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How To Make The Work In Networking A Little Less Painful

New York
Cushman & Wakefield's Ethan Silverstein and RXR Realty's Whitney Arcaro

The foundation of a career in commercial real estate is strong relationships, but actually building those relationships is where the real effort comes in. Networking is a key element of making the right friends and influencing the right people — though for some even the word itself is cringeworthy.

“The pressure to network now is much more significant … [and 
people] find it quite difficult,” SAY Property Consulting partner Debra Yudolph said at Bisnow’s How To Make It In Commercial Real Estate event last week. “There isn’t really anyone I know that walks into a room full of strangers and sort of revels in it."

The bottom line, panelists said, is that everyone wants to work with people they respect and trust. With that in mind, it is better to be direct with people, and honest about what you want.

Cushman & Wakefield's Ethan Silverstein, RXR Realty's Whitney Arcaro, Ceruzzi Executive in Residence's Anna Zarro, SAY Property Consulting's Debra Yudolph and Avison Young's James Kinsey

“For those who raise capital, for whatever reason, everyone knows why you’re in the room," RXR Realty Managing Director Whitney Arcaro said. "Just ask for the money, get it out of the way and then go into the conversation.

“Be direct, then start to have the interpersonal connection, then when they realize, ‘OK, it’s good people, the business plan is transparent,’ or ‘We understand where they are suffering right now on the capital stack and why they need us,’ it changes the whole dynamic.”

That same honest tactic can be applied, Arcaro said, for service providers, brokers and any other transactional business.

“You don’t have to sugarcoat it and flirt with it, just be direct — they know why you are taking the meeting,” she said.

Panelists said making time to find mentors, being genuine, skipping the insincerity and remaining trustworthy will all pay off.

“You are [at an event] for a reason, and if you are genuine with that reason, that's OK,” said Cushman & Wakefield Vice Chairman Ethan Silverstein. “As long as you you act with genuine, rational self-interest. I think people will see that and you will get something out of it.”

NKF's David Falk, Hunton Andrews Kurth's Carl Schwartz, JLL's Bob Knakal and Bisnow's Miles Bloom

It also helps to be self-aware, and know what types of skills and talents one can bring to the table.

“You have to know who you are,” Avison Young principal James Kinsey said. “If you are more introverted versus extroverted, then forcing yourself into a room of people, you probably will gravitate just to people you know … If you know that you are better in smaller settings, then find those networking opportunities.”

Ceruzzi Sales & Marketing Executive in Residence Anna Zarro said it is work, but you can apply yourself to develop a network of strong relationships. Be consistent and trustworthy, over time you will be in a good position.

“Connect with a few people, then those people will connect you with people. And then you go from this big, 300 people in a room into a nice private dinner environment, and then maybe monthly coffees with three people you really hit it off with that cover different facets in the industry,” she said. “And then suddenly, guess what? You have all these little spheres of influence.”