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Quality Trade Organizations Enable Members to Connect, Learn, Lead, Succeed

By Sean Brady, President
The Industrial and Office Real Estate Brokers Association of the New York Metropolitan Area, Inc. (IOREBA)

Networking. It is, arguably, one of the most valuable tools in a commercial real estate broker’s arsenal. As competition increases and the nature of client relationships continues to shift from one-off transactions to a much more consultative nature, depth and breadth of vendor contacts – not just personal skill and company platform – have become vitally important in setting oneself apart.

Within this context, today more than ever before brokers at all levels in their careers need to develop and maintain a strong network of business contacts. Membership in trade organizations like the Industrial and Office Real Estate Brokers Association of the New York Metropolitan Area (IOREBA) and others can be a terrific asset.

Simply put, knowing more people translates to landing more meetings. Brokers looking to establish new business have a better chance of getting in the door at a company if they are recommended by a vendor who has an ongoing relationship. Telephone providers, who are consistently adding new lines or changing extensions, are a great example. Architects, attorneys, movers and furniture companies also are fantastic sources for providing referrals. In turn, vendors that can recommend a quality broker to negotiate an attractive deal look great in their clients’ eyes.

A wide network also improves a broker’s “hit rate” when a piece of potential business comes up. I recently read about a company merger and sent an email to multiple vendors asking if they knew anyone at the new parent firm and whether they could provide a name and number to help me canvass opportunities. An attorney I’ve known for 20 years not only provided a contact but suggested that I use his name as a referral. I got the meeting much more easily than I could have with a cold call.

Vendors, who are constantly working with a company, often know about deals coming to the marketplace before the brokerage community learns about them. In addition to providing their broker contacts with some advanced information, they may also have more details and a different perspective than the corporation typically would share when describing its requirement to a broker.

The result? I, for one, can credit anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of my new business to referrals, which is a pretty impressive figure.

Equally important is the role of a network in servicing a broker’s existing client base. The ability to bring good quality vendors into projects increases a broker’s value and competitive advantage because his or her clients know they will receive proven referrals.

Again looking at my own experience, throughout my career I have found involvement in commercial real estate trade organizations to be among the most productive ways to establish strong networking relationships. By simply attending meetings, you get to know the people involved better and better over the years.

Friendships develop beyond business relationships. After nearly 15 years of involvement with IOREBA, there are so many members that I would go out of my way to help because I truly respect and like them. They would do the same for me. The result is a close-knit community of people willing to share market information and new ideas – even, at times, among their competition.

Good trade associations also offer membership diversity – brokers at various levels of their careers and a solid contingent of non-broker members involved in businesses related to commercial real estate. Having a mix of new, mid-level and seasoned broker professionals promotes a robust flow of information. Non-broker members bring an outside – but closely tied – perspective on the industry and related trends. Co-hosting our events with a different real estate trade association at every meeting allows our members to meet other top professionals within the industry.

They also provide quality programming that serves to increase knowledge and opens doors for new business. At IOREBA, more than half of our programming is geared toward the development community – the bread and butter of a broker’s income. Annual events showcase urban developers and suburban developers. This year, we will have our first program with insurance companies that have real estate holdings and institutional investors active in the region.

In other words, trade groups should enable members to “connect, learn, lead and succeed.” This new IOREBA tagline succinctly summarizes the organization’s mission. From our experience, the brokerage community is recognizing the importance of groups like ours, especially in challenging economic times. Membership for us is up more than 15 percent from a year ago, and this trend likely is mirrored elsewhere. There is no doubt that this growth can be tied to brokers’ drive to improve their networking efforts. If they are lucky, they will walk away having fulfilled this goal while building new friendships and gaining knowledge to help advance their careers in the process.

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