I’m flying right now from New York to London, a journey I’m pretty used to by now, sometimes for a long weekend, this time for a wedding. I’ve become so “hungry” in this market, since moving to New York in January with only a small handful of possible potential international buyers, that I now have the mentality that the person sitting next to me could be my next client, or friend of client. This applies on the subway, in a restaurant, coffee shop, nail spa and in this case, on a plane.
So we’re sitting side by side on our laptops, and while I’m hoping he’s not reading what I’m writing, I see him also on Word, formulating a business plan, using the non-interrupted seven hours away from our blackberries to do things we never get around to doing, accounts, business plans, writing something for Core Talks….
We’re sitting so close that neither of us can type comfortably without elbowing the other. There’s the awkward smile every now and then, the break and realisation that we’re both doing something productive, it’s like a silent pat on the back. But sitting so close to someone, for hours on end, eating “together”, watching movies together, napping side by side, and not even exchanging names to me feels awkward and yet so often the case.
Yet when you do introduce yourselves how does one cut them off? How does one decide they’re no longer interested in their lifelong experiences and would rather read “US Weekly”?
Being a broker in New York is a 24 hour profession not only when responding to emails in your sleep but in my opinion, the minute you enter close quarters with a stranger. I would put money on the fact that if in the next 4 hours and 27 minutes I decide to strike up conversation, there’s a 50% chance, he or his friends, or his family, or his colleagues are thinking of investing in NY. Or, if they have already invested, may well worth be keeping in touch with for any future sales… A plane journey from New York or to New York to me is prime networking opportunity, the target has definitely been to the city or will soon be there, and whether the purpose is work or pleasure, he or she will have some interest in real estate in Manhattan. Everyone does.
Yet even off the plane and in the airport, the opportunities are everywhere…
Standing in line in immigration at JFK on January 2nd of this year I had even fewer friends than future clients in NY and was more than open to conversation with a British chef moving over from London to work on the food network. We’ve both fallen in love with the city, he’s become incredibly popular and I laugh when I see him on late night television advertisements, thinking how oddly we met. He’s now a good friend of mine and I send him listings every couple of weeks till he’s ready to make a purchase.
Over the summer on my first trip home I began making conversation with a Spanish fashion designer standing in line to check in. He had a successful trip overseeing his store on the Lower East Side and is now looking for commercial retail space in Soho for more stores. My sister may have rolled her eyes when she saw me talking to him, and she may have even started shaking her head when she saw me fishing around in my wallet for my business card, but I seem to have little shame these days.
I used to be a shy person, but being a broker in New York has forced me to change that. Had I not decided one night at a nightclub at 4am to befriend the VIP doorman from Leeds, I may not have met his friend from Sydney, and my future buyer.
It’s a tricky situation. Just last Sunday morning I waited for my Sunday morning coffee at Aroma in Soho when a friend points out a possible potential client. He’s by himself, waiting for his own coffee, engrossed in an apartment listing in his hand. Today, 48 hours later, it bothers me that I didn’t introduce myself, that I didn’t make small talk over the chocolate shakers and sugar, that I didn’t hand over my card “just in case”. The fear that he had a broker, didn’t want a broker, or was a broker himself, or really just didn’t want to be bothered on a Sunday morning by a stranger looking over his shoulder – that same fear is the fear we as brokers need to get over. Yet at the same time, while I may be a stranger to him, so he is a stranger to me; I wonder whether these are the risks you take, giving out not only your number, but your address, email address and profession to a person you’ve ‘known’ for a few moments.
One of my resolutions about a month into moving to New York was to give out at least one business card a day. I’ve come to the conclusion that brokerage is a little like gambling, you have to take risks to win, and if you don’t take these risks, you wonder for days what could have been and wonder, like I am now, about the one that got away…