Meeting people through a global organization such as SIOR (Society of Industrial and Office Realtors) is more than just having someone to call for lunch when visiting town. Though these friendships are certainly priceless, having a professional network around the world that you can draw on for best practices and market expertise is the true value. Friends become business partners, and the relationships evolve into working on transactions.
During the 2017 Fall SIOR Global Conference, held in Chicago, I held an informal roundtable with Randolph T. Mason, SIOR, CCIM, President, Commercial Realty Specialists, and Sanjeet Narain, SIOR, Managing Director, Narains Corp – India. Together, we represented all commercial product types and in three very different regions: Chicago, Southern California and India. We discussed what the SIOR designation has meant for our businesses—and the deals we’ve mined in the SIOR network.
Here are some lessons any commercial real estate professional can take away from our experience.
Lesson #1: Borrow ideas To benefit your business
Randy Mason and I met years ago at an SIOR conference and clicked. As a broker based in Southern California, he and I – a broker in the Chicago area – didn’t have any deals to collaborate on, but he introduced me to a piece of paper that would change the way I operate, and continues to help me secure business.
“It’s a written letter of representation that says the client and I are working together – exclusively – and lays out the services we provide,” says Mason. “I call it a ‘formal handshake.’ That simple document puts all our cards on the table, and provides an outline for a transparent consultative relationship that can last for years.”
For the first 15 years of my industrial and office brokerage career, my relationships were typically solidified by a verbal agreement. Applying more formality, through a written agreement or “formal handshake,” has provided more confident relationships with my clients while confirming that I was connecting with the decision maker.
Lesson #2: Relationships can be shorthand for quality intel
Sanjeet Narain’s company is headquartered in Mumbai, India. When he works with U.S. companies and brokers, it is often done digitally, not face-to-face. In a business built on relationships, it’s useful to have a process to vet business contacts – and a SIOR designation does just that.
“The SIOR designation is like a stamp of approval that these are trustworthy and professional dealmakers, with substantial dollar volume business to back it up,” said Narain. “When I receive a referral from an SIOR colleague, I treat him or her like a client. This puts them at ease and assures them that their client is being well looked after.”
Narain, who is the chair of the International Members Group for SIOR Global, says he’s been averaging two to four deals per year through the organization, including referrals from the Midwestern U.S. and London. He recently closed with a broker who’s not in the network, but found Narain in the SIOR directory.
“He connected with me because his company didn’t have a local representative,” he added. “Being a dot on the map actually worked. Because I come with the prestigious SIOR tag, he was assured that there’s somebody qualified to look after his client in India.”
Lesson #3: Win business with a little help from your friends
At times, other members of this professional network are like your clients – they refer “their clients” to you to handle local deals that they can’t manage themselves. This is a win-win-win situation for all parties, but it has to come with a big helping of trust.
I had a corporate services account transaction referred to me by an SIOR member and friend in Salt Lake City, Jeremy Jensen at IPG Commercial Real Estate. It was one of the client’s first transactions with IPG, so execution was going to be under a microscope. We identified several building options where they were going to house their high-tech manufacturing process.
The property that was the first-choice site had an environmental issue, and we had to pivot to another location – and do so while meeting their fiscal year objectives. By handling this transaction with personalized attention, we bolstered the client relationship not only for my business, but for the referring SIOR broker, too.
Similarly, Mason had an opportunity in which he helped a client purchase a building in Orange County, California – the client’s brother-in-law is an SIOR broker in another market and referred the business because of Mason’s knowledge of the local market. Mishandling the transaction could have made for some awkward family get-togethers.
The Bottom Line: Knowledge and friendship
Best practices. Market research. Referrals. Making friends who are outside your home market and working in different product types through a global broker organization such as SIOR can come with mutual business benefits. Put what you learn through your connections to work for you – and for them.
Dan Smolensky is principal of Taurus Modal Group in Chicago and president of SIOR Chicago.