document management, and other information products and services would clearly be out of bounds for this MLS – the Mission Statement has truly focused the activities of this group.
Let’s look at the next three Mission Statements together:
To develop, promote and provide the highest quality of real estate information, products and services to our members at a reasonable cost.
To provide our members the highest quality real estate information, products and services at a reasonable cost, so they may better serve the consumer.
The mission of [the MLS] is to provide state-of-the-art, cost effective and superior multiple listing services, information and programs to advance the professionalism and success of its customers.
The first one clearly identifies the customer again as the “member” as well as what is being provided “real estate information, products and services”. The business model made so clear in the previous example is not so clarified in this one. The “reasonable cost” is a nice touch – providing a condition that generates discussion and evaluation of cost (and value) for each initiative. The second example expands on the first, by adding a consumer-centric purpose that reflects the modern consumer-focused position that has started to gain favor in real estate industry discussion. The third example is in many ways very similar to the first, but worded very differently. The addition of advancing member professionalism and success is admirable.
Here’s another one:
To empower, support and educate our members to achieve their goals by providing cutting edge resources that improve and enhance their business and personal lives.
Since most MLS subscribers don’t use the range of tools provided by the MLS organization, there is value in the addition of support and education to this mission statement – this MLS clearly is focused not just on providing tools, but having them used. Improving and enhancing member business is a fine goal, though somewhat vague. I must admit to not understanding how or why the MLS is getting involved in the “personal lives” – I wish I had been at the meeting where this mission was developed! Most MLSs shy away from the term “cutting edge” because of the risk that is often associated with “cutting edge technology” and steer toward “excellent”, “best”, or as in previous examples, “highest quality”.
Let’s look at a very different Mission Statement:
[MLS Name] is a real estate information and technology company that creates value for our shareholders by providing premier business solutions to real estate professionals.
This one has many of the previous elements, but adds a corporate touch, with its primary purpose to provide shareholder value.
One last example:
To preserve a REALTOR® owned information service that serves, always the good of the brokerage community at large. To continue to provide the most effective, user-friendly MLS system available to our community of agents, by constantly working toward improving and expanding our services and system, while always controlling the cost to the individual agent.
Slightly longer than most Mission Statements, this is somewhat unusual in its explicit nod to REALTOR® ownership, the bigger picture of the “good of the brokerage community at large”, and the need for a “user-friendly” MLS system. It is also explicit in defining the direction of the organization as providing services beyond the core. This is all good and useful guidance for a group trying to make decisions about MLS initiatives.
What is the mission of MLS organizations? Clearly, from the examples above, it varies. There isn’t really a right or wrong. Each organization can define its customers and the balance between customer subsets as it wishes. Some organizations see the mission as evolving, while others are focused on the core function of the MLS system. Different organizations strive for different amounts of greatness. Some focus on just systems, while others expand the mission to education and other services. Prioritizing operational parameters such as cost control, user-friendliness, and dependability in the Mission Statement are all fine choices as well.
It’s always interesting to assist in the facilitation of MLS strategic planning sessions and review the Mission Statement for relevance to MLS present and planned future activities. When the mission statement is aligned with those activities, there tends to be less arguing about the strategies, tactics and action plans that reflect the mission – and MLS management and decision-making benefits.
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