by Guest Columnist, Stephanie Cuba, Esq.
Founder & Principal, CC Strategies
If you want to know how networking pays off, talk to us.
Deena Baikowitz and I met nine years ago at a networking reception sponsored by New York Commercial Real Estate Women (NYCREW). We immediately hit it off and always found each other at the monthly events. Deena was director of business development for an international architecture and design firm. I was director of development at a national multifamily developer. I needed to hire an interior designer for my upcoming project, so I called her. Her designers did a great presentation and I ended up hiring them over several other competitors.
My project stalled a bit but I kept in touch with the team to keep them informed of our progress. When the time came for them to start work, they suddenly backed out and I was left without an interior designer on a $300 million deal. Their excuse was that their design would not have enough “impact” on the project. “Well it’s the exact same impact it had when you agreed to work on the project 6 months ago!”
Appalled at this turn-of-events, I called Deena with the bad news: “You should look for a new job. You landed a great business opportunity with a high-profile client, and your bosses rejected it. They also ruined any future chances of working with us.” Deena was stunned and embarrassed. We lost touch for some time until we reconnected again at the scene of the crime: a NYCREW event. Seated next to one another at a DineAround, we started catching up. Deena told me how she appreciated my advice – she knew that job wasn’t right for her, and my encouragement helped her move on. Eventually she left to start her own firm: the aptly named Fireball Network (Deena has curly red hair and tons of energy!).
She has created the perfect outlet for her talents, a networking coaching and consulting company. I told Deena that with my significant experience in real estate law, finance and development, I had also started my own consulting company. My firm, CC Strategies, provides real estate consulting, underwriting, project management, deal sourcing, and related services. And business is booming! Since I started the firm I was hired by a developer from Boston to source and project manage deals in New York, a private equity firm to run financial and market analysis on potential acquisitions and a non-profit to help them renovate their space.
A month after that fateful night at NYCREW, Deena called to ask if I would be willing to have a consultation with one of her clients, BG Studio International, a boutique design firm that had hired her to help expand its client base. Fittingly, she had first met Francesca Bucci, co-founder and principal of BG Studio, at the NYCREW Retail & Lodging Industry Spotlight event. Francesca and her business partner hired Deena to advise them on developing new relationships, for hospitality and multifamily projects. Deena realized it would be valuable to have a developer’s perspective, to thoroughly prepare the team for their sales pitches and presentations, and she trusted me. I took the meeting and was hired to work with them. Deena also recommended that Francesca join the Association of Real Estate Women (AREW, the second CREW Network chapter in New York City), which she did, adding another CREW success story within our story.
After I finished the training assignment, Deena and I met periodically to exchange ideas. Over lunch, she mentioned that she was delivering a networking workshop to the New York County Lawyers’ Association. She confessed, “I have to tell you, lawyers are a very different animal and I’m having difficulty figuring out how they think.” Trained as an attorney, I completely understood. Deena is an exceptional coach, and I knew if I gave her a few pointers she’d be prepared for her audience of lawyers.
As I shared my insights, Deena turned to me and asked: “Would you like to deliver this presentation together?” Since my entire career has been built on networking, and I really enjoy teaching others, I accepted. A few weeks later we were in the awe-inspiring landmarked “Home of Law” building, presenting to one hundred lawyers. The program was so successful that the participants eagerly referred us to other legal associations, law schools and law firms.
With all the time we spent preparing and rehearsing, I remarked: “I understand why you like to collaborate, because working alone is just no fun.” We continued working together, and a few weeks after our NYCLA success, we landed our next client, a leading New York City law school where we delivered customized workshops for their students and recent graduates.
Thanks to our original CREW connection, Deena and I now have a formal collaboration. We create, market and deliver workshops, coaching and consulting services together. Of course, we also help each other promote CC Strategies and Fireball Network, our respective firms, refer clients to one another and enjoy a wonderful friendship too.
That’s our story. Now let’s work on yours. Get out of your office, and get networking, so you can create your own success story!
And if you need expert guidance, talk to us.
Author’s Note: This article was originally published on the CREW Network website, as a featured Member-to-Member Success Story.