By Jason West
2017 President of the SIOR Chicago Chapter
Emails. Conference calls. Webinars. Social media. These are the business tools of the 21st Century, replacing the social clubs, typewriters and three-martini lunches of the past. But have technology-based tools replaced relationship networking—the kind where you meet face-to-face, and develop a shared frame of reference and experience? I’d argue that they haven’t—and they never will.
Within the SIOR Network (Society of Industrial and Office Realtors), both globally and locally here in the Chicago area, we focus on developing relationships built on trust and connecting commercial real estate professionals that share a dedication to excellence. Our members work on various projects together, share ideas and, over time, build a track-record of delivering on promises and bringing in the right expertise when it’s needed the most.
There’s no substitute for trust built over time.
To do it, we use all the tools available in 2017—both technology-based networking tools like LinkedIn, and old-fashioned relationship building forums like our lunch meetings, networking events, recognition programs and national conferences.
I’m asked a lot why I bothered to become an SIOR, and to be part of the organization’s leadership. I work for a global commercial real estate services provider that connects me to office, industrial and other specialists all over the world. Why bother with yet another professional network? The answer boils down to two primary factors: expertise and yes—trust.
Expertise is everything in an industry that thrives on bringing together diverse teams to make a deal happen. Industry organizations like SIOR are incredibly useful for sourcing best in class ideas and talented resources when I have a landlord or tenant client with a tricky requirement or a problem that is difficult to solve. I am fortunate to have the resources of a global firm behind me, yet sometimes I’ve faced requirements so specific or complicated that I turn to my SIOR and other industry relationships to help me deliver for the client.
Other SIORs have used the network to gather intelligence when a client requirement takes them to a new market, and they need a feel for the market that goes beyond basic statistics-based market research. When you’re making a multi-million-dollar recommendation that has significant impact on a company and the city they locate in, it’s important to have a trusted SIOR professional in the local market that I can rely on and partner with. This local expertise is particularly valuable when a business need touches on a small town or tertiary city, where much of the standard market research is unavailable.
When I first joined SIOR, I was eager to expand my relationships. Over time, the network I’ve built within SIOR is longstanding, and built on professional credibility. It’s comprised of people I’ve negotiated for—and against. It includes current coworkers, former colleagues and friendly competitors alike. In fact, the relationships I’ve built at SIOR remain consistent while other things—like which business card a person carries, or what clients they represent—change over time.
Bringing it all together
Many times, the collision of 20th Century ‘old school’ networking and 21st Century online networking is where networks matter the most. At SIOR Chicago, we are now actively engaged on Twitter and LinkedIn, and our global organization provides educational opportunities and tools for online deal-making and connecting across markets. I’ve found that these channels are helpful in sourcing new ideas, and meeting new people. From that spark of connection, we can then move on to establish a foundation of trust.
Jason West, SIOR, is the 2017 President of the Chicago Chapter of SIOR and executive managing director with the Rosemont, Illinois, office of Cushman & Wakefield.