Someone asked me this once. She sincerely wanted to know why my partners in this business and I spend so much of our time networking. It’s a good question, because networking can be a lot of work, and it can intimidate people sometimes.
I guess it doesn’t intimidate me. I’m my father’s daughter. My dad, a real “Prince” of a man (actually went by Prince, his middle name), had a long career in which he met thousands of people, and somehow he never forgot a name or a face. And he usually had a funny story to go with everyone he knew. My siblings and I each have stories of going to some random spot with Dad (say, the top of a mountain), only to have someone come up and say, “I know you!” Dad would say, “Oh yes, an old baseball umpire!” or wherever he knew the person from. And off he’d go, talking about something he cared about passionately with the random person.
I am not as good at connecting names with faces ad Dad was, but in my career I’ve worked with people all over the world, and while Dad networked in person, I have the advantage of being able to network in real life AND on the Internet. Heck, I’ve been chatting it up on the Internet since before the World Wide Web (anyone else remember Usenet groups? I’m still friends with people I met on misc.kids). In fact, an online friend in Michigan told me last week that she had a dream that I was following her down the hallway trying to get her to buy a house. Wow, I’ve networked so hard that I infiltrated this poor woman’s subconscious! (She actually loves our housing tales, so it’s all good.)
The key to all this networking, at least for me, is having a passion for something and sharing it in person, online, and any other way you can think of. I’m truly passionate about the mission of Hermit Haus Redevelopment, and want to make as many sad houses happy again as I possibly can. The only way to do that is to FIND those sad houses and the people who are unable to take care of them, or simply feel burdened by them. All of us on our team are passionate about helping folks out of a housing jam, then making that house a good fit for someone else. Whatever we do (marketing, project management, sales, accounting, acquisitions, etc.) is something we know is contributing to A Good Thing.
That’s all networking really is. Just sharing what you care about with people you know, or new folks you meet.
How Does It Work?
Networking about your business is not as straightforward as letter writing, ads in publications, or your website content. Connections can be quite indirect. Here are some examples of how networking has helped us in the past year or so:
- One of our general contractors heard about a house that was in need of work, and passed on the name of the agent selling it to us. We bought the house and it’s now making us money as a rental.
- A personal friend read about our business on Facebook and referred us to a family member with a property in a neighborhood that takes a while to sell, but they needed to sell quickly. We bought it at less than retail price. Another Facebook friend referred her friend to us to be a lender.
- A coworker heard Russell talking about what we do, and offered her services as a general contractor.
- I was having lunch with a friend in a local hang-out place, when two women she knew who are in real estate came in. My friend introduced us, and those ladies happened to have some sad properties to show us that very day! Lee and I have a contract on those properties, which we will use for rental income and an office. The seller of those houses is interested in working with Hermit Haus on future deals as an investor. The real estate agent is looking for properties for us in an area where Carol doesn’t have MLS access. That is a LOT of benefit just from going to lunch with your friend.
- I had lunch with a coworker, who requested the information on becoming a private money lender with us.
- Lee and I were at a conference for folks who do the kind of work we do, and I noticed someone in the t-shirt booth with the name of our small town on his nametag. We struck up a conversation, hung out more at the social hour, and have now done two deals with Larry and Valerie.
How Do You Do It?
Basically, all we do is talk to people we meet about what we do. Admittedly, we have practiced our “elevator speech” a few times, so we know how to quickly explain what we do and why, so that if someone’s not fascinated, we can move on. But, even if someone doesn’t find what we do relevant to them at the time, they will remember us and that funny little hermit mascot, and when they or a loved one needs an experienced group to talk to about their sad house, and they will contact us.
And that’s why we network. It’s the heart of our business. And to be honest, it’s fun.