Executive led effort to rebrand trade group
Rick Lugg advocates continuous process improvements to strengthen the member experience at Virginia Realtors.
“The members are why we exist and making sure the value we provide continues to satisfy the membership is our No. 1 priority,” says Lugg, the association’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer. “We have to make sure we are delivering on our value proposition each and every day.”
Lugg oversees project management operations of the state’s largest trade association, which represents nearly 34,000 Realtors in residential and commercial real estate businesses.
During the past five years, the association’s membership has grown 3% to 4% annually.
In 2017, Lugg led efforts to rebrand the trade group, formerly known as the Virginia Association of Realtors and redesign its website. In 2018, Real Trends, a publishing, consulting and communications firm, selected the Virginia Realtors website as the Best Association/Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Website in the nation.
The organization has seen a 100% return on its investments since Lugg joined the association in 2009 during the height of the financial crisis. The association decided to move funds from expiring CDs and money market accounts to invest more in the stock market.
“The board was very confident we could successfully weather the downturn and continue to manage the association and add to reserves when revenues were declining,” says Lugg.
“This show of faith paid off as the reserves of the association have more than doubled since then, with 75% invested in equities.”
Lugg, who previously worked for Circuit City, likes the fact that the association has only 30 employees.
“There is always something different to do. Every day has its own challenges and I enjoy working through them. With a small team you have to be able to work on both the strategic and the mundane,” says Lugg, who graduated from Troy University and earned his MBA from the University of Richmond.
While working at Circuit City, Lugg transitioned into strategic finance and operation roles. “I was involved in some of the business transformation initiatives and witnessed firsthand the value of staying focused on the core mission and the dangers of swaying too far off course,” he says.
At the association, he is proud of being able to build and cultivate a collaborative culture “and watch the team come together,” he says. “My favorite thing is working with a group of people who have the same passion to make sure we do the best we can do.”
Lugg is someone that people can connect with, says Matthew Spradlin, a partner at Steward Partners Global Advisory, a private wealth management firm based in Washington, D.C. “I have worked with a lot of CFOs, from small [businesses] to Fortune 500 companies. What makes Rick stand out is that he has an amazing personality. He’s driven but he can connect with humans, and that is what makes him a great leader.”
One of Lugg’s newest projects involves changing the association’s software programs to cloud-based platforms to boost efficiency and automation. Lugg, who served in the U.S. Air Force as a computer programmer before coming to Richmond in 1999, is able to draw from his IT background.
The move to cloud-based platforms is a step toward providing a more flexible work environment where employees have the ability to work from anywhere, he says. “It has been a big project. We are trying to align our systems to our employee-friendly culture, while also greatly simplifying our disaster-recovery plan.”
The association has also loosened some policies, promoting a more casual dress atmosphere. “We want to make sure we attract and retain the best talent,” Lugg says. “Flexible work schedules and casual dress are helpful to employee morale.”