The latest event in Exceed Network’s Boardroom Series was held on March 27th at Exceed’s offices located at WeWork 5th avenue. Titled How To Build And Expand Your Network, the event featured Isaac ‘Ikey’ Chera as the speaker. Chera is a principle at Crown Acquisitions, a commercial real estate investment firm that has operated for over eighty years. During the event, Chera discussed the importance of a robust business network and how to build it. Toward the end of the event, he opened the floor to questions from the audience about real estate, his true specialty.
“Networking is not a science but rather an art,” said Chera to the mixed crowd of up and comers, entrepreneurs and business veterans. “A network is the most powerful business tool you can have and it’s how you use that tool that makes all the difference.” Chera stressed that, just like the adage says, it really is who you know and not what you know. To this end, he assured the crowd that everyone knows how to network whether they realize it or not. “As a child, you pick friends based on who they are and what they can do for you. The same is true in business. It’s that simple and innate.” Chera then shared a breakdown of the three types of people one can find in any business network.
“Friends are people you have known for a long time who may want to do some business with you. They invest because they are your friends. These are great people to have in your network and help many of us get started.”
“Partners are people with whom you have made money doing business in the past. They will engage in more business with you because it makes financial sense. They are an important and necessary part of any network.”
“Fans are the most important people in a network and the most difficult to acquire. Why? Because it requires you, your brand, to be great and the only way to build a great brand is through hard work. Fans praise your name, your brand, again and again. That’s what you want in a network. Case in point, if Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos told you to do something, you would listen. Why? Because of their brand, their reputation. I have closed deals based on fans telling investors positive things about me and my brand. So, build your brand well and the fans will follow and bring you business.”
Chera also pointed out the two types of networking everyone engages in. “Happenstance networking” is what happens when sitting on a plane or a train. It occurs naturally and you never know when it will happen. “Strategic networking” is when you go to a conference or directly reach out to someone via email, phone or in person. At this point, Chera stressed the importance of face to face conversation. “In-person meetings are crucial. All of the young guys I work with send emails but I have always enjoyed meeting face to face. It separates you from everyone else and impacts the person you are meeting in a way that email simply can’t.”
Chera expounded on the importance of meeting someone face to face with a series of fun and informative stories. In one, he visited a man in North Carolina who owned a building in New York. The man didn’t trust New Yorkers and therefore didn’t want to sell his building to them. To differentiate himself from his competitors and to gain the man’s trust, Chera flew down to North Carolina and spent the day with him on his own land, on the man’s own terms. He joined him for a meal and they rode around in his truck. Soon, they became friendly and he sold the building to Chera.
Chera also stressed that networking, building friendships and relationships, is “a long term gig. You need to make them feel you’re there for them. Invest your time and energy and don’t expect anything in return. Just be a quality person with something to offer. Eventually, you will see, you will be paid back in spades.” Chera shared a story that echoed this sentiment. He was asked to meet with Danny Devito, who was interested in opening a movie studio in one of his properties. “I know nothing about Hollywood” said Chera “but I did some research and decided to meet with him. The lunch was supposed to last fifteen minutes but it ended up lasting four hours.” Finding a hook, as Chera referred to it, is the key to a great meeting and to making a lasting impression. He knew that Devito was passionate about family so they spoke about family. They are now close friends and have done a lot of deals together. Chera also shared a story about meeting with Jimmy Lovene, cofounder of Interscope Records and Beats Headphones. Chera knew that Lovine was from Brooklyn but that was about it. “At our meeting, which took place in Los Angeles, as soon as he mentioned Brooklyn, I asked him a few questions about his upbringing and we started discussing Brooklyn in depth. What street he lived on, different neighborhoods, things that only two Brooklyn guys would know. At one point he mentioned that he misses Junior’s cheesecakes. Before I was out the door, I had ordered him dozens of Junior’s cheesecakes. I am now known to him as The Cheesecake Guy.”
Chera assured the crowd that dealing with high net-worth people isn’t as intimidating as it seems. “They are people first and foremost. They want to find a common connection, they want to discuss things that are important to them both inside and outside of business. If you meet in person, if you speak genuinely and take interest in what they have to say, you will do very well.”
At this point, Chera opened the floor to questions about real estate, his true passion, and the reason why many people came to the event. The audience peppered him with a wide range of real estate questions, from clarification of terminology, advice on starting a real estate business to specific questions on complicated deals. Chera responded with ease, guiding the audience with an obvious and clear knowledge of the market. When asked about the future of retail, one of Chera’s main businesses, Chera replied confidently. “The future looks great. If you are smart, follow the market carefully, and know where to look, which is usually near a main transit hub, anywhere where the people are, you will be successful. Remember, building an empire is hard work. It is often built brick by brick, bodega by bodega, building by building. If you work hard, accept that it’s a long road, and have a great network, you will be successful.”
Stay tuned for more Exceed Network Boardroom Series events! To be notified about future events please email Info@ExceedNetwork.org