Friday, May 4, 2018

Networking for Actual Human Beings

Thanks to my friend Brian Stoffers, Global President, Debt and Structured Finance at CBRE (and The Wall Street Journal) for this very interesting read. Not everyone is comfortable with networking.  In fact, I believe it's an over-used term.  However, many times, the start of a relationship begins at a networking event or during the official (or unofficial) networking time at an industry event.  The most important part of meeting someone for the first time, if you determine it's someone you want to stay in touch with, is to follow up with them and then stay in touch, in a meaningful way.  

The research is clear: People don’t mix at mixers, and don’t feel good about trying. But there are better ways to make meaningful connections

A significant body of research demonstrates that networking—making and strengthening connections to others—is vitally important for professional success. But there’s a problem: Most of us hate doing it. We dread the awkward small talk with strangers at a noisy cocktail party, the pressure to deliver our “elevator pitch” and to “work the room. “There are better ways to make these important connections, but it has to start with a clear understanding of what’s wrong with the usual mode of corporate networking and why we dislike it so much.

The fact is, such activities strike many of us as insincere and manipulative, even slightly unethical. A 2014 study published in Administrative Science Quarterly found that just thinking about job related networking made most people “feel dirty.” The researchers asked 306 adults to remember a time when they had made a professional contact, either for career advancement or for personal reasons. Both groups were then asked to do a word-completion task that is used to gauge subconscious feelings. Those who recalled a contact intended to advance their careers were significantly more likely to have subconscious thoughts of feeling morally tainted. The researchers got similar results when they tested memories of online networking.

One study found that just thinking about job-related networking made most people “feel dirty. “One result of this revulsion is that most of us don’t actually make many new contacts at networking events. In a widely discussed experiment, two professors at Columbia Business School held a gathering in 2007 for some 100 students in the executive M.B.A. program, all of them outfitted with electronic tags to track with whom they interacted and for how long. Even though almost all of the executives said that they wanted to attend such events to build new business ties, it turned out that they spent, on average; around half their time in conversation with people they already knew. As the study’s authors put it, people just don’t mix at mixers.

But networking doesn’t have to follow these stale formulas. In fact, it’s more likely to succeed in making meaningful connections if the activity isn’t so relentlessly focused on acquiring new business contacts. Herewith some tips: Spend more time reconnecting with friends than meeting new people. Since most of us are more likely to engage with people we already know than with strangers at networking events, skip such gatherings altogether and invest that time in renewing older contacts.

A wealth of research suggests that your less cultivated business acquaintances, or “weak ties,” have more information, opportunities and potential introductions to share with you than either your close contacts or total strangers. Seek out shared activities instead of unstructured events. The Columbia study suggests that we don’t really make good use of freewheeling social events with strangers. A productive alternative is to focus on an activity. The entrepreneur and author Jon Levy has built a strong network by hosting dinner parties with a twist: When guests arrive, they’re told not to share their names and occupations and are given assignments for preparing the group’s dinner.

Conference organizer Jayson Gaignard takes a similar approach with activities such as mountain biking or jeep tours. Ask better questions. If you’re stuck attending a traditional networking event, try to go beyond the standard opener of “what do you do?” when you encounter strangers. Instead ask questions such as “What excites you right now” or “What are you looking forward to?” Or else give them a chance to talk about themselves: “What’s the most important thing I should know about you?” Or be more playful, “Who’s your favorite superhero? “What makes most networking so unpleasant is the feeling that it’s all instrumental, a way for us to use other people to get ahead. So instead try a better approach: greet all those strangers as actual human beings.

This essay is adapted from Mr. Burkus’s new book, “Friend of a Friend: Understanding The Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Career.”

Fletcher Park, Fletcher, NC

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A friend who has made a difference in the commercial real estate: Bob White

Robert M. White, Jr. founded Real Capital Analytics 2000 to bring greater transparency to the investment markets by providing real-time data of capital flows and prices of commercial properties. He is a noted authority on the real estate capital markets who is frequently cited in the press and has authored numerous articles for industry publications and the firm’s own Capital Trends publications.

Bob is a Counselor of Real Estate (CRE), a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS) and a Fellow of the Homer Hoyt Institute. He serves on the board of directors for the Pension Real Estate Association (PREA) and the advisory board for the Real Estate Research Institution (RERI). Before founding RCA, Bob spent 14 years in the real estate investment banking and brokerage industry. He is a graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia.

How Bob and I met:
Within the first year after Bob launched RCA, a NYC commercial real estate broker, who was working on finding RCA an office space to house their growing team, introduced me to him.  At the point we met there were four employees (including Bob). Today RCA team is more than 200 strong in their offices in New York; San Jose, CA; London and Singapore.

When Bob told me what RCA was doing I instantly recognized the need for it in the industry.  I also immediately liked and trusted Bob and then started spreading the word about RCA.  As they say, the rest is history but I’d like to write a little more.

I love that RCA has become an industry standard – for information, analytics and commentary based on their research. RCA has recorded over $18 trillion of commercial property transactions linked to over 200,000 investor and lender profiles and has earned a reputation of having the most timely and reliable transaction data and providing valuable intelligence on market pricing, capital flows and investment trends.

Bob is one of those special guys that come into your life very rarely. He is smart, a good businessman and generous with his people. He is also generous with his time – meeting with people who have ideas about launching a service to the commercial real estate industry – listening, sharing his experiences with starting and growing RCA or folks who are at an inflection point in their career.
Little known: Bob is an active member of the main group for miniature-building enthusiasts, the Souvenir Building Collectors Society. His collection of hundreds of buildings is displayed around the RCA’s New York City office.  It’s amazing.  Buildings from all over the world; many recognizable and iconic.  He loves to show people the buildings – if you’re in NYC and have a passion for buildings (hey, we’re in the commercial real estate business!).  Give the office a call. I’m sure you’ll be invited up for a tour.
As my career and life have gone through phases, Bob has always been there for me – as a mentor, a trusted advisor and most importantly as a friend. 

Q. How did you get your start in the commercial real estate industry?

A.  Ever since I was a kid, playing with Tonka Trucks, I always wanted to be in real estate. When I was young I had a drafting board – I always figured I’d be a developer of some type.  After graduating with a degree in finance from The University of Virginia I got a job on Wall Street. I wasn’t doing real estate but got to break in to the industry when I accepted a job at Eastdil.  I didn’t know anything about real estate or the difference between a net or gross lease but learned a lot of what I know through my experiences there.

Q.  What advice would you give to someone who has been in the industry for a short time or a student looking to get her or his start?

A. Being well read is very important. There are so many aspects of real estate to know about and, fortunately, there’s so much information out there - especially in the articles written by industry ‘deal junkies.’

The second piece of advice: Network. Real estate is really a social industry. People love to talk. There are so many deals, so many things that happen because of relationships.   That probably happens across a lot of industries but I think even more so in real estate.

Q. As you look back on your career is there anything you wish you had done differently? If so, what?

A. Not really.  There are certainly some regrets and mistakes but overall the trajectory and the growth was fantastic.  It’s nothing like there was a job I shouldn’t have taken at some fork in the road.  I’ve always loved being in real estate. At Eastdil I had so many different experiences.  Then, joining some of my former Eastdil colleagues, in the early days of Granite Partners and helping to grow that firm. That was probably my first entrepreneurial experience before RCA. 

Q. How long did you have the idea before you launched RCA?

A.  Actually it was years. I can still go back and visualize some of the early stages.  It really started at Granite partners. I made a decision to track down every deal; put every deal we knew about, heard about, read about in a spreadsheet and take a more cerebral, analytical approach. I was always interested in quantifying the industry.  All my friends on Wall Street, whether they were in M&A or bonds could quantify their industry. But, there were no stats on a national basis on how big the commercial real estate industry was - on the transactions. I knew it was significant and probably compared very well to things like M&A but nobody had a clue. I really had a quest to quantify that. 

Q.  Is it true that the genesis of RCA was an excel spreadsheet?

A.  Absolutely.  It was a crisis when we hit 64,000 rows of data, which was, at the time, the limit of Excel.   

Q.  Who have been the biggest influences on your career? How? Why?

A.  I’ve had many influencers.  You, Steve, came and found RCA at a very early stage when there were only a handful of us and we didn’t even have our own office space. You took us under your wing and gave us advice and made a lot of introductions. There have been certain people whom I consider mentors that gave me good advice along the way. Certainly my father, who was a real estate lawyer, has always been a big influence. His ethics, how he treats people, the right way to conduct yourself and how to run a business and, maybe most importantly, to honor your word.  He passed away 15 years ago but he lived long enough to see that RCA was becoming successful – I’m very glad for that. Throughout my whole career and especially since I started RCA so many senior people in the industry saw what we were doing, saw the need for it and appreciated what we were doing. Those folks were very encouraging and very helpful in the early days of RCA. 

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