The following is adapted from Syndicating Is a B*tch.
Ultimately, networking is about meeting the right people to do deals with and coming across as the kind of person they can trust with large amounts of money. Some people might find this easier than others, but don’t assume it’ll be a breeze. Networking can be hard.
It’s also essential. You can try to outsource networking, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Networking is arguably the most important way you can add value as a syndicator, and skipping out on it means you’re losing a huge opportunity.
Learn to Network
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the kind of guy who naturally works a room. When I started out in syndication, I knew I had to connect with people to build my team and start raising funds. If you put me on stage in front of 5,000 people, I’m great. I’m not nervous, I’m not worried, I’m totally at home. But in those early days, the second I walked into a networking meeting where I didn’t know anyone, I would freeze.
Rooms full of people I don’t know, especially back when I didn’t know anything about what I was doing, made me tense up. They still do. It seems like everybody is able to stick around getting to know each other, networking, and connecting, while I feel anxious and uncomfortable. So much so that my first impulse is to just…leave. Initially, I often did. I attended a class I was interested in, then turned around and bolted for the door.
Thankfully, the other side of my personality is a bit obsessive. I learn every possible thing I can about whatever I’m interested in, and I was absolutely interested in syndication. That was enough to keep putting myself in those painful situations until I could handle it enough to make something happen. Networking didn’t come easy to me, but it has gotten easier.
Stick With It
If you’re like me, and the thought of mingling with a group of people you don’t know makes you break out in a cold sweat, don’t be too hard on yourself. I had to learn not to emotionally beat myself up on the way to the elevator after each of those meetings.
Instead, I made myself keep going back until the conversations couldn’t be avoided anymore. Eventually, enough people caught me and talked to me for long enough that I felt like I knew them, and I could go right to them at the next meeting and sit without feeling like I was all alone.
Eventually, I was “assimilated” into the group. The more I learned, the more I felt comfortable in my knowledge base, and that became a comfort too. Eventually, I even started my own meetup, and that’s where most of my first investors came from.
I can’t tell you there’s a completely happy ending there. My personality hasn’t changed. I’m not suddenly a fan of small talk or networking in new spaces. In fact, those spaces can still create the closest thing I’ve ever felt to a panic attack. But I go there anyway, awkwardness and all because networking is such a vital part of my business and my life.
Be Honest With Yourself
Why am I owning up to being hopelessly awkward in a room full of strangers? Because maybe you are too, and you still need to find a way to make networking work for you.
Syndication doesn’t happen without networking. I know there are some of you who have a gift. You’re like a politician who can shake hands and kiss babies and compliment hats all day long. The rest of us can’t. I still struggle, but I manage to get through it because it’s what has to happen.
The only reason that worked for me is because I knew who I was. I still know who I am and what I have to work through every time an event comes up. It’s not easy and probably never will be, but the payoff is worth it to me. On this one piece alone, syndicating might not be for you. Just like shrinking from risk or responsibility would mean this isn’t for you, burning out from social anxiety might rule it out, too. Only you can know.
Feel the Rising Panic and Do It Anyway
You don’t have to network. But then you don’t have to go into syndication. Think really carefully about what you’re willing to put yourself through to reach your goals. Is the price worth it? If it’s not, don’t kid yourself. Find something else to do with your life.
If it is, buckle up. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones and you find meeting people easy. But if not, you’ll need to do it anyway. This isn’t an area you can easily delegate or outsource. Walk into syndication—and the networking hall—with your eyes open. Understand that it’s part of the deal, and prepare yourself mentally.
For more advice on networking, you can find Syndicating Is a B*tch on Amazon.
Known in the real estate world as the Apt-Guy℠, Bruce Petersen is a serial syndicator who started with a 48-unit building and has now syndicated over 1,100 units. As the founder and CEO of Bluebonnet Asset Manager LLC and Bluebonnet Commercial Management, Bruce has received local and national recognition for his syndication efforts. He was the recipient of the Austin Apartment Association’s Independent Rental Owner of the Year for 2016 and the National Apartment Association’s Independent Rental Owner of the Year for 2017. In addition to being a TV personality and public speaker, Bruce also mentors people on how to invest in apartment complexes.