The following article was first published by the Auckland Property Investors’ Association Incorporated on 16 July 2017 and is reproduced with permission below.
Most investors understand that to become successful, you must network. But so often networking gets cast aside as one of those tedious and dreadful tasks that are somehow less important than buying properties, vetting tenants, and adding value. For the eternally-shy amongst us, networking is daunting, uncomfortable, and inauthentic. For the ever effervescent energy balls, enthusiasm can quickly fizzle out when acquaintances fail to develop into meaningful relationships. Nevertheless, we contend that networking is a fundamental pillar of investment success. In fact, we believe in networking so much so that we have built our entire business model on promoting networking opportunities for private investors.
Many of us don’t realise that there is networking and then there is effective networking. The former gets you out of the house to talk to strangers, the latter builds the foundation for strong business relationships and opportunities. Investor, property entrepreneur, and author of How to grow your business through networking, Mark Trafford points out that so many of his successes are down to being an active and strategic networker. “Your network is your investment mastermind that will inspire your growth and help you out in sticky situations. When you come along to a networking event, you are being invited to tap into this communal vat of knowledge and experience so why would you pass that up by standing on the sideline?” There is so much more to effective networking than just showing up. “So often I see investors keeping to themselves at these events and I ask myself, Why bother?” says Mark, “There are many opportunities in the room just waiting to be explored. Investors are doing themselves a great disservice by not reaching out and actively building their network.”
Having built his $20m property business empire off the back of networking, Mark checks in with us today to share some of his essential tips to help you get the most out of your next APIA networking session:
1. Face time counts
Don’t outsource networking to social media and third party intermediaries. Property investment is still very much a people business where human interaction is valued. Many of us still operating on gut instinct and first impression. By all means, use social media to help you hone in on a short list of people to add to your network. But at the end of the day, you will still need to put in the time to connect with these people on a personal level. Your resourcefulness and sincerity will shine through much more convincingly in person than over an email thread.
2. Go in with a plan
Mindless participation will only give you nothing more lukewarm results. Jotting down your priority questions and issues beforehand will keep you on track of where to steer the conversations towards. Other investors attending the same event also want results like you and will not respond in kind of their conversation with you lacks structure or interest.
3. Attend with the right intention
Effective networking is about building relationships, seeking opportunities, and giving & receiving information alike. It is not about peddling your wares or coercing someone else to take ownership of your problems. You wouldn’t be thrilled if you are being sold to by some stranger or be made responsible for someone else’s stumbling block so why would you expect anything else from others who attend? Disingenuity reeks and is super easy to spot. You will get the most rewarding experience if you think long term and go in with the right attitude. It is about discovering connections that can later be built on to become your source for inspiration and support.
4. Arrive early and leave late
This is important, especially for novice networkers. In unfamiliar surroundings, our body and confidence need the time and space to acclimate in order to get the most out of any situation. Giving yourself more time to at these events will allow you to talk to as many investors as possible as well as identify those serious networkers who likely have an established and sophisticated roller deck that you can tap into.
5. Learn to listen
The great tragedy of the Internet-age is that it has obliterated the conversational culture. We do not have the natural knack for conversation like our grandfathers and great-grand fathers did. Most of us have stories to tell and ideas to share but cannot tell them. We rely on that one person in the conversation who has the patience and the good grace to help us articulate our thoughts either by asking the right questions or slowing down the pace of the group to make space for our input. There is a great misconception out there that to converse is to talk. Not so. A purposeful and productive conversation is the sharing of ideas and experiences through talking and listening. And it is always the encouraging listener in the conversation people have the fondest memories for.
6. Don’t underestimate weak ties
Network with an open mind. Constraining your networking pool by industry, people, or even geography can only stifle your growth potential. The future is unpredictable and the remotest of connections today can prove to be invaluable at the right moment in time to propel you further towards your goals.
7. Get into the habit of following up
Business cards collected at these events are not meant for paper recycling. It is a good habit to follow up with those you like to connect with the next day by sending a simple email. Be polite and helpful. Empty compliments mean nothing next to a genuine extension of your support and skill-set. The follow-up need not lead to anything immediate but should at least make a good enough impression for you to connect without awkwardness in future. If you are going through a particularly difficult patch and want to tap into your network for some support then make your requests specific. We all lead busy lives and vague requests from business acquaintances drain our time and energy in a way that makes is very easy for us to say no to.