Networking: Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone


During our 4th of July vacation, I was hiking with my 4-year-old daughter. As I looked down, I spotted a horny toad and grabbed that little guy up so fast to show her, she didn’t even have time to react.

As I was sweeping this little horned creature into my hands, I realized it had been at least 30 years and I had forgotten — do they bite? Should I be faster?

I think I remember they split blood and that would freak out a little 4-year-old. I was clearly out of practice.

Before she could even get the words out asking what the heck this little dinosaur-looking thing was, it was already in her hands. You see, this was one of my favorite outside friends growing up and I was so eager to introduce her to the memories and fun I had exploring that it was a visceral reaction of excitement. I saw the thrill in her eyes that I remember having when I held them in my hands and it was so exciting for me to relive such simple fun.

So exciting, in fact, it reminded me of the enjoyment we can get out of meeting new people and expanding our networking through associations — stay with me on this:

I have seen a marked increase in the networking through associations recently, which is a great indicator of optimism and activity in the commercial real estate industry.

>> Valley Partnership has had back-to-back sold out breakfasts — during the summer, no less;

>> CMAA was overflowing for its lunch gathering;

>> The Arizona Builders’ Alliance mixer was packed;

>> NAIOP’s Night at the Fights was the best attended in many recent years.

It is great to see people reconnect and dedicate time to promoting their firms. Some individuals are naturals at this networking thing and gain energy from the experience, others are less than enthusiastic and consider it a chore. If you are not networking, it is well worth the time to investigate associations that are right for you. If you are networking, let’s recap some best practices in the lost art:

Do Not Forget Old Friends: As you network at these association meetings, it is very important to meet new people but equally important to connect with industry counterparts, colleagues and clients. Most of us are trying to acquire new work but not focusing enough time on the people we already know but have not spent time with in a long while. Your business and services have likely changed in the past 5 years — share what has changed and educate them so they know how they might be able to help you or work with you.

It’s Easy To Get Out Of Practice: Attending association events with 75-400+ people can be an intimidating experience. Remember the basics; you are there to represent your company, meet new people, acquire information and find reasons to follow up. Before the event, determine who will be there that you would benefit from meeting or speaking to. During the event, set a goal as simple as sitting with someone you don’t know to share who you are and what your company does. After the event, follow up — as simple as this is, it seems to be an uncommon practice. Networking without follow up is really pointless.

Don’t Appear Intimidating: I am always interested in seeing people at events who look as though they would rather be anywhere else but there, and as a result, look unapproachable. If networking is not your forte, invite a coworker or friend to break the ice, but keep an open mind and push yourself to meet new people. Practice open body language and a smile. It’s easy to appear intimidating if you are uncomfortable.

Stay Within Your Natural Environment: Associations offer a great opportunity to network through educational lunches, committees, social events, mixers, training, etc. If you are not the after work type of person, it is better to find a venue that fits your personality. If you are better with a small group, committees are a great way to break down the mass of a large association and get your name associated with activities and initiatives. Additionally, if you are part of an association for education and training, you may get discouraged about your failed networking attempts. Find the right associations where your clients, prospects and trade partners will be for your networking efforts.

Introduce Old Friends To The Next Generation Of Your Firm: My favorite part of networking and business development is the industry connections I have and the clients we have worked with through the years. My coworkers have their own, separate connections and it has a compounding effect for me to meet their connections and for them to meet mine. So at every event we make a point to cross-introduce and we have tremendous business results from it.

So jump at your next opportunity to network. If you are new at it, focus on the basics. If you are well-connected try a new, energized approach to the effort to expand your network and seize opportunities to share what truly differentiates your firm.

As for the new friend we met, he was given a name, made comfortable in a cake pan with rocks and leaves, introduced to an eager group of kids, put on display in the middle of the kids table for a 4th of July BBQ and then sent back out into the world.

If you have any questions about this article or any of the topics I have covered in previous posts, please feel free to contact me at