Riding Elevators

Ashley Bishopby Ashley Bishop, CCIM

Southeast Venture has been servicing Nashville’s CRE community for over 30 years. Ask most anyone about Southeast Venture and they’ll tell you we’re wired-in and do a great job for our clients.

This foundation took years to build, and required extensive networking among key decision makers. One of our principals is a gentleman named Axson West, and unless you’ve spent some time with him, you couldn’t know what a character he is. He is networked in with more people than anyone I’ve ever known, and his methods are truly unique.

Relatively speaking, networking presents the same challenges now as it did 30 years ago. In CRE, we are focused on forging long-term relationships with bankers, developers, attorney’s, investors and property owners. It’s a balancing act to spend networking and also maintain our business flow.

There are more ways than ever to be social while spreading the word about what we do. There’s the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor’s office of Economic and Community Development, CCIM, NAIOP as well as many civic organizations. I’ve had success with some of these; however, where I’ve been most successful is tapping into resources like LinkedIn and Twitter.

Axson didn’t have these options 30 years ago. He had a pocket full of business cards and comfortable shoes. One of the funniest stories I’ve heard him tell is how he developed many of his contacts, and he is still doing business with them to this day.

Axson, like most during the “early days,” networked through church, various civic clubs and the chamber to name a few. Although, in addition to these, Axson used to go downtown, pick a skyscraper, and ride the elevators. When he got to the top, he would ride back down, and along each stop, he would introduce himself, tell some jokes, hand out a card, and wait for the next floor.

He did this for years, and made some good friends and alliances along the way. If that’s not unique enough, back in the days when he had his Series 7 License and was selling apartment syndications, which provided tax incentives for high-income earners, he had five different CPA’s prepare his annual tax returns; one in Memphis, Knoxville and three in Nashville. He built relationships with them, which yielded investor referrals.

I’ve never purposely ridden up and down elevators, but I have found several unique ways of networking, which suit me. I’ve had the most success using LinkedIn. LinkedIn turns a cold call into a warm call. It allows me to get to know the background on a person, where they’ve worked in the past, what positions they’ve held and even what their hobbies are.

I use Twitter regularly (you can follow me @ABishopCCIM), and periodically I write a blog entry. I use Twitter as a non-evasive way of staying in front of prospects (multiple times daily) with information on Nashville as it relates to CRE. I also use apps like Hootsuite for Twitter, which allows me to schedule my tweets; super for gathering news early and distributing it at different times throughout the day/week. Hootsuite also provide the ability to link your tweets across the various LinkedIn groups you belong to. Tweets sent this way become discussion forums in your LinkedIn Groups.

We all develop our own ways to network with those we seek to do business with. We find our most comfortable setting, and work it diligently. Internet platforms have worked great for me. Elevators and CPA(s) worked great for Axson. Regardless of the method, networking is key success in most industries, especially in CRE. It’s the reason our 30-year-old company is still servicing clients today.


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