Monday, July 1, 2013

What I learned from the crash of 2008

I provide Location Advice to owners and occupants of industrial buildings in Southern California. Five years ago this summer we were riding high at warp speed toward the precipice of a financial market crash like none of us (lest you survived the Great Depression) has ever seen. I was completely un-prepared as were most of my clients and colleagues. I knew that obtaining financing for commercial properties was becoming more difficult but was completely unaware of the havoc that the financial meltdown would wreak to owners and occupants. Banks stopped lending, owners stopped buying, occupants stopped moving and most of us in the CRE brokerage business wondered if there would be a CRE business in the future...probably the most difficult six months of my professional career...which spans four decades. So I am pleased to say that as I write, I am still here, still providing advice to owners and occupants, and I like to believe, much wiser. What follows is a discussion of the three things that the crash of 2008 taught me.

Network strategically: I enjoy people, I am social, but I wasn't very good at networking. I attended the obligatory broker open houses and a few Lee and Associates company events but didn't really understand how valuable a good network can be in terms of the referrals it can provide...therefore, I rarely (never) attended networking events...Rotary, chamber's of commerce, and was completely unaware of networking organizations such as BNI, Provisors, LeTip, NAWBO, etc. I had a very good "down stream" network of contractors, lenders, escrow and title agents, architects, sign companies, telecom providers, IT providers, and the like so I was used to referring business "to" people. But most of my referrals were "from" other brokers or past clients. The first networking event I attended in the summer of 2009, I attended trying to "sell" something. Unfortunately, no one attended with the purpose of "buying" anything. When I discovered my "target market" and could easily describe it, understood the other professions that had the same target (complementary but not competitive), and started to network with these professions...the world of referrals opened wide.

"Work out loud": My wife of 34 years, Carla, coined this term when describing to me what blogging as all about. She said "Allen, blogging is working out loud." You write about things that you do every day so that others may benefit." I realized that many of the things that I do every day...touring, prospecting, previewing buildings, describing processes, negotiating transactions, etc. were in fact blog worthy. The various channels of social media lend themselves to authentic content created while working out loud...YouTube videos of virtual tours, blog posts about tricky lease clauses, Facebook posts of client testimonials, tweets of all of the above. I also discovered that "working out loud" is a great way to stay "top of mind" with my clientele...they see me present on YouTube, they see what I am up to on Facebook, they follow my tweets of industry data, ALL the content is search able. If I am headed to a new meeting, the prospective client can gain a wide understanding of my practice before we meet. Our time together is consequently more productive.

Prospect creatively: I used to cold call like a maniac and was very good at it! After 2008, I  am much more creative in the ways I prospect. I search for an angle that will separate me from my competition (and it is fierce)...whether an introduction from someone in my network, a blog idea that would benefit their company, a video of something of interest in the market OR a virtual tour of a building close by, a clip of an article that featured the company, a person that I know that the company would benefit in knowing, etc.

The results have been exceptional! 2010 was my best year in 29 years in the business and 2012 was a close second.