Rebecca Thomson: Passion, Poise and Purpose

Before 2017-2018 Chicago Association of REALTORS® president Rebecca Thomson embarks on a new leadership opportunity, she asks herself, “Can I be effective, and do I have the bandwidth?” In addition to her demanding job as the Vice President of Agent Development at @properties, these questions are paramount to her deciding to step up and accept a new leadership challenge. Thomson prides herself on her ability to spearhead change. “I focus on the team and the collective – where are we trying to go, and how can we get everyone on board to propel us forward?” It’s one of the reasons she’s had a “meteoric,” by some accounts, rise to leadership in the REALTOR® community. Her status as a leader isn’t surprising to those who know her best – her deep devotion to professionalism and intense dedication to goal-setting, paired with a knack for spotting talent and “insanely nerdy” tendencies, are all keys to her success. Thomson had her first taste for sales while working at Banana Republic. “I loved it,” she said. “I wanted to find a way to stay in sales and to somehow make a difference.” Right after graduating from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, she signed up for a pre-licensing course and quickly knew that real estate was the right path. “It was exactly what I had been looking for; real estate gave me the opportunity to have an impact both on the lives of my clients and in my community as a whole.” Thomson found herself starting from scratch and first built her business calling sellers posting for-sale-by-owner ads on Craigslist. In her own words, those first few months were “brutal,” but in a few short months, her hard work paid off. Thomson chuckled as she recalled those early days: “More often than not, I was hung up on or cursed at, but I kept at it and eventually got my first listing, and then my second. It took off from there.” Always the problem-solver, Thomson started to notice a trend among her clients. “There was so much new construction, and most buyers didn’t know where to start with it,” she said. “They didn’t know the questions to ask. They needed an advocate.” That’s where she found her niche. Thomson began giving neighborhood-specific new construction trolley tours. “There were 20 cranes in any given neighborhood, but only four or five great projects I would recommend to a client. They needed help navigating which developers were building quality projects at fair pricing.” After Thomson started holding these tours, she quickly expanded to meet demand. “I began marketing the trolley tours on websites, real estate blogs, forums and even in Starbucks. Every tour, I would have 40 to 50 buyers.”  Some were existing clients, and those who weren’t quickly sought her out to represent them in new construction and resale purchases alike. Around the same time, Thomson made the decision to get more involved in the REALTOR® community – specifically, with the Women’s Council of REALTORS®. She credits that organization with much of her success. “They helped me develop the tools and skills to drive my career, and I give that organization a lot of credit for who I am today and what I do.” Now part of C.A.R.’s much-lauded Industry Partners program, Women’s Council (and Rebecca) are a perfect example of how the Industry Partners are a great incubator for REALTOR® leadership. As Thomson’s involvement in the industry grew, so too, did her career. People began to take note and in 2014, Thomson was named one of REALTOR® Magazine’s prestigious “30 Under 30.” It was no surprise to those who knew her well. They watched her career take off, all while dedicating more and more of her time to serving her industry and her community. Thomson’s board service is extensive. Within the industry, she currently serves on the National Women’s Council Executive Committee, the REALTOR® University Board of Regents, the Illinois REALTORS® Board of Directors and recently chaired the National Association of REALTORS® Convention in Chicago. She has completed terms serving on the boards for the Union League Club of Chicago and StepUp Chicago, as well. “I’m always asked two things: how I manage to do it all, and why I do it,” Thomson said. “There is this amazing overlap, and I’ve seen firsthand that everything I do has made me better – it makes me better at my job, it makes me a stronger leader, and it has expanded my knowledge base to make me more effective on every board I serve on. I love education – and it’s an education. It’s hands-on leadership and business development.” It’s this forward thought-process and focus on education that spurs many of her goals for the coming year. “This is not my anything; this is not my presidency – I am a steward of the organization for one year,” she said. “I stepped up because I believed I was the right person. Looking at the challenges ahead, I felt confident I could help us move forward. That’s where the “me” and “my” ends: with raising my hand. Now, it’s ‘where do we need to be?’ and ‘what do we need to be doing?’ How are we helping our members address the challenges? How are we helping them address opportunities? That’s what our members care about [and that’s our role].” At the 134th Inaugural Gala this fall, Rebecca challenged our membership to think about the future. “We can’t sit idly by and wait for change to happen to us. How are you going to take ownership of our story?” It’s this vision – a relentless focus on the future and how to stay ahead of the curve – that will likely come to define our association’s 134th year.

Watch Rebecca’s Inaugural Speech