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“LeadingRE is a great compilation of some of the largest independents around the world,” says Wong. “When you’re sending a referral outside of your market and you’re part of a network where you can find the best agents at the best companies, it replaces the role of a franchise. Being part of LeadingRE allows us to be part of a bigger community, and to build relationships, share and collaborate with other brokers.”

Some brokers also reap big rewards by flipping the traditional equation and serving as a speaker at events, rather than an attendee.

“I travel and speak to other large real estate companies on a regular basis,” says Leisey. “I give a speech in the morning, then do a coaching session, and then spend all afternoon meeting with the owners. I find it incredibly valuable to sit there with the management team working through what they’re doing. It always sheds light on something for me.”

Hansen enjoys real-time business benefits, thanks to the effort she puts into one-on-one networking with brokers and related professionals, such as appraisers, in her own community.

“When you build a relationship with fellow brokers, you can call and talk to that broker and disarm situations among agents. If they know you and respect you, you can work through issues more easily,” she explains. Hansen has avoided legal action over simple agent mistakes, and facilitated more accurate appraisals due to the credibility she has built through one-on-one networking.

Sandra Miller, president of Engel & Völkers in Santa Monica, Calif., recommends that brokers also consider adding a global element to their networking agenda.

“Because Engel & Völkers is international, we attend at least two international events each year,” she explains. “In 2013, I attended the E&V Mallorca Event, for 1,000 E&V employees from around the world. My shop also participated with a company booth at the London Luxury Property Show. These events offer extraordinary opportunities to meet with not only E&V employees, but also other brokers and salespeople from around the world and learn about their specific markets, how they service and interact with their high net-worth (HNW) clientele, as well as meeting face-to-face with potential HNW clients. At the London show, for example, I was able to learn currency conversion techniques that can save my clients hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s really about building your knowledge base and referral sources around the world so that you can advise your clients properly.”

Striking a Balance, Maximizing Value
While networking opportunities abound, the challenge for brokers lies in deciding whether it’s more important to spend time out of the office networking or in the office taking care of business. Deciding which networking events to attend and when must be very carefully calculated to ensure brokers are receiving maximum value.

“As executives, we are challenged to carve time out of our schedules,” says Pearson. “We choose to invest our time in events that will challenge our thinking and present new ideas. It is critical that we get outside of our own business in order to see where we really are.”

According to Skiffington, the balance between time spent out of the office networking and in the office taking care of day-to-day business is an ongoing challenge. “I basically pick and choose the networking opportunities that I believe are most important and scatter them throughout the year,” he explains. “The decision is also based on the time of year and where the event is taking place. I’ve also streamlined our business both for me personally and for our agents so that we’re very mobile.”

Broker/owner Robyn Erlenbush of ERA Landmark Real Estate in Bozeman, Mont., participates in several networks and attends several industry-wide events that attract out-of-the-box thinkers. “I enjoy spending time with those creative professionals,” she explains. “I base my decision on the quality of the speakers and the content. It also helps if it is a place where my husband can golf.”

“For spending time and money, we like to get a cross-section of ideas, so it’s important that we have our leadership team attend different conferences,” says Casey. “We have no interest in the same speakers or panels rehashing the same issues, so we read agendas carefully. Great hotels and restaurants have a benefit, but it’s content and who the attendees and speakers are that attracts us.”

A Competitive Advantage, Company-wide
Brokers agree that their networking efforts give their respective firms a true competitive edge. But in order to truly benefit from networking, brokers must go with a game plan and follow through afterwards.

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