In 1972, when I first took on a real estate management job at Xerox in Chicago, one of my most important tools was my Rolodex. For the younger reader of this blog, I should explain that the Rolodex was a simple filing of business cards or small index cards, arranged in alphabetical order, and containing names, phone numbers, and mailing addresses of service firms, colleagues, and other contacts. I would use the Rolodex at least 2-3 times a day to look up service people who I might need in an assignment or project, or check in with contacts who might help as a reference.
Today we have several automated tools that replace the old Rolodex. Beyond your contact list, you have a myriad of contact resources on the Internet. Networks of contacts provide an invaluable resource for information and support. A well-developed personal business network can provide fast input on various aspects of your responsibilities. For example, you may need a trustworthy opinion on a broker you’re considering to hire for a leasing project. You may need a second opinion on a software application. You may need a local insight on a distant market that is the target of a new leasing project. All these issues and needs can be readily accessed through your personal network.
So what are the key elements of the CRE business network? My suggestion is to organize your network into categories. I suggest these five categories: 1.) Your organization network. This would include key members in your department and company. 2.) Professional network. This would include associations like Corenet, IFMA, and individuals in the CRE profession. 3.) Industry network. This would include brokers, architects, engineers, in various aspects of the real estate, construction, and building industry. 4.) Social network. This includes friends, family members, school mates and associates that you have a social versus professional relationship with. 5.) Avocation network. This includes friends or contacts in those activities that are a part of your informal life such as health clubs, hobby groups, sports teams, etc.
There are guiding principles that underscore effective networking. The first principle is one of trust. It’s paramount that you maintain a high level of integrity in your behavior within the various networks in which you’re active. Along with trust and integrity is the issue of reliability and consistency. To prosper in your networks, it’s wise to maintain occasional contact and to “touch base” on a regular basis. For some contacts an annual call is sufficient. For others, a monthly call may be necessary. Networking is a form of marketing, and like marketing, a good networker is a good communicator.
I strongly urge aspiring CRE professionals to maintain active membership in one of the leading CRE associations like Corenet Global. These entities provide outstanding opportunities for networking and attendance at regional or global meetings is a great place to make contacts and to learn. I made a point of giving presentations on occasion at Corenet meetings. And by doing so you engage the attendees and enhance your personal brand.
Professional networking is a critical skill and practice for the CRE professional. A good network of various components described above will serve you well as both a professional and a manager. Developing good networking skills and nurturing your various networks over the span of your career will certainly enhance your success and enrich your career with long standing contacts and friendships.