Barb Schwarz, ASPM, IAHSP, Certified Speaking Professional, has been recognized for many things in her career - Successful Realtor, Broker, Mentor, Motivational Speaker, and Creator of Home Staging. In this last role, she once again demonstrates why she is at the forefront of the real estate industry as a visionary and expert.
I felt the need to post this blog because I have seen the industry change in the past 6 years as a professional home stager, and certain areas like training have been flooded by many that want to profit off the need for education. That's fine. But I keep my ear to the ground and hear the craziest things about "how" someone supposedly came up with the idea for their course or association - and this post is about giving credit where credit is due - and about being honest about origins and education.
Having had the privilege of being in Barb's company many times as a student, mentoree, and friend (more like family) I have seen how dedicated she is to furthering the education of the public through press, seminars and one-on-one conversations about the benefits of Home Staging and how it can change lives, one at a time. She literally sleeps, eat, and breathes staging, and no one that I know is as devoted (or as she says, "possessed") with this responsibility of properly educating the world about Staging.
The roots of Home Staging are long and deep and like an oak tree have stood the test of time. The character of an oak tree is about strength, courage, endurance, and truth - and this is a great parallel for our Staging industry and Barb Schwarz, President & CEO of Stagedhomes.com and President of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals. Barb is not "perfect" but if she has made any "mistakes" in her journey, they are few, and her successes are many.
Over the past 36 years the service of Staging has been shared with over a million Realtors and helped launch the careers of independent business owners that started a home staging business. For over 15 years in the 1980s and 1990's, Barb toured the country, sharing the benefits of Staging as a key marketing tool for Realtors - reaching mass audiences and nearly 1 million Realtors with her message and success principles. Since that time, she continues to educate mass audiences, with her Accredited Staging Professional (ASP) Course - the first course, designation and Accreditation developed for Realtors and Stagers.
When she created the first professional designation for Home Staging in the 90's, she opened up a door for many others that would come years later that saw an opportunity in the educational arena. She clearly remembers the moment she had the vision to create the first professional designation - and it was a vision for the future. Ask others about their "moment of inspiration" - I know it was not the same as Barb's - where hers came from a spiritual place of a calling that was bigger than herself.
It's like that movie "Working Girl" when at the pivotal part in the movie, Sigourney Weaver's character is asked how she came up with the idea for the project, and she bumbles and stumbles - because she did not originate the idea, and she instantly loses credibiltiy and respect for misleading her colleagues and trying to claim someone else's work as her own. Wouldn't life be great if it were so easy to expose "imposters?" (or at least those that are not truly honest about their own education origins?)
In a place where Barb nearly lost her life, and did lose her ability to walk and talk for a period of time, the vision for a designation and industry that would parallel the National Association of Realtors and National Speakers Association are clear benchmarks in the development of the educational process that has now reached thousands of Stagers and over a million Realtors. Most of the others have come from a place of competition, of trying to benefit from what they saw as a profitable industry, and were not born from innovation or inspiration, or heart.
We have had posts on the origins of home staging where others have claimed to have been the first, and I have even heard first-hand at trade shows those that were associated with Barb's claim THEY trained Her. Some of these people's claims are just fraudulant - they never were in the real estate industry and so would not have been able to come up with the concepts, phrases and processes Barb developed as a succesful Realtor and innovator. And yet they are teaching programs that are eerily similar to the ASP program developed by Barb and based in HER years of success in real estate. She even has a book that was published in the early 1980's where much of the content of her program is published - so the idea for the ASP designation and course was based largely on her stories and success principles chronicled and documented in this best seller. No one else can demonstrate that clear connection or history in the industry.
She was recognized (2 years ago) as one of the Most Influential People in Real Estate - as voted on by her peers in the real estate industry, as well as receiving Educator of the Year. And the accolades just keep coming in . . . because of all she has done for the industry.
My research on the various companies out there that offer any sort of Staging education - from very basic information with little or no credibility (to me) to a handful of companies that actually offer a respected designation - is that they ALL can trace their roots to Barb in some manner. If they were not a student or former trainer of hers, they saw her on the road or read her books on Staging, or perhaps saw her videos from years past. There are those that have come at this whole staging industry from a different origin - decorating or design industry - and so their roots are not in, to me, the purest form of Staging - which is real estate and marketing. Still, most have used the model Barb set forth in her company to build their own training organizations. There may be one or 2 exceptions - but I believe I am pretty accurate based on my research.
Some may dispute my statement above, but go ahead and do your homework, like I have. No one else has 36 years of history in this industry - and no one else remembers the day they said the word "Stage your house" for the first time - and created an entire vocabulary related to what we do - stage, stager, staging, destage, etc. - and so I know that the others that came after Barb, like myself, would have found information online or in a book store, or from word of mouth that winds its way - even if in a small thread - back to Barb. All you have to do is ASK - and listen to their answers and find out for yourself where the truth is. Fortunately, the truth is documented and published in books - so it's pretty hard these days to claim something as truth that can easily be disputed by the facts found in many places.
Just as in life, people come and go in relationships and business. The same has been true with Barb and with those she has mentored, befriended and invested time. No matter the circumstances for departure from "Barb's world," the fact remains that there have been many that have built their next move on her shoulders. I, for one, would like to see that acknowledged but to do that it takes courage, grace, honesty, and integrity.
The media exposure opportunities shared by Barb willingly with her family of ASPs has created a basis for "expertise" in Stagers that today don't acknowledge or honor the source of their "fame," and yet continue to hang their hat on their participation in segments originated with Barb - that she did not have to share.
I have not yet seen any others involve their fellow colleagues or graduates in as many segments, articles, and events as Barb has. Part of that is because they don't get the media opportunities she does because the media also do their homework. Barb shares - as it is one of her foundations and commitment to those she serves.
I don't have a problem with other companies taking advantage of a training industry, or others that want to help Stagers launch businesses. That is not the point of this blog post. I acknowledge there are some good courses out there headed by wonderful people. And there are those that I would not give a second glance. My issue is with those who conduct their company - not giving credit to the origins of THEIR own education (formal or informal) and instead want us all to believe they came up with all the ideas for their program on their own.
Each time someone else comes out with a course, program, group, or association (and I know we have not seen the last of "new training companies or designations" or even associations), I smile inside because I know for the most part that there are no originators - just immitators. Some have said to her, "You changed my life,"or "I did not know Staging even existed as a career and business for me," and then go off it seems without regard to their origins or remembrance of who got them started. Others may toss in items about decorating, feng shui, etc. - and may call things different words or use slightly altered phrases, or even different methods to educate their students, but in the end, they are emulating the one that started it all - started us all on this wonderful journey in Home Staging - and that is Barb Schwarz. Just give credit where credit is due.
As Barb frequently shares, life is too short to be in the darkness - and instead of using her time and energy to pursue or dispute those that have not honored the origins of their education - she moves forward, using her ideas and vision to move ahead at light speed, paving the way for the future of home staging, always rooted in the truth, with courage, strength and endurance - just like the oak tree.
For me - that is the type of person I want to be around - and I do hang my success - not on the shoulders of Barb Schwarz - but in the heart of what she shares with each person she meets - and touches their lives for the better.