Carrie Chang, the new chief executive of the Minneapolis Area Realtors (MAR), is the association’s ninth leader and the first female and person of color in that role. She has had leadership roles in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds with Greater Twin Cities United Way, General Mills and Accenture. Chang earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management in marketing. Chang grew up in a St. Paul suburb; she and her husband, Jin, and their two daughters live in Edina.
Q: You have been in this job nearly a month, any surprises so far?
A: How welcoming the Realtor community has been to someone like me who is not an “insider.”
Q: What are the most pressing needs?
A: For the association, it’s expanding our member engagement around the value Minneapolis Area Realtors (MAR) provides. This means more outreach, enhanced tools and resources like deeper professional education curriculum, and integrated communications on key issues for which we’re advocating on their behalf.
For our industry, the pressing need is to ensure homeownership and its benefits are more accessible to all people. Informed real estate professionals can play a role in driving this change. It’s also important our industry actively hire, train and mentor people in real estate career paths from diverse communities.
Q: You have said you are excited to “serve our members by elevating our profession.” What does that mean?
A: I meant that in two ways. The first is to raise the visibility of the profession as a whole. Brokers, agents and agent teams promote their work, but it is our responsibility to raise the tide that lifts all boats regarding the value of Realtors, their expertise and the value to home buyers and sellers.
The second is to expand educational opportunities for members that build skills to keep pace with the dynamic market, changing technology and business models.
Q: Over the years there has been talk about merging the Minneapolis and St. Paul-based associations. Where do you stand on that issue?
A: A merger is not a priority for us. I’m joining in year two of a three-year strategic plan for MAR that focuses on enhancing our capabilities to benefit our nearly 9,000 members. I have already had some great discussions with John Fridlington, CEO at St. Paul Area Association of Realtors, and what is a priority for us is growing the partnership between our two strong associations.
Q: As an industry outsider, how do you lead?
A: My approach is to dive in and learn. I’ll be “shadowing” some brokers and agents so I can experience what they encounter day-to-day. I used to do this a lot in marketing, really observing and listening to consumers. I am utilizing our great education programs here at MAR. In addition, the National Association of Realtors provides some great experiences.
Q: When you are not working, how do you like to spend your time?
A: Hanging out with our family; my husband and our two daughters. We love traveling, going to movies and playing games. I also play a lot of tennis. While I picked it up later in life, long after college, I loved it and would play every day if I had the time.
Q: Who taught you the most about leadership?
A: It is too hard to choose only one because I’ve learned from some great role models and mentors. But some of the core lessons really all started as a kid with my dad. He is a small-business owner, now retired, and though he never sat down to teach me, I learned by watching his example and asking questions as a curious kid. He showed me what it meant to have vision, work ethic [and] an entrepreneurial spirit, and most importantly how to treat others.
Q: What lessons did you learn in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds?
A: From for-profit, I learned the importance of setting measurable goals, how to identify key business drivers and how to lead cross-functional teams toward big goals. At Accenture and General Mills, I was always given new projects, roles or businesses to work on, so I learned how to onboard and ramp up quickly.
From the nonprofit world, the lessons around public service and how to engage stakeholders like our board and donors were invaluable. Board governance, volunteer leadership and member engagement are core to my role as CEO at MAR and I learned from some of the best.
Across both sectors, I learned the importance of relationship-building and making time to connect with your team. It is true that people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care. It can be hard for me to slow down to really connect, but it makes such a difference.