Thursday Thoughts on Leadership: Connecting at Inman Connect

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me in San Francisco for Inman Connect (to browse the social coverage from the event, check #ICSF). Inman Connect always proves an amazing opportunity to create and build relationships while brainstorming breakthrough ways to grow a business and this year—with an incredible lineup of speakers and motivated attendees—was no exception. Featured speakers included: Amanda Kahlow, CEO and founder of 6sense; John Thornton, partner lead at Google; Pam Costa, coach at Down To There; Amy Bohutinsky, COO at Zillow Group; Robert Thomson, chief executive at News Corp; Kelly Stonelake, creative at Facebook and Instagram; and social media maestro Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, who closed the conference with a riveting talk about the importance of social marketing to genuinely connect with clients.

In fact, if there was an over-arching theme to the event, it would be the careful interplay between fostering authentic client relationships while embracing the ever-changing technology that so significantly affects how our real estate industry operates. Brad Inman, founder and owner of Inman News, addressed this issue right from the Inman Connect stage. When speaking about adopting new technology into a business he said, “Don’t worry about it. Technology is adopting you. Go hone your human skills.”

To further highlight this theme of technology intermingling with personal relationships, let me share an experience I had at this year’s Inman Connect …

Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates, connected with Chris Heller, CEO of Keller Williams and Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate at Inman Connect 2016 in San Francisco.

Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates, connected with Chris Heller, CEO of Keller Williams and Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate at Inman Connect 2016 in San Francisco.

On Tuesday night, I attended a private cocktail hour hosted by Constance Freedman, founder and managing partner at Moderne Ventures, along with Keith Krach, chairman and CEO of DocuSign, who graciously held this gathering at his own home. A VIP reception immediately followed, hosted by Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Brad and Keith. The event was organized around a great cause—the celebration of a new fundraising initiative called New Story that brings the dream of homeownership to hundreds of people in Ahuachapán, El Salvador. New Story was founded by Brett Hagler, Mike Arrieta, Alexandria Lafci and Matthew Marshall. I was able to catch up with Brett and Mike Tuesday night and was so impressed not only by their business acumen but also by their palpable passion for bringing the dream of homeownership to those who might not otherwise have a chance to own a home. The gathering was also a great chance to connect with industry colleagues and find inspiration from some of real estate’s most innovative and forward-thinking leaders, like my friend and former colleague Susan Yannaccone, recently named president and CEO of ERA Real Estate. (Congratulations, Sue!)

Now, here’s where the concept of connection and technology came into play: While attending the event, I was able to spend some time talking with Sherry and Chris Heller, CEO of Keller Williams. The three of us even posed for a photo, which Sherry tweeted out the following morning. And with that single tweet, Twitter followers were able to see Sherry, Chris and I connecting at the Tuesday evening event. But what’s even better, the connection was now a chance for digital interaction; users could comment on the photo, retweet it and like it, thus transforming a moment in time shared between three people into a piece of digital content that could be engaged with and absorbed by thousands.

So what’s the message? Technology, as Gary emphasized in his keynote, must be fervently embraced. Your clients are looking for homes using technology and harnessing the power of social media to find the right property for them, so it only makes sense that real estate professionals should be dominating the digital space, ready and willing to help. But we must always remember that while social media and technology cannot be ignored, real estate will never solely be about the technology people use; it’ll always be about the people who use the technology.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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