I was driving back from meeting with a 50-something, well-connected, Dallas real estate man with one of the younger guys in my office. In the meeting, we did the “Do you know this person? Do you know that person?” game and we had four or five mutual connections. To me, it felt like a bonding moment where we had great affection for some of the same people. Some of the people we discussed were prominent Dallas business people with whom we had worked or we were friends. And that is how it goes in business—if you are working in any city long enough, and you are bringing value to the equation, you will get to know some influential and wealthy people. All of us who have been doing business for any length of time know some influential and wealthy people. Big deal.
Oh, but how we forget. Flash back to our drive after the meeting and the conversation in the car. This younger broker says, almost under his breath, “Dallas is such a tight-knit group.” “What do you mean?,” I asked. He said, “It just seems like everyone knows each other and it is a really tight-knit group, like hard to penetrate.” It took me a second to realize what he was talking about and how he was feeling. “Do you mean because we were talking about the people we knew in common in that meeting?” Of course, that was what he meant. He was feeling as a kid from California without any connections in Dallas it was going to be very difficult to be successful here.
I looked at him and said that is absolutely not true. I understand the feeling because I felt that way too when I first started in business here, but it is absolutely not true. All you have to do is add value. I promise, if it is a buddy from St. Mark’s School or the University of Texas versus you, and you are willing to work harder and add more value to the equation, you will win every time. Virtually everyone in this business is showing up at work every day to make more money and create a better life for themselves. If you can help them do that, you will earn their business. If you are good at what you do, word will spread, and people will want to do business with you, regardless of your lineage, your family connections, or even your pedigree.
Look at how I must have appeared on paper when I started: I grew up in Richardson, my family had very modest means, neither of my parents were in real estate, so I had no connections, and I am female. What are the odds of any kind of career coming out of that? But I had drive. I had a burning desire to work hard and to add value. And therefore, people wanted to work with me.
After that car ride, I started to remember my younger days, just getting started in commercial real estate. In meetings I would think to myself (just like my young broker friend does), “Wow, they are so connected; they have it made.” Or, “I don’t really fit in here, people are not going to want to do business with me.” I get that self-doubt. We all have it. Even the guy you think is so connected—he has it too. That is part of the human condition. But push through it. Get back up. Work harder. Dig deeper. Bring your best self to the game every day and you will succeed. Succeeding is about small decisions every day. It is about making that call when you think the person on the other line is too important or too busy to talk with you. It is about staying that extra hour at the office when all your buddies have gone to get a drink. It is about showing up an hour early to plan your day.
The gift of working with young people is, you learn just as much, if not more, than those you are teaching. After 25 years in this business, I get knocked down, I am told no, I get discouraged. But the best thing I can do is push through it, get back up, work harder, dig deeper, bring my best self to the game every day, and I will continue to succeed. Hard work—it is the great equalizer, thank God.
Jennifer Pierson is Managing Partner at Dallas-based STRIVE, which was founded as a merger between The Vitorino Group and Pierson Retail Advisors.