The family-run company I work for was founded in 1968. The founder, my father-in-law, is now 81 years old but continues to be a vital force in both the company and the industry. In addition to the steady, daily hand he keeps on the tiller of the firm, he volunteers in various real estate organizations and has often served as an instructor and mentor. As I fly around the U.S. and abroad in my capacity as IREM president, I often hear the comment: “Tell your Dad I said hello,” or someone tells me what an impact he has made on his or her success.
Beyond the limits of family pride there is an important lesson to be learned here. This is clearly a career that has its foundation in relationship building and relationship management. Understanding the intrinsic value of relationship management is bread and butter for every successful real estate professional. And just as in the case of the next generation of leaders at my company, this foundation can provide the basis of success for all up-and-coming business generations.
It is fair to say that across all real estate professions—be it property management, asset management or brokerage—the most influential leaders rely on this one key skill. This was borne out in our recent Job Analysis Report, which polled more than 1,400 property management professionals, the majority of whom stated that their top 10 skillsets related to people or soft skills as opposed to more obvious capabilities such as finance or leasing.
Please note that this is not all just altruism, a call for a happy geniality with everyone we meet. There’s a bottom line impact that comes from relationship management. As the economy has blossomed, so have business opportunities. We are currently reaping the rewards of a number of large business transactions simply because we had devoted so many years to mentoring, sharing knowledge and developing trust with real estate colleagues.
When the time was right, those colleagues sought us out to do transactions. It is the inevitable result of the seeds of mutual trust and honesty that we have planted over the years. They remembered us specifically because of the example of relationship management that was set by our founder. Likewise, they will remember you. The business will come your way.
There can be little wonder then as to why I am a firm believer that the relationships you develop in your life are the building blocks to your career. If you have not paid attention to that vital, simple fact, your business may not survive turbulent times.
This message is easily forgotten in the noise of such pseudo-social connections as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. These sites are a great tool for supporting your relationships. But the media are not the message, and the lifelong connection we have with one another cannot solely be built in 140-character tweets. So here are some tips for growing your sphere of influence and expanding your knowledge and credibility.
* Read and share what you have learned. This is a great opportunity to maintain contact with potential clients and display your understanding of their needs. Remember: The name of the game is relationship management;
* Be interested, not interesting. Listening is the best communication;
* Belong to organizations that can further your professionalism. There is no better way to further your professional development—and broaden your network—than involvement in one or more of the industry associations;
* Network with folks that are smarter than you. Pushing beyond your comfort level is a sure-fire way to see the industry from a new perspective and establish new professional goals;
* Be a mentor and help develop the professionalism of others. Bonds formed in the development of another professional’s skills will last a lifetime and can repay you downstream in unexpected ways;
* Volunteer, not only in your industry associations, but also in your local community. Not only does this further expand your range of contacts, but it also showcases a focus and concern beyond the bounds of business;
* Hold ethics at the highest level for yourself and your company. There is nothing that speaks more clearly about either—and nothing that instills a greater sense of trust—than a reputation for ethical dealings.
Your ability to navigate through the tough times (or for that matter, the good times) very much depends on the relationships that you have developed. I can honestly say that my circle of influence has reached beyond national borders and now extends as far as Japan, China, Brazil and Russia. These relationships, these knowledge-based friendships that make me a better real estate professional, will be there for a lifetime.
When that happens you know your career foundation is solid.
In addition to her role as IREM 2015 president, Lori Burger, CPM, PCAM, CCAM, is senior vice president of Eugene Burger Management Corp. in Rohnert Park, Calif.