By: Denise Schultz, RCE – LARA CEO
Networking : “the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” (Merriam-Webster)
Having first been born the middle sister of five, then building a career on professional relationship building, when I entered the real estate world in 2011 and learned about YPN – the Young Professionals Network – I was intrigued. The national network of real estate professionals was originally founded from a magazine initiative that recognized the “30 Under 30” up and coming REALTOR(S) in the nation, but has evolved to include any and all who understand and support the power of positive networking among professionals. I became involved at the national level as I approached 50 years of age, when encouraged by Rob Reuter and other NAR staff to do so. I inquired about a network at our state level and encouraged our Board of Directors to approve one at the local level. I attempt to remain involved, but at a leadership distance where I can provide expertise or guidance as needed, but not “get in the way” as a 50+ leadership administrator-type (thanks Nobu.) To me, a successful YPN event is one where people walk away smiling, enriched for having spent time with others, regardless of their age.
On March 29 the Lakes Area (Wisconsin) YPN held its first event of 2016, under new Chair Tom Keefe. Tom and his team put together a classic “Happy Hour” at a popular, centrally located sports bar and grill from 5-7. They worked with the owner to provide a signature cocktail (“Lakeside Listing Mule”) and reduced prices on drinks and appetizers. The tables included a card promoting the next two membership events. The event was promoted via one mass e-mail to all members, and social networking. Possibly the most “trending” messages were between individual members asking about age and who was welcome. This is one of the greatest challenges of YPN in my opinion. I find the best answer to be those “YOUNG at heart.” The ‘Y’ in YPN is not about a number in most cases. It’s about an attitude. YPN events are most successful when those new to the profession are able and willing to learn from those with valuable experience to share. And those with that valuable experience understand that we are not there to lecture or “parent.” While a young – or more importantly newer – agent can learn priceless information from listening to experienced real estate professionals, they may also be able to share a valuable tech tip or fresh, new idea with those veterans willing to listen. YPN is about making connections and exchanging information.
President Mike Culat felt the event was well attended by a good variety of people, and he took the time to personally greet and thank each member for attending, which was obviously appreciated. Five members of the Board of Directors were present, which I believe is key, to show members the support and availability of the leadership. Approximately 20 REALTORS® attended, with several Affiliate Business Partner members and prospective members enjoying valuable one on one time with them. For those who love the labels of “Millennials”, “Gen Xers” and “Baby Boomers” – we were all included – and honestly pretty well balanced across the board. My hope is that word spreads and more members realize that age is not an issue and join upcoming YPN sponsored events to build the momentum and ultimately, the benefits.
The Bottom Line: I performed a bit of a social experiment at this event by randomly walking up to those present, sometimes mid-conversation, and simply asking, “Do you have a business card?” and holding out my hand. Approximately 50% of those approached produced a card within a few seconds. The most popular response for those who didn’t was, “They are in my car!” (or office.) Kudos to the two who immediately went and got them. (Some had more of other people’s cards than their own, which is another topic of referrals – but I often do too, and believe it’s a good thing.)
If the #1 purpose of being at an event like this is to make connections and exchange information – How do we follow up with a contact if we don’t have their contact information? And perhaps more importantly – how do they follow up with us? Do we rely on memory and social networking and hope we find one another online following the event? Are we sometimes focused on half price appetizers and signature drinks rather than “cultivating productive relationships?” Are we simply in too much of a hurry? How long does it take to remember to carry business cards inside with us? Why would we ever NOT have our business cards within reach in a world where we rely on connections? Questions I hope readers will consider …
In the interest of full disclosure: My cards are always handy, tucked in a sleeve on the back of my cell phone … which, ironically, was in my car charging during this experiment (shame on me.) Just one of those people should have handed me their card asking, “Do you have yours?” (Wink.) I did have two door prizes with me. I never told anyone. I awarded the “Grand Prize” to Tony Alivo, Senior Loan Officer with Diamond Residential Mortgage Corporation in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Why? Because upon my request he immediately handed me THREE of his business cards! Way to go Tony! (One for me, two to share.) I awarded the second, and probably better prize, to Lyndsay Peterson, REALTOR® with Keefe Real Estate in Lake Geneva, who smiled, handed me her card quickly and professionally, and was the youngest REALTOR® who did, and a model “YPN-er” I hope to see become involved in leadership. She’ll be the one driving around the Lakes Area with the new REALTOR® blue license frame.