Editor’s note: The following is a guest perspective by Chicago Association of Realtors President Mabel Guzman.


The company you keep is a measure of your person, or so the saying goes.

In business development, it’s worth asking: How do the people you surround yourself with enhance your professional potential and your business outcomes? What do your business surroundings feel and look like? What experience are your clients walking away with?

Maybe it’s time to do a 360.

Today, more than ever, it is critical to surround yourself with people who are ready to immediately engage and deliver superior results.

As business professionals and entrepreneurs, it should be our priority to seek out and be willing to pay for the best of the best, realizing that the investment we put forward will be a bargain in terms of time saved and positive customer relations.

Heading into 2011, how are you going to surround yourself with the kind of people who can help you survive and succeed in today’s economy? Look beyond real estate and think of yourself more expansively as a business professional.

Go to local meetings where you’ll be introduced to entrepreneurs from other fields who share your level of professional passion. Some places to meet these people include meetings hosted by local or state officials, school advisory boards, arts councils and business committees of local religious institutions.

Say you meet a professional chef at a community council meeting who has developed a highly effective behind-the-scenes kitchen system. Can his ideas help you build your business?

Be less concerned with the nuts-and-bolts of his system than with his process of getting there. How did he arrive at such positive results and how often does he tweak his business processes? Connect with professionals whose experience is different from yours and with whom you can trade ideas and transfer skills.

Assess your business and do a skills analysis of those around you. Do your advisers, mentors, employees, vendors and even clients add value and advance your success?

Does your employer enhance your professional development and value you as part of the team?

Here are four keys to develop and implement for this 21st century marketplace:

  • Creativity. Align yourself with people whose idea of innovation goes beyond something new to something fresh and effective.
  • Collaboration. Cooperate and connect with folks in the community where your business is located. How about a strategic, business or economic development plan dedicated to job creation within five blocks?
  • Communication. Ensure your dialogues are two-way and raise your level of engagement and expectation. Be specific and ask for feedback even when you know it may not be good.
  • Critical thinking. This is more than outside the box. Think: There is no box.

In a fast-paced world, we need to surround ourselves with other professionals who can see 360 degrees and give us solutions, ideas and honest assessments.

It is critical to find people who are equally passionate about developing fresh business models and looking to meet people like you.

With these contacts in place, you, your company and your business practices will develop and grow. Maintaining superior resources supports your efforts to become that trusted adviser, expert, mentor or company of choice.

You raise the bar by surrounding yourself with the best.

Mabel Guzman is the 2010-11 president of the Chicago Association of Realtors and vice president of business development and sales for Envision Real Estate.

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