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Some Lessons from the Kitchen Table

Wikipedia defines consensus as the “community resolution when opposing parties set aside their differences and agree on a statement that is agreeable to all, even if only barely.” While this definition is easy to understand cognitively, it is oh so challenging to achieve in practice.

In 2001 I had the decidedly elusive opportunity of participating in an extremely successful consensus building process - the creation of the Niagara Association of Realtors. Prior to our Association’s amalgamation there were three real estate boards operating in the Niagara Region – the St. Catharines & District Real Estate Board, the Niagara Falls-Fort Erie Real Estate Board and the Welland District Real Estate Board.

As our individual real estate boards approached the millennium it had become increasingly apparent that technology had reached a level of capability that the administrative location for delivery of information sharing services could be efficiently centralized. It was also recognized that by combining the financial resources of all three organizations there was the potential for investing in improved larger scale initiatives while also reducing the long term cost per individual member.

Lofty ideals - but how best to explore the opportunity while respecting the integrity of each individual Board’s autonomy and perceived differences?

We started by simply agreeing to establish an Amalgamation Task Force assigned to “broker a deal” provided that terms could be negotiated that all parties could live with. I guess, looking back, much of the reason for our success is likely that consensus building is fundamental to the way that we Realtors make our living at the kitchen tables ofNiagaraeveryday.

At the end of this month members of the St. Catharines-Thorold Chamber of Commerce will be voting to throw their collective hats in the ring to start the process of forming a Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce.

TheNiagarabusiness community recognizes the potential benefits of having a united voice. Niagara Realtors have demonstrated an excellent example of how to get the deal done – but first let’s resolve how to get everyone to the kitchen table.

Cathy Berkhout-Bosse, H.B.A. is a real estate broker at Remax Welland Realty Ltd.& member of the Amalgamation Task Force for the former Welland & District Real Estate Board. You may read past columns at www.NiagaraRealtySourceReport.com

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