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What We Learned at the REALTORS® Conference: To Love and Support Each Other

From left: Heather Ozur, Melanie Barker, Jennifer Branchini, and Tamara Suminski at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco.

Sitting around a table at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco, the four women seem more like they’re at a sidewalk café trading war stories about life, love, and happiness than at a business conference. The first thing that comes to mind — clichés be damned! — is a scene from “Sex and the City” where the girls are at their favorite diner, giggling over the frivolities of each other’s sordid lives. Someone might be Carrie, someone might be Charlotte — probably no one would claim to be Samantha.

What brings these women together is their love and admiration for one another, and it’s fitting that here they sit at the same venue that launched their great four-way friendship: the convention.

Heather Ozur, Melanie Barker, Jennifer Branchini, and Tamara Suminski first met at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans in 2010. Three years later, they’re still laughing together, using the conference as their excuse to catch up on old times and make new memories (well, and learn something, too, of course).

“It’s kind of like when we get together for REALTOR® events, it’s kind of like camp,” says Suminski, GRI, ABR, e-PRO®, who runs training and development programs at Harcourts Prime Properties in Aliso Viejo, Calif. “ We see our long-lost friends and family.”

It’s a testament to the real impact the conference can have on NAR members’ lives. The focus of the event is on continued education and training, but so much more happens behind the scenes. People form friendships and relationships that stand the test of time. Some even get married.

“This is about support and mentorship,” says Branchini, CRS, SRES, BHG, an agent with Tri-Valley Realty in Pleasanton, Calif. “I value the honesty and truth we provide each other.”

It’s not that there aren’t business advantages to their friendship. They’ve learned plenty from one another that has helped them grow in their professional lives.

“Their friendship and their knowledge have allowed me to grow as a real estate professional,” says Barker, an agent with Bass Lake Realty-Oakhurst in Oakhurst, Calif. “The vast majority of my growing has been done in the last four years that I’ve known these ladies. Knowing how they market, communicate, their leadership styles — it’s helped me a lot. With the economy, there were some financial challenges for me, and just with their support, it allowed me to continue and participate at a high level.”

“They’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right, and what you can do better,” chimes Ozur, ABR, CRS, BMN, and agent with Keller Williams Realty in La Quinta, Calif.

But their friendship transcends that. It gets far more personal. Suminski’s boyfriend was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. The rest of the group made “Team Tamara” T-shirts and bought bracelets to show their support. When Suminski couldn’t speak at an event because of the ordeal, Ozur stepped in.

“It’s great to have support, to help each other with tools to not be devastated when hard times come,” Ozur said.

“We call each other sisters from another mother,” Suminski said.

And here’s to many more years — and conferences — shared in faith, love, and trust.

“Real estate is our commonality, but our connection is our personal similarities and our openness to our dissimilarities,” Barker said.

Graham Wood

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org.

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