As an entrepreneur, business owner and Think Realty-sponsored racecar driver, I not only understand racecars, but I appreciate the work that goes into building and maintaining them.

Even though I feel guilty if I am not in the shop helping the team, my Crew Chief always reminds me: the best place I can be is out and about – whether at a networking event, on an airplane or at an appearance – meeting people.

Like you, I need funding in order to do my job well. And I need lots of good leads in order to find the right funding at the right time with the right partner. After years of practice and landing more than a million dollars in sponsorships, I think networking is the best way to bring in leads for my business. But, it’s not always easy.

Finding money and convincing others to invest in either yourself or your business requires a constant networking effort that often feels futile. When I look back at how some of my biggest sponsors or opportunities came to fruition, it was through an event or encounter that was seemingly meaningless at the time.

Early on, I knew networking was very powerful, but often, I went to networking events and rarely walked out feeling like I was on the verge of a great business deal. Generally it felt like quite the opposite. Even now, most of the time when I meet someone ready to “sign up and get on board” right off the bat, the opportunity ends up falling through. Instead, those chance encounters have been the most valuable for me. Below are a couple of examples of my favorite stories of networking successes from my career.

When I was 15 years old, my first job was at a Burger King. Working the drive-thru was the most fun. This is how I met Ray, who became a lifelong friend. More than 15 years later, after losing touch, I ran into him at a networking event. He introduced me to a man whose company sponsored sports teams and I landed that sponsorship. I never would have had that “in” were it not for my connection to Ray from long before.

Another example came several years into my local racing career. I joined dozens of other drivers for a community event where we voluntarily towed our cars into the city to mingle and sign autographs. At this event I was introduced to a man who sold t-shirts. We exchanged business cards and four years later he called me with the opportunity that launched my national racing career. He had gone to work for an advertising agency with a large client from my hometown and that client was sponsoring the newly-built Kansas Speedway. He thought having a hometown driver would be a nice complement to the marketing mix. During the next two years, this company became the biggest sponsor I, or any other local racer, had ever had. I ran my first race at the Kansas Speedway with this sponsor and the rest is history.

My networking strategy is to meet as many people as I can through networking events – many of which initially cost me more than they make me. But I have never put in the time and energy and not had it pay off in some way down the road. Instead of going into an event wondering what I am going to get out of it, I have the mindset of knowing that I am exactly where I am meant to be and looking to have meaningful interactions. In fact, if I can meet someone and help them make a connection for their business then I feel like the event was a win. The reward for my business and me will likely surface somewhere down the road.

As real estate investors, the Think Realty conferences are a great example of where you should be to meet people who may have opportunities for you, either now or years down the road. It’s all about showing up. Set a goal for yourself to have X amount of meaningful conversations or to give out a certain number of business cards. Always follow up with the connections you made, and then look toward the next event you are attending, then the next and then the next. Oprah says, “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” Sometimes the more people you encounter the luckier you become.

Categories | Article | Operations
Tags | Networking

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