Chris Ayoub on Proactive Networking
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In our eighth episode, Chris Ayoub, president of RealManage, joins host Alana Muller to share how to think ahead in terms of professional relationship building by creating a personal account management plan. Tune in to learn how Chris identifies influential individuals and schedules opportunities to expand his network. “It's really truly understanding where you want to go and what your network is, and the networks you want to break into, and putting a plan together on how you can effectively communicate.”
Alana Muller: Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust, that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they've found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Enterprise.ing. So glad to have you all with us today and I'm especially glad to have with us, here in the studio, Chris Ayoub. Chris serves as president of RealManage, with over 20 years of leadership experience. He joined the company in 2014, with an emphasis on operations and mergers and acquisitions. And since joining RealManage, the company has received the honor of being named four times to Inc. 5000's list of Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. Amazing.
Chris, welcome to Enterprise.ing.
Chris Ayoub: Hey, thank you so much for having me. It's an honor to be here today.
Alana Muller: Well, I'm so grateful to have you and to get a chance to know you, and to share your story with our listeners. Let's start. I'd love to hear a little bit about RealManage and a little bit about what the company's all about.
Chris Ayoub: Absolutely, thank you. RealManage is an HOA management firm, we manage homeowner condo associations. We operate in 18 states, we're the third largest nationally.
What makes us unique is we do own our own and operate our own proprietary software platform. CiraConnect is what it's known as. That's a nice foundation, being able to operate and control your own destiny, with the latest and greatest updates, and configurations and such, to be able to scale a business in our industry, that's a very thriving industry.
That's the basis of what we do, managing homeowner and condo associations. Everyone in our company, from AR, to AP, to accounting to community association managers, software developers, everyone's involved in our main effort which is managing community associations.
Alana Muller: Well, that's so great. It sounds like a very cool marriage of technology and human interaction. I think that's fabulous, and that you have your own software I think is an absolute plus. Very, very cool. Thank you for sharing that.
I know that you have been deeply involved in every aspect of RealManage's business. I'm guessing that establishing, building and sustaining relationships has played an important role in your success. How did you formulate your approach to networking? And, what do you do to effectively nurture your own relationship base?
Chris Ayoub: It's a challenge, the busier we get and the more successful we get, it's an ongoing challenge. I do not do social media platforms. I am on LinkedIn, but I'm not on Facebook, or Instagram or any of those types of platforms.
On LinkedIn, being able to stay involved and see other people's successes, and I think it's very important in managing a network, that when you see someone going through a hard time or a good time, to be there for them. That could just be a quick note to say, "Hey, I noticed that you just got selected to a board. Congratulations on your success." Or, "Hey, I'm sorry to hear about the loss." We're in a world right now where more people are passing away, we've got a lot of illnesses and we've got a lot of mental health -- mental health is very important to me -- issues that we're facing as a nation. So just making sure that you reach out to people. And so, those types of networks are very helpful with capturing some of those key moments.
I think every successful individual, and it's hard to, especially as you get more success, you need your own personal account management plan. That's identifying some of the people that are influencers in your network, identifying networks that you want to try to break into. You've got to really know who those folks are, whether it's a hey, I'm going to text this person once a month just to say, I'm going to set up calls with this person once a quarter. Oh yeah, we go to the same trade shows three times a year, I'm going to make it a point to meet with them at the trade show. So it's really truly understanding where you want to go and what your network is, and the networks you want to break into, and putting a plan together on how you can effectively communicate.
And then, the other things that I mentioned, there are things that pop up where you need to make sure that you're there in that person's life, during those things. If someone needs a sounding board or there's an event that happened, show your support, reach out to them. Don't become so robotic with an account management plan. You definitely need to have one, but that captures 75%. The other 25% is life happens, for good or for bad, and being there for those individuals during those times to show your support. That's how you build relationships, right? It's easy to give everyone a high five when things are going well or status quo, but are you going to be those who are envious or jealous of their success? The answer should be “no,” because that's not effective networking. Or, are you going to be the person who's going to be gloating in somebody's troubled times? That's not effective either. You really need to reflect your own light into this world.
Alana Muller: Absolutely. You're so right. Oh my gosh, so much to unpack there.
Chris Ayoub: A lot to unpack, I know.
Alana Muller: I love your answer. Let me dig in a little bit on a couple of these things. First of all, this notion of a personal account management plan, so cool, such a great idea. Is that something that you did intentionally? Or, is that something that evolved for you? That one day, you looked up and realized you had this thing. Do you write it down?
I have to understand all the aspects of this because I think this is one of the most both strategic and tactical. In terms of A, on the strategic side, just recognizing the importance of it. But then, tactically, how do you do this? Where do you put this information down?
Chris Ayoub: It's a lot to unpack, isn't it?
Alana Muller: Yeah. I love it.
Chris Ayoub: [crosstalk 00:06:10]. Well, part of it is you only have so much energy that you can give out in a day and you want to not have energy vampires in your network. So that's rule number one, no energy vampires in your network.
Alana Muller: Smart. I like that expression a lot. I'm going to totally steal that from you.
Chris Ayoub: Yes. No energy vampires in your network, that's the Golden Rule of managing your network.
I would say it was a necessity, and then it was also this “aha” common sense moment. Necessity, for what I just said. As you get busier and busier, your company gets bigger, your network, your opportunities get grander, more and more kids activities, family demand, you have to be very intentional. You can't just give everyone your energy, so you need a plan around that. But, the reality of it is, the common sense part that I'm telling you, is that's how you should operate your business, too. Internally and externally, so client-facing stuff as well internally, making sure you're having a certain number of checkpoints. It's anniversaries, it's birthdays, it's quarterly meetings, monthly meetings.
And believe me, it's something that I have to improve on, on a daily basis because we get busier and busier, and you begin to fall off on the plan. It's an ever living document that you've just got to constantly tweak.
But yeah, why wouldn't I approach my ... It's all business, in the sense of you're leveraging a network to make your business more successful.
Alana Muller: Sure.
Chris Ayoub: What you do professionally, personally and professionally.
Alana Muller: What I hear you saying is that this is ... So many people think of networking as an ancillary, sidebar thing that maybe they engage in. Of course, to me, it is just part and parcel of life. For me, I can't get away from it, I don't want to get away from it. It's incorporated into everything I do, but I know that's unique. But, you're describing exactly that. That you recognize the importance of incorporating your network really into just your daily operations. This is not a special activity, this is part of normal operating procedure for what you do in business and in life.
Chris Ayoub: Absolutely.
Alana Muller: Love that. The other thing that you said, that I just want to come back to if I may, is you talked about the importance of being there for people in the good times and the bad times. I just want to commend you for that, not only as a concept, but really living your truth when it comes to recognizing people's needs and the importance of wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle.
Too frequently, just as you described, we don't want to highlight people's successes because, somehow, there's a false sense that it diminishes our own. Or, we don't want to highlight when people are going through a challenging time because we don't want to hurt them further. But, the fact that you show up for people and you simply say, "I know you're going through a time," good, bad, or otherwise, "I just want to say I see you, and I hear you and I'm here for you." I think that's a really beautiful concept. And, I can only imagine that that's really meaningful to your contact base, that when you reach out to people, again, in whatever kind of time they're going through, that you're building social capital that money cannot purchase. That you really are showing people that there's a human side to these relationships and networking opportunities.
Chris Ayoub: Thank you. As individuals, every human being has insecurities. I don't care if you're Warren Buffet, or name the next billionaire, Richard Branson, we all have insecurities. Every one of us has insecurities. And, we can't let those dictate our actions. That's like overcoming your fears. You're afraid someone's going to be better than you, but they're not you though, you are uniquely designed to contribute a certain thing to this world. We need to focus more on lifting each other up rather than tearing each other down.
When we go through a hard time, and the last year and a half of my life, I've gone through quite a bit myself, you really realize quickly who's there for you.
Alana Muller: Sure. I bet you remember who reached out to you, I'm guessing.
Chris Ayoub: Yeah. When people are personally benefiting from your success at times, you see this with celebrities and professional athletes, look how big their entourage is. Professional athlete tears their ACL and in two or three years, doesn't have the same kind of funds and notoriety that they once had, they go through a huge spell of depression and have a lot of mental health battles because all these people who they thought were friends, they went through a down time and they left them.
Just remember that, treat people the way you wish to be treated. We were talking about the Golden Rule earlier.
Alana Muller: 100%. That's exactly right.
Chris Ayoub: If you're going through a hard time, people reach out and just saying hey. It doesn't need to be much but just saying, "Hey, I'm letting you know I'm just thinking about you. And if you need anything, don't hesitate to reach out." Be genuine about that.
One of my pet peeves is someone saying, "I'm going to pray for you. I'm praying for you." They don't, right. If you're going to say something, be true to your word because there's no quicker way to lose credibility in networking than to be, "Hey, I'll call you next week. Oh, let's get together for lunch, I'll reach out to you," and they never do. Or say, "Hey, I'm praying for you, I'm thinking about you," and you're really not, you'll quickly get figured out on that one.
Alana Muller: Yeah. You can certainly sense people's authenticity and sincerity level. I completely appreciate that.
I want to shift gears a little bit. I want to uncover, for our listeners, another side to your life. I think it will be meaningful, Chris, to our listeners to know that you're a distinguished Iraq Freedom combat veteran, having completed over 60 combat missions, which is unbelievable. I want to first say thank you for your service.
Chris Ayoub: Thank you.
Alana Muller: Just remarkable. I want to ask you this. In what ways did networking serve as a factor for you, as a member of the military? And, how does it continue to shape your interactions today?
Chris Ayoub: The networking side, when you share a commonality with somebody, so it could be just something that you both did, two people did. So for me, wearing the uniform. I have a common ground with that group and I encourage people who are veterans, other veterans want to network with you. They do. There's an automatic, "We have something in common, we can share a couple stories." Then, you get even further. "Yes, I served in this branch and you served in the same branch. Wow, cool." Or, "Hey, I was in Iraq. Okay, what year? Oh yeah, 2006. I was there, too. Where were you at?"
So put yourself out there a little bit, don't talk so much about yourself, auto repeat I'm this, I'm that, blah, blah, blah. And by the way, did I tell you that I did this and I did that? No. But, put yourself out there a little bit about, oh okay. In our nation, period, we need to do a better job of this. Try to find some commonalities with people. That's my challenge to anyone listening today. Go find some commonalities. If it's a veteran and you're a veteran, go do that. If you're a banker, go find someone else who's in banking as well, too. Go find some commonalities and you'll quickly see. There's a reason why there's alumni networking groups, because there's a commonality that's there.
I would say that it's helped me tremendously because many of the mentors I've had in my life came from a commonality. Whether that was something relating to sports, or whether that's something relating to being in the military. But absolutely, it automatically relaxes people, and there's a sense of trust and credibility there, that allows you to be able to mutually benefit from each other's networks.
Alana Muller: Sure. Well, just the shared experience, shared set of interests, a common understanding. You're absolutely right. You're right, it could be anything. It could be where you are from or what kind of food do you like. The fact that, especially from a military perspective, that you understand a military lifestyle, a combat lifestyle, being overseas. Going all the way back to the beginning of our conversation, the good, the bad and the otherwise. I think that's a really wonderful way to connect with people, so thank you for that.
I'd love to ask you, can you think of maybe even one interaction or relationship that you've had or have with somebody that resulted in a personal breakthrough for you? Personally or professionally.
Chris Ayoub: Yeah. I'm going to share two.
One, we got back to this commonality thing. I was in a men's group Bible study, so there's one commonality. And two, there was a gentleman that was there, named Wade Myers, who was the co-founder of RealManage, along with Chris O'Neill, whose two gentlemen that I think the world of, greatly admire. They founded a company together back in 2004. Wade and I hit it off. Again, we're in a Bible study together, military background, great commonality. He's very entrepreneurial. He said, "I've got to introduce you to my co-founder." Well, that led me to Chris O'Neill and then, that led me to the path I'm at right now, with RealManage. That was an amazing breakthrough.
Number two is I got injured in the service in 2012. In 2013, I was medically discharged. And then, I got a job at KPMG. We were implementing financial controls for Walmart International and I was boots on the ground, as they say, in Bentonville, Arkansas, working at Walmart International. There was an independent contractor that Walmart International hired that wasn't with KPMG, a gentleman named Ron Day. Ron is a terrific, terrific man. The commonality there was is he used to work for ... You know McDonald Douglas? Right. He used to work for Mr. McDonald. So there was aviation, military, and stuff. He was automatically drawn to wanting to help me as a mentor.
So he said, "Hey, I used to work for a guy named John Gardner, who used to work at McDonald Douglas." He was John's chief of staff. And, John was also on the White House cabinet, John wrote a book called Self Renewal. And, Ron told me, "Hey, I want you to get a sheet of paper, I want you to fold it into eights and get a pencil. Every time you have an aha moment, I want you to write it down." In my head I'm thinking, "An aha moment and folding a sheet of paper eight times and carrying around a pen, okay." But, that was one of those things where you've got to try.
Alana Muller: It's like go with it., go with it.
Chris Ayoub: Go with it, let's go with it. All my life prior to that, whether I was in the military or not, society trains, at least my generation, I'm 41, it was a lot of, "When you grow up, what are you going to be? A lawyer, a pilot, a firefighter, a cop, a banker. What are you going to be?" But, it was all specialty stuff. There was never, "I'm going to be a generalist. I'm going to be good at a lot of different things, but I might not be the best at any one of them."
In the military, a lot of it is when you're leading a unit, it's very generalist work and that's where I thrived. But, when it came down to a specialist thing, I missed the general side of leading. So very often, I was always caught up in, "I've got to be the best at this, I've got to be the best at that." So, Ron gave me this book and I had this realization in Self Renewal that I was a generalist not a specialist. From that moment on, I had a lot more clarity on who God designed me to versus who I needed to please society to be, so that I could be successful in the eyes of others versus how I would view myself.
Alana Muller: Wow. That's certainly an aha moment.
Chris Ayoub: Yeah.
Alana Muller: Major aha moment.
Chris Ayoub: Had I not been looking for opportunities to network at Walmart and really [inaudible 00:18:30] that, I wouldn't have had that personal breakthrough, no way. I would have, maybe a few years down the road. But no question, I owe a lot of my success to those moments.
Alana Muller: So fabulous. What's so great about it, especially the one you described about the founders of RealManage, is that you weren't looking for that job. I don't know what your employment status was at the time, but you didn't go to Bible study looking for a job, you didn't engage with these two individuals because you were looking for a job. It came to you because you earned it through relationships. They got to know you, at a very human level, again, based on common interests, the shared experience and it's so great. I think that our best moments often come as a result of these unexpected interactions, where we're not looking for anything in particular but the rewards, the benefits that we reap as a result of those relationships are immense, they're immeasurable. That's great.
Our time is coming to an end. I want to conclude with a question that I just love to ask my guests and it is this. If you could meet with anybody for a networking interaction, whether it's somebody living, somebody not living, fictional, non-fictional, who would it be and why?
Chris Ayoub: Jesus.
Alana Muller: Oh, okay! You don't want to think about that one? I'm kidding, I'm kidding.
Chris Ayoub: He's my Lord and Savior, that's why.
Alana Muller: Okay. That's a very good, quick, direct answer. I just love that, I just love that. It seems that, in some ways, you have come to know who that person is already.
Chris Ayoub: Amen. Yes.
Alana Muller: That's really beautiful, really beautiful. Well, I have loved getting to know you. You provided so many, for me, aha moments, even in the few minutes that we've spent together. And, I know that our listeners will get that much more, so thank you for that.
Tell our listeners a little bit more about where they can go to learn about you and about RealManage.
Chris Ayoub: All right. So I'm not on any social media platforms, other than LinkedIn. LinkedIn would be a spot where we could connect, through that network. And then, RealManage, the website realmanage.com. Any of our doing business as affiliates would be on there as well, too, that you'd be able to connect with.
Alana Muller: That's terrific. Chris Ayoub, thank you so much for joining us today on Enterprise.ing.
Chris Ayoub: My honor, thank you.
Alana Muller: Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website, enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe to you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders one conversation at a time.
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