By Eric Berman
When you are part of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors® (MAR) Leadership Team and you live in the Berkshires, the Massachusetts Turnpike is one road you get to know very well. That has certainly been the case for 2019 MAR President and Berkshire resident Anne Meczywor. In fact, it’s through traveling all those miles as a volunteer that she developed a true appreciation for the phrase, “Under all is the land.”
If that phrase sounds familiar, it’s because it begins the preamble to the Realtor® Code of Ethics. To Anne, that phrase is at the essence of what Realtors® do. “It applies whether we’re working with clients to help buy and sell properties, advocating for private property rights, or ensuring our fellow Realtors® can successfully make a living. It is the land that binds us,” she said.
To get to know Anne, you need to get to know her land. She grew up in Cheshire, Mass., a town that is just north of Pittsfield in Berkshire County. Her family was working class and instilled in Anne a strong work ethic from the beginning, but that’s not all.
“My parents came from very modest means. And it gave me a lot of empathy for people who were even less fortunate than I was,” said Anne. “We always appreciated the things we had, but we knew we had to work hard for them. My parents always instilled in me the value of education and an appreciation for diversity.”
For college, Anne stayed close to home and headed a few towns away to North Adams State College (today known as the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts). She graduated with B.A. in Business Administration and Marketing. She then went back for her teacher’s certificate for elementary education and later received a B.A. in Elementary Education.
Anne taught high school students with special needs and then taught third grade for three years. After having two children and faced with changes in the teaching landscape, Anne went into human resources. “After teaching I worked in human resources at Filenes and the May Corporation at the Berkshire Mall for over seven years. I did a lot of training, screening, interviewing, a lot of paperwork and a lot of legality.” These were all skills Anne would eventually take into real estate.
A Puzzle Coming Together:
In 2001, Anne saw an ad for a local real estate school that was putting a pre-licensing class together and they were recruiting. The brokerage was made up of very friendly people and offered a lot of training, which she realized was a good thing. It ended up being the first office she worked for.
“A lot of puzzle pieces came together,” said Anne. “I saw that a lot of what I enjoyed could be put together into a real estate career that I really hadn’t considered before: working directly with people, sharing info, training, organizing, knowing the Berkshires inside-out as a lifelong resident, and my love of local history and architecture.”
While Anne’s new career turned out to be an excellent decision, she still had to learn to deal with some of realities of working in real estate. One hurdle she had to deal with was realizing that effort didn’t always equal success.
“You need to develop a tough skin and it wasn’t a skill I had coming into real estate; I had to learn it. Anyone who stays in the business any length of time, and becomes successful, has acquired that skill.”
Up until that point in Anne’s working life, success was based on effort – the harder you worked, the better you did. But in real estate she learned that sometimes she would do a lot of hard work, but sometimes things just don’t work out.
“I came into the business with a certain level of self-confidence. More importantly, I was confident in what I was taught, and I was sure ‘I wouldn’t make the same mistakes everyone else makes,’ but it didn’t take so long to find out that wasn’t the case,” she said.
One of these times was when Anne was working with a seller-client. She researched and suggested a price and some improvements needed to make the property sell. The seller thought the price was too low, and the house was just fine as was and wanted to go with a higher price. Anne went against her “better judgement,” and signed the listing agreement. “I actually told them the house won’t sell, and that they would end up aggravated at me, but they laughed and said, ‘that won’t happen!’,” said Anne.
There were a few showings and the buyers that did come through commented on the needed improvements and that house was overpriced. Anne provided regular feedback to the sellers, but they didn’t easily take the advice.
“I remember they reluctantly agreed to a minor price adjustment and minor repairs, but no sale before the listing expired,” she said. “Of course, they re-listed with a competitor, at my original suggested price and after making the improvements I suggested, and the house was under agreement in a week!”
Like most new Realtors®, Anne had to learn by doing. It also taught her some important lessons that she’s carried throughout her career, “In real estate you must learn to have a plan ‘B.’ You need to plan and see what problems may come down the road and you have to learn how to let go of the original plan so you can move on and be successful.”
A Realtor® From the Start:
It’s not uncommon for some Realtors® to practice as agents before they make the decision to join the Realtor® Association. That wasn’t the case for Anne, who got her real estate salespersons license in 2001 and became a Realtor® on day one. However, her involvement in the Association as a volunteer took a little longer to develop.
“I got involved in little bits and drips for a while and being on a committee here and there,” she said. “Then out of the blue, I got a call from our president at the time and she asked if I would be a vice president on our board the following year. She assured me that it wouldn’t be a big deal and it would be easy. I didn’t know what I was getting involved with. But that’s how it began. She said there would be a lot of help and she was right, there was a lot of help.”
For Anne, getting into leadership was an evolvement that hit the point of no return when she had the opportunity to attend the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Midyear Legislative Meetings in Washington D.C.
“Our president at the time couldn't go to the annual meetings in May, so I was asked to go in his place,” said Anne. “It was such an eye opener to see what the Realtor® Association actually was and the impact we had. It was a direct line to consumers and our national government. It was really empowering to know we could make that difference.”
Anne returned from that trip to Washington D.C. energized and even more committed to getting involved in leadership. She would go on to become the president of the Berkshire County Board of Realtors®. She also became a member of the MAR Board of Directors and Government Affairs Committee and started to meet lots of Realtors® across the state. She became part of the MAR Executive Committee through her election as MAR’s Western Region Vice President.
The Deep Dive into Leadership:
The only thing that was stronger than Anne’s dedication to being involved in volunteer leadership was her desire to be the best leader she could be. To meet this goal to get better, Anne applied and was accepted to MAR’s Leadership Academy in 2009. “MAR’s Leadership Academy is what really launched things for me,” she said.
After a few more years of various volunteer leadership roles at MAR, Anne decided to take the next step in her leadership development and applied and was accepted to the NAR Leadership Academy in 2014. She came away from these experiences with two lessons that helped develop her philosophy as a leader. The first lesson she learned was the value of letting go.
“Here you are becoming a leader and one of the hardest things you have to learn is when to let go of control and let people do their thing,” she said. “It’s all about coming together to create something better than you could do on your own, and when you’re done, turning over the finished product and letting someone else have control of it.”
The second lesson Anne learned that helped develop her leadership philosophy was openness.
“People gravitate toward an open approach. When you have a more open mind, you are more receptive to other ideas. And people are more willing to contribute if they feel their ideas are not going to be immediately shot down,” she said. “That’s where your best ideas and best work comes from.”
After her NAR Leadership Academy experience, Anne was appointed to the NAR Federal Financing and Housing Policy Committee. Then she served on the Resort & Second Home Committee. She finished up her second of two three-year terms on the Membership Policy & Board Jurisdiction Committee and was the 2018 Chair. As MAR President, Anne will be a member of the NAR Board of Directors.
The Year Ahead:
A lot of the year that a volunteer spends as president-elect, is about planning for the year when they are president. That was certainly the case for Anne too. Whether it’s working the budgeting process or selecting committee chairs and vice-chairs, it’s all done before the start of the term so there are no delays when the calendar turns. “We’re already beyond that first one hundred days! There’s so much you have to do as leader and leadership team before your terms begin,” Anne said.
In addition to the logistical work of being president, Anne has made a point of focusing on continuity and communication of the leadership team. She’s doing this to help ensure the Association continues to move in a positive direction with as few distractions as possible.
“We have a leadership team that has already developed a very good working relationship with each other and is in constant communication with each other,” said Anne. “A lot of the things that I’m going to be doing, Immediate Past President Rita Coffey has already started. And I have already begun to bring President-Elect Kurt Thompson into the information and decision-making process. I feel that by the time I’m taking the reins, half of my job is already done, and Kurt’s is beginning.”
However, Anne understands that there needs to be room for individual personalities and that things don’t always turn out how you expect them to. “Each of us will put our own spin on things and each of us will add things to the mix, but the process is already in place. Of course, there are always those twists and turns that come up that you never anticipate during the year. That’s when you must have your ‘plan B’ and know the direction you’re going in, so you don’t go completely off track.”
MAR has over 24,000 members, with all different geographies, backgrounds, skills and points of view. It is that diversity that Anne wants to use to bind the membership together and strengthen the Association.
“The one thing I really want our members to embrace is our connection across the Commonwealth and an appreciation of all that we really are,” said Anne. “You go from these small towns in Western Mass. with the hills to Boston, or out to the Cape and Islands, or up to Salem or the middle of the state and I want all of us to think how cool it is that we have all these differences and how we’re able to do a better job as Realtors® because of those differences. I want us to make the most of those different perspectives and appreciate all that this state has to offer.”
Photo Credits: Tricia McCormack Photography