“In the initial phase of my career, I attended meetings to keep current with industry news, legislation, and education,” explains Krafchow. “In the middle of my career, I became a kind of ‘educator and getting educated’ attendee. And in this phase of my career, I attend to ‘understand’—understand how the industry is moving and how best I might serve my organization and the industry.”
Selecting from a Sea of Options
In an industry as multitudinous as real estate, brokers are faced with a colossal number of networks and networking events to choose from. Selectivity, therefore, is a must.
As The Realty Alliance President and CEO Craig Cheatham explains, “Many believe there are too many gatherings in the real estate industry these days. Not every network is essential to a broker’s success, but only those that deliver real value on an ongoing basis.”
According to Cheatham, The Realty Alliance ensures value for its members at meetings by stripping away mechanics like committees, and limiting vendor participation. “The bulk of our programs focus on peer-to-peer discussions on the most relevant topics so participants learn specifics on what is happening now on the front lines.”
O’Connor advises brokers to “mix it up,” recommending that in addition to their own network or brand conferences, they also attend smaller, cross-industry conferences, such as those sponsored by RISMedia. “While we tend to gravitate toward events with like-minded people from similar types of companies, it can be beneficial to mix it up.”
Hanna, a member of both The Realty Alliance and LeadingRE, enlists her executive team to also cover networking events so that she can be present at her “personal favorites.”
“I always kick off the fall season with RISMedia’s Real Estate CEO Exchange,” says Hanna. “It refocuses me for the last quarter drive. Because of the limited size, it enables me to have quality time with peers while having the opportunity to listen to outside industry speakers. The Realty Alliance spring and fall meetings are especially valuable. The forums are great because forum leaders plan topics in advance, so we are prepared to discuss the issues that are most pressing to our members and we are under confidentiality. The LeadingRE Conference allows us to get a broader overview of the industry because of the size and scope of the conferences. It gives me a chance to connect with brokers that we refer to throughout the year. NAR Midyear (now called the REALTOR® Party Convention & Trade Expo) is a must to keep in touch with national legal and policy decisions. Other management also attends RESPRO, NAR Annual and other industry conferences.”
Vince Leisey, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate in Omaha, Neb., is not only selective about which events he attends, but also about how he focuses his time at the events.
“I’ve been going to RISMedia events for six or seven years,” says Leisey. “I like the panels because you get to learn from other brokers, but more important for me is the other people you meet from outside your network and hearing their different perspectives. To me, the networking and people you meet and the ideas you receive are as valuable, if not more valuable, than the educational sessions.”
Many brokers also count their association involvement as an important part of the networking equation. “I’m on the board of directors of our local and state associations, and I’ve also been involved in NAR,” says Tom Skiffington, broker/owner of RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Realty in Pennsylvania. “Also, through our parent organization, RE/MAX, there are a lot of opportunities to talk to other brokers at training events. I’m also a mentor in the Brian Buffini program and meet a lot of people that way. Great networking also happens through RPAC (REALTORS® Political Action Committee), where I get to talk to brokers about the issues we’re all facing.”
Christine Hansen, broker/owner of Century 21 Hansen in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., includes a blend of local, state and national events into her networking strategy, such as Florida REALTORS® events and nationally, the NAR Leadership Academy. “I still talk to the people I met at the Leadership Academy and they are spread throughout the nation,” she explains. “I love being able to see what’s going on in other states. This keeps me informed at the larger level and helps me be a little bit more visionary in terms of trends. We have our playground in our own backyard and we can forget that there’s so much more going on.”
The Tangible Value of Networking
While idea-sharing with peers is an important cornerstone of successful networking, certain types of focused networking can yield tangible results for brokers.
Broker networks, for example, serve as an important source of referral business for their members.
Thaddeus Wong, co-founder of the Chicago area’s @properties, is a member of the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®.