In the past week I’ve gotten multiple emails from aspiring real estate professionals asking me what advice I’d give them as they get started in their careers. The answer is easy – the best thing you can do is network.
I think people often misunderstand the concept of networking; it’s not attending every industry event and collecting as many business cards as possible. It’s about generosity and finding ways to help others.
One of my all-time favorite quotes on networking comes from Peter Linneman. He says that in order to build a great network you must “always do the very best you can to fulfill what you said you would do, help others simply because you can rather than because you believe it would indirectly benefit you, and do this for the next thirty years.” He’s dead on.
Here are some of the things I do on a daily basis to build my network:
- I respond to 100% of the people who shoot me a cold email. It doesn’t matter if it’s a family friend, Tufts undergrad, Schack student, or someone who found me through the blog, I’ll talk with you. If you want to set up a call or in person meeting to discuss your career, the business, or anything real estate related, I’ll always find 15 minutes in my day. In addition to providing my advice, if you leave a good impression, I’ll connect you with friends in the business.
- I’m always trying to be a connector. I’m constantly introducing people that I like, to other people I think highly of, with the hopes that the introduction benefits both of them. Just today, I introduced a prominent real estate developer to the founder of a premier crowdfunding site. I believe they’ll both benefit greatly from the intro.
- Share information. There’s a lot of interesting articles out there. If you come across something that you know someone would be interested in, pass it along with your insight.
- Be social. Get up from behind your computer and have 3 meetings a week, organize dinner or drinks with a few colleagues, or start an informal group to chat about specific aspects on the business. Real estate professionals are obsessed with the business and love to talk about it.
Keep doing these things for a long time and you’ll build a network that leads to deals, investors, and various business opportunities.
I was out to dinner last night with an MD at a large real estate private equity firm and he made the comment that at the end of the day, the service his firm provides is a commodity. Generally speaking, he’s right. But operators do business with him because they like, respect, and have a long-standing relationship with him.
At the end of day, people want to work with good people who the like. The larger your network of good friends, the more successful you’ll be.
If you want to dig further into this topic, there’s a great book that I highly recommend called Never Eat Alone.