Married people, who can relate to listening to your spouse without really listening? No, just me? For years, I’d heard my husband, Luke Worrell ALC, come back from the National Land Conference raving about how valuable it was – the speakers, the networking and everything in between. I didn’t fully grasp what he meant until I experienced NLC18 for myself this year. It was the single most valuable professional development tool I’ve put in my work belt in a long time.
Luke and I are blessed to work together in the land business that his dad, Allan Worrell ALC1, started and that we now own together - Luke as a land broker and farm manager, and me on our marketing and operations functions. NLC18 equipped each of us with new ways to become more effective and efficient in our roles. Allow us to elaborate…
Luke: The NLC has become somewhat of an annual pilgrimage to me. Like many organizations and activities, you get what you put in, and the NLC has given me so much. The thing I most value about the conference is the chance to come together with colleagues from around the country and network. It can go beyond networking as well; I have made countless genuine friendships over the years by attending this event.
The 2018 conference in Nashville was special to me. Not only was it the first NLC that Allison and I could attend together as business partners, but it held certain symbolic meaning to me personally. My very first NLC was in Nashville back in 2011. I was “green as grass” to the industry and literally knew no one there other than my dad. I was there lacking confidence and not really knowing what to make of everything and everyone. Ray Brownfield held a national position with RLI at that time and was on stage talking about how the NLC held such distinction to him. He cited that networking through RLI has led to great business. I distinctly remember a younger, naïve version of myself sitting there wondering to myself if what Ray was saying was true or something nice he felt like he had to say since he was in leadership….
Fast forward seven years to 2018 and I was in Nashville again, this time winning the National ALC-to-ALC Networking Award for the largest real estate transaction closed between two Accredited Land Consultants. Low and behold, the colleague with whom I partnered and closed that sale was Ray Brownfield himself. As it turns out, Ray was telling the truth back in 2011! Closing on an $8.4 million farmland sale is a huge gift from God that makes for a great story and a feather in the cap to networking at these events. The biggest take away goes beyond an award-winning sale – it is the people. Since that first trip to Nashville in 2011, Ray has become a trusted colleague, a mentor of sorts and a genuine friend. The wonderful thing about the NLC and going year after year is that I could say that about many other members of the Realtors Land Institute. Barring tragedy or the birth of a child (literally the only reason I missed Tucson in 2015!), I refuse to miss the National Land Conference. It is an invaluable experience for me as a land professional, and me on a personal level.
Luke: Another obvious benefit of the NLC is amount of knowledge you take away. Over the years, the conference has continued to add high-quality breakout sessions that essentially create a buffet of knowledge. You can pick and choose from numerous choices and tailor your conference experience to expand your knowledge in just the right places.
Nashville was a prime example. I went into the conference wanting to learn more about reaching different types of buyers, other than those I have grown accustomed to. Because of the numerous breakout options available at NLC, I was able to do just that. On one day of the conference alone, I learned about working with foreign buyers on land acquisitions, understanding what motivated institutional investment groups and how to better position myself on social media to appeal to a broader base. Keep in mind I was able to attend all of these sessions in an eight-hour window of time. There isn’t anywhere else I could cover that range of topics in depth in such a short period of time. Over the course of three or four days, the quality of options to learn is incredible.
Allison: Just as Luke was able to acquire new knowledge to help him as a land broker, I was able to expand my knowledge on topics that help me better market our company and address some operational challenges we’re facing. I either participated in a session, met with an exhibitor, or swapped strategies with other attendees on the following topics, and more:
- Tools for tracking sales leads and processes within the sales cycle
- Tips for how to motivate our brokers and measure their performance
- Social media tips and tricks – when to post, what platform to use, how to engage the audience
- How to improve our online footprint
- Tips for becoming more effective and efficient
For at least three of those topics, I had signed up for various webinars over the past year and cancelled at the last minute because something came up at work that made it fall on the priority list (not RLI webinars, of course – those are can’t miss!). Participating in the National Land Conference allowed me to pull away from the day-to-day so that I could finally devote uninterrupted attention to topics that will help to grow our business.
Allison: You might be surprised to read that Public Relations is one of the value-added benefits we identify for the National Land Conference. But, hear me out. Anything you do to develop yourself professionally is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to landowners, lenders, attorneys and others with whom we all share the agribusiness space, that you embrace the notion of lifelong learning within your craft. That you aren’t just someone who operates solely off of intuition in your little corner of the world.
Tactfully slide into conversation that you just got back from the National Land Conference and that you learned about XYZ topics, compared land market trends with brokers in neighboring areas and invested in developing yourself to the benefit of those whom you serve. In our market in Central Illinois, after Luke returns home from a work conference, I often contact the local radio station and offer him up for an interview on their farm programming show. They usually jump on the chance to fill a timeslot, and it’s a great way to position ourselves as thought-leaders within the ag realm, so it’s a win-win for everyone. Write about what you learned at the conference on your blog and/or company newsletter. Post a photo from the conference on your social media pages.
Make the most of any conference you attend, leadership role you hold or award you win. You can bet your next commission check that I leveraged Luke’s ALC-to-ALC Networking Award to his advantage! It’s okay to toot your own horn (in a humble, high-integrity way of course) about awards you earn. More than just a plaque in your office, industry awards are tangible ways to show potential clients and business partners that you have the credentials and experience they’re looking for in a land broker.
And for goodness sake, get your ALC designation! Talk about good publicity!
Can you tell that we’re big fans of the National Land Conference?! Taking time out of your territory might seem like a costly endeavor, whether financially or procedurally. But we assure you, it is an investment that pays for itself. If you’ve never been, what are you waiting for? Let’s meet up in Albuquerque for NLC19!
1 For those of you who know Allan, rest assured, he hasn’t retired. We honestly don’t think he ever will – he loves the land business too much! He’s just tired of dealing with the headaches of business ownership.
This article originally appeared in the 2018 Summer Terra Firma Magazine, the official publication of the REALTORS® Land Institute.
About the Authors: Luke Worrell, ALC, and Allison Worrell own Worrell Land Services, LLC, specializing in land brokerage, farm management and land appraisals across Central Illinois. Luke is an accomplished Land Broker who has earned the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) designation. He is also an Accredited Farm Manager (AFM) who manages 84 farms across Central Illinois. Luke is an active leader in many ag-industry organizations, both nationally and locally. Allison leads the company’s strategic marketing and communications efforts. She brings to the business a unique blend of professional experiences from her background with a national pharmaceutical wholesaler, as well as non-profit work.