Why You Need to Network Now More Than Ever Before

by Brad Hanks on October 5, 2010

When I’m instructing CRB classes around the country, attendees tell me that even though they don’t like being away from the office for an extended period of time, they enjoy the live courses so much more than webinars or on demand offerings.  Why?  Certainly the learning environment – away from the demands and constant interruptions of the office – is a factor for many.  But a recurring theme from all seems to be the value they find in the interaction they have with their peers and the informal learning that goes on during and after the class.  It appears we learn a tremendous amount from others who have “been there, done that.”  This is also one of the biggest plusses for me as an instructor in these courses: I learn something new in each and every course.  I learn from the class participants.

I believe the interaction we have with our peers is critical to survival in today’s business climate.  Given today’s frenetic pace of business and the amount of information available, we can’t possibly take it upon ourselves to keep up.  Myriad new regulations, more paperwork, rapidly changing technology, changing consumer habits…I could fill up the page with all the things we face in a given day or week in the brokerage business.  Suffice it to say it’s a lot more complicated than when I got started 21 years ago.  So what do you do?

Go Big

My advice?  Network.  And network big.  Whether it’s face-to-face in designation courses, conventions, conferences or retreats; or the online social networking environs of Facebook, Twitter or ActiveRain, we need to be plugging in to the collective intelligence and experience of those who have “been there, done that.”

Since most of us have been networking IRL (in real life) for some time, I’m not going to spend much time talking about the face-to-face type of networking except to say that it’s critical in today’s business climate.  Even though finances might be tight and you’re watching your shekels, don’t scrimp to the point of avoiding the chance to learn something new in a live environment with your peers.  Chances are you’ll pick up at least one idea for cost cutting or one piece of business (revenue) from the experience.

What I do want to address in this column is how to take the IRL networking experience and apply it to our online networking experiences. Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and others are not just areas to connect with people and hope to receive referrals.  Social networking sites offer a wealth of opportunity for us to brainstorm and crowd source ideas.  But most people are not using these sites to their full potential for problem solving or idea sharing.

Have you run into a problem you’ve never encountered before, or one you’re unsure of how to resolve?  Chances are someone out there in your social network has an answer.  Thinking about making a major investment in your technology infrastructure?  Throw a question out on the social web – my bet is that someone has a recommendation.

Which leads into the question of who to connect with on the web: Should you accept friend requests on Facebook from competitors?  Follow other brokers on Twitter far outside your market?  Connect with real estate professionals on LinkedIn?  My answer is simply “yes.”

By expanding our networks to peers in and outside of our markets, we can gain a different perspective to what’s going on and how others might be solving the challenges they’re seeing in the marketplace.  Even those with dissimilar offices to ours can offer ideas, and peers that do business in markets far different than our own can have some pearls of wisdom and sound advice.

There are two great books I recommend to people trying to get their heads around the business application of social networking sites.  “The Wisdom of Crowds” (James Surowiecki) and “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (Tappscott and Williams).  Both underscore the importance of crowd sourcing and the power of collective thought and experience in problem solving.  You see, it’s not all about connecting with people that can send you business – it’s also about connecting with those that can provide guidance, insight and a different perspective to the things we deal with.

The key to survival in this rapidly changing business climate is leverage.  Learn to leverage your time, resources and problem-solving capacity by enlisting the aid of a capable team: your network of professional peers.

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