by G. Sax, Director of Growth Management, RESO
Three Questions is an interview series that introduces you to real estate industry professionals, their businesses and how they interact with real estate standards with a goal of humanizing the tech side of the industry, fun included.
This week’s interview is with Matthew Consalvo, CEO at Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) and Past Chair of the Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS). We chatted about unexpected career paths in a fascinating “This is Your Life” romp and touched on untraditional board configurations. Enjoy!
Q1: You took a circuitous route to the MLS industry, including store management at Staples and owning your own store before a six-year stint at GE Security. Can you describe that journey?
Matt: It actually goes way back to the 1960s and 1970s to the founders of Supra, the company that makes a lot of the electronic lockboxes used in the real estate industry today.
Iral and Gwen Barrett were friends of the family going back that far. During the summer of 1985 and 1986, I did a marketing internship at the Supra offices in Salem, Oregon, where I first dabbled in lockboxes and the real estate industry.
After college, I worked at Staples, when it was a startup. We grew.
RESO: That’s an understatement.
Matt: I thought about going back to Supra, because I enjoyed my time there, but my dad was president of Supra and I got one too many “Frank Junior” comments for my comfort. Yes, my legal name is Frank.
RESO: Oh, this is already getting good.
My stock options at Staples were decent, so I did okay there. I eventually took some time off to enjoy life with my new wife, Nancy, and focus on our family.
When I was ready to work again, I actually decided to work with my mom, who founded a company around the concept of footwear for travel, adventure and walking, not just for fitness.
The venture began when my mother got angry about the shoe options for adventure travel during an August trip. By December of that year, we opened our store with 200 different shoes, specific to caring for the foot.
The concept was function over fashion. We had hats and shirts that could be washed in streams and clothing meant for adventure safaris.
That lasted for seven years. We were one of the first stores in the Yahoo! Mall concept, serving as a guinea pig for that idea. It was successful.
But we eventually closed our store and sold the web-based business. I was offered a job at Ross, where I implemented the labor management solution that we built at Staples ten years before.
Then I finally made my way back to Supra, and I loved my work there and it made a lot of sense. I had a great six years in that stint, and ARMLS was my most focused customer.
I did not have to travel much, which was great given the age of my children at that time. The only reason that encouraged me to leave was because Supra’s parent, GE Security, was sold. It felt like the right time to move along, given a lot of uncertainty.
Q2: So how did you actually reach the MLS world from such a faraway set of industries?
Matt: Bob Bemis, the former ARMLS CEO and current MLS Director at the Park City Board of REALTORS®, offered me a job. He taught me a lot in the time we worked together.
At the time, ARMLS had had three CEOs all named Bob: Bob Kundrath, Bob Rucker and Bob Bemis. The two outside counsels had both been named Bob as well. We called them Bob1, Bob2, Bob3, Legal Bob1 and Legal Bob2.
When Bob Bemis left for other pursuits, I was offered the opportunity to be Interim CEO of ARMLS, I accepted with the stipulation that I could be eligible for the CEO role after the interim period ended and that I didn’t have to change my name to Bob.
Q3: You have done something different with your organization’s Board of Directors by reaching outside of Arizona to bring in industry voices from other states. What is the thinking behind this sort of board build?
Matt: The thought is that we are a better industry when we think together than we are when we restrict ourselves. Yes, real estate is local, but we also don’t know what we don’t know. We want to be able to include people who are great business minds, no matter where they are.
So we have added executive-level voices to our conversation from California, Utah, Wisconsin, Oregon and Illinois.
One addition, Sam Powell, is an agent from Dreamtown Realty in Chicago and has been deeply involved with the Women’s Council of REALTORS®. We think very highly of her.
Her perspective is bold and different, and her opinions definitely help our organization, as do all of our outside additions. In fact, Sam was just elected to be the ARMLS Vice-Chair in 2024.
We determined this path back in 2013. The addition of nonsubscriber seats was intentional. We test drove several ideas and landed at having industry folks from outside our area.
The experiment has paid off well for our organization. We have some great thinkers that understand our industry and can make some great decisions.
We are not alone in this endeavor either. Chris Carillo has done it at Metro MLS in Milwaukee. CRMLS has done it in California. Bright MLS and MRED are doing it, too.
I’m not aware of medium-sized or smaller MLSs looking for voices outside their market, but I would love to hear about more MLSs following this path.
You at RESO have also shown a belief that the consumer should have a voice in the MLS, and this makes all of us stronger.
Remember that traditions are often just peer pressure from folks who are thinking about the past, and our job as leaders is to be driving to the future.