Kurt Browning on Community Networking
CEO & Founder
In this episode, Kurt Browning, Partner at Titan Development, joins host Alana Muller to share how he expands his network by getting involved in his local community. Tune in to hear how Kurt establishes genuine connections inside and outside of his team by being supportive and giving back. “It's really important to get engaged with the local community. Serving on boards, task forces and commissions is key to expanding your network.”
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 found success and 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 everyone. While welcome to another episode of Enterprise.ing Podcast. Wonderful to have you with us today.
I'm so glad to welcome today's guest, Kurt Browning as a principal of Titan Fund Management and a partner in Titan Development, specializing in real estate, investment and development and asset classes, multifamily, industrial, senior living, and self storage. I'm so glad to get to know you, Kurt, I want to hear more about your story. Welcome to Enterprise.ing.
Kurt Browning: Thank you, Alana. It's great to be on your show.
Alana Muller: Great to have you. Tell our listeners a little bit more about Titan Fund Management and Titan Development.
Kurt Browning: We are a real estate developer and investment company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico with offices in Austin, and a lot of activity in Florida, been in the development business for 25 years. Our focus is on the asset classes you referenced in the opening there.
We're basically commercial real estate developers. We do ground up development, have investors and invest in those projects and then typically have a disposition along the way. So real estate investment and development is what we do and we're proud of.
Alana Muller: You should be proud. It's a very cool business that you've developed. Talk a little bit regarding networking. How do you actively manage your network?
Kurt Browning: I think it's really important to get engaged with the local community. Now we do work in other cities, but I think it's really important to be on boards, task forces, commissions, but as far as managing my own network, it's 25 years of a very, very deep Rolodex.
And some of that's structured from business contacts, but also personal contacts. A lot of our investors are personal friends. It's not all business related, I guess is how I would describe that. But as far as managing it, it's really just over time and being involved in that community, in my opinion.
Alana Muller: Yeah. I mean, that makes so much sense. And I may come back to this later in our conversation, but I just love how you talk about, in fact it's not just professional, but it's personal too.
I mean, to me, there's really, it's very difficult to separate those two things. The fact that you are incorporating them and recognizing the value of both, I think is really special.
Kurt Browning: Agreed. I think we have extensive teams because we do development. We'll have teams of bankers, architects, title companies, lots of folks that are outside of our own company that you get to know. And some of those folks you get to know personally, and I think we can get into that later in this interview, but it's more than just business.
Alana Muller: For sure. And I was curious to hear you're based in Albuquerque, but you're doing business in Texas and you said a sizeable business in Florida. How do you manage that across the miles?
And it's interesting in this sort of new life of ours and the time of COVID so to speak, we've all become kind of experts in terms of video conferencing, using Zoom and WebEx and other platforms. But is that something that you were doing before? Are you finding yourself traveling more or less as a result of those investments?
Kurt Browning: Great question. I think if anything, it's benefited us, we were doing a lot of that prior to the pandemic. We are use to a lot of different platforms. People use Zoom frequently.
We were using that. I think the big takeaway for us was we realized what these huge teams you have, of consultants, professionals, bankers, all these folks that you would normally meet with in person after a while, you realize you don't have to do that.
And so it's really created some efficiency in my opinion, where you can say, let's just jump on a zoom call and finish whatever's on the agenda. That being said for new relationships, you're right. We do a lot of work in Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, of course, we're very busy in Texas.
Any sort of new relationships, new markets, you have to be there in person, you really do. It doesn't work via a Zoom. There has to be a personal connect, and that comes back to that networking. There has to be a personal connection.
Alana Muller: Definitely. I mean, I'm often heard saying there's no replacement for that face-to-face human interaction. Zoom is a nice kind of bandaid, I think. And certainly, for me, during the pandemic, I genuinely think it saved my life.
It saved my business. I just think it's super, super important and useful, but I think you're right, that the human connection is something you develop face-to-face and in person.
Kurt Browning: I agree. I think it shows that you're genuine. I think so many people look at networking as they wake up on Monday and think, "Okay, what are my three networking steps that I'll do between now and Friday?" I feel really strongly you can't look at it that way.
There has to be a genuine connection that you come across as a salesman and Titan's really not in the sales business per se. We have to make sure our investors are happy and we're successful, but it's not a go, go, go sales sort of attitude.
That being said, it's a little easier to be genuine, to make that personal connection and be a good listener. I think that's really important, to be a good listener and show a genuine connection. Doesn't mean you're going to walk away having a new best friend, but showing that you're genuine.
Alana Muller: Yeah. I mean that authenticity, I just think can't be replaced. So I love that and-
Kurt Browning: Agreed.
Alana Muller: ... Kind of leveraging this part of our conversation. What are some ways that you make connections mutually beneficial, even building off of that, how do you give back and show mutual appreciation?
Kurt Browning: Oh, I serve on a lot of different boards, even local boards, not all business related, that's a good way to give back. As far as a mutual benefit, like I said, you have to come across as being genuine. It has to be real or else it's a one way street and you're trying to sell something and people see through that.
I'm not saying there aren't business relationships where that doesn't occur, but you can give back so the other person wants to have that relationship with you, wants to network. They're thinking, "Wow, I've networked. And I've met a new person from Titan."
So it goes both ways. But again, just being genuine, serving on a lot of task forces, boards. And not just to serve. I guess I'm old enough now. Earlier in my career, it was like, "Well, you got to check those boxes and be on these boards." Now, I'm real choosy. I'm real picky. Like is my heart in it? If your heart's not in it, then why do it? That's my take.
Alana Muller: Absolutely. I think that's exactly right. And interestingly, when you were talking about the fact that you, Kurt, participating on these boards or in these organizations, and yet you're also representing your company.
The fact that you're an ambassador, not just for yourself, but sort of carrying the banner of Titan, I think is really important. We have to recognize that whether we're home or at work or in the community, we're representing many different entities. And I think that you're doing that really, really well.
Kurt Browning: Agreed. I sit on the national board of The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, National Board. So it goes beyond just your local markets or local influence, I guess you could say, but even then, it's really about personal relationships and wanting to make a difference whether it's professionally, business wise or, or personally.
Alana Muller: Let's talk a little bit more about that personal side. From my perspective, networking is absolutely about both the personal and the professional combined. We already said that homework and community are quite connected.
With that in mind, I know that, personally, you're a sports aficionado and that you coach your three daughters in a variety of sports and that all three went on to play D1 sports in college, which is amazing. Congratulations.
Talk a little bit, if you would, about how your interest in sports and in coaching youth athletes has benefited you in terms of cultivating your network.
Kurt Browning: It's a great connection because until you look back, I don't think you realize it's happening at the time. Always been a sports junkie for many years, still ski every weekend. My kids started growing up and got them into sports, had two soccer players in college, and one track runner coached them in soccer, basketball, and track up through about ninth grade.
They didn't want dad coaching them anymore. All that being said, it's amazing. I look back at some of my connections and so many of them are via either couples on the sidelines, my wife and I get to know parents or parents get to bring their sisters. And it's just a very deep connection.
And Albuquerque is not a small town. It's a million people, metro, but all those connections and just, it's a personal connection. And I'll be honest with you. Some of those investors of Titan now were some of those connections from coaching their daughter on the soccer field when she was in fifth or sixth grade.
Alana Muller: Yeah, no surprise. That's great.
Kurt Browning: Just personal connections that you get to know people, it's not in a business setting. It's been a game changer for me, because I think most of my close friends probably came out of that realm from coaching and sports and kids activities.
Alana Muller: So cool. Okay. Who are your teams? I got to know who your teams are.
Kurt Browning: Well, my wife and I went to Texas Tech. So I think I heard you're a Kansas City Chiefs fan.
Alana Muller: I am. And I don't know if you're aware we have a quarterback who I believe went to Texas Tech. I don't know if you've heard of Patrick Mahomes-
Kurt Browning: Very true. So it's really tough because I grew up in Colorado Springs, and therefore, I'm a Denver Broncos fan. You get the orange blood injected in you when you're born. And so it's been really tough with Kansas City being a competitor for Denver. That being said, we're huge Patrick Mahomes fans and we'll be pulling for the Chiefs moving forward.
Alana Muller: That's what I like to hear. I appreciate that very much. Just as a side note, my husband went to Denver University and he said he was never more terrified for his life than when he went to a Denver Broncos game in his Kansas City gear.
Kurt Browning: Yeah. That's not a good idea. I'm a big DU fan. I follow their hockey team and one of our key investors is a big DU alum. It's a small world.
Alana Muller: It definitely is. I want to switch gears a little bit. Here are maybe some specifics about your networking. Can you talk a little bit about an interaction that you had with one person that resulted in a breakthrough for you either personally or professionally?
Kurt Browning: I can. A key pillar in our community is Bob Murphy, who's a good friend now, is now retired, ran one of the bigger development companies here in Albuquerque, as well as several other companies and businesses. My gosh, this is 30 years ago and I ran into him making a presentation.
I didn't know him and I did, well, the presentation, I'm just a young kid. He caught me afterwards along with his team and said, "Hey, we'd like to take you to lunch." Long story short, that's how I got into commercial real estate.
Alana Muller: Amazing.
Kurt Browning: I wasn't involved with development and just kind of hit it off. He caught me in the parking lot and asked if we could talk a little further and presented the opportunity, which was completely a 180 from what I was doing at the time. So yeah, talk about a breakthrough. I probably wouldn't be in development and real estate investment if I hadn't gotten on board with Bob Murphy.
Alana Muller: Well, I mean, I can't even help myself. I have to dissect that a little bit further. I mean, so kudos to Bob because he was willing to seek you out, following the presentation and serve you with kind of a professional opportunity, but it sounds like serve as a mentor.
Because I mean, you may have said no to that opportunity and he still sought you out and kudos to you for recognizing that an opportunity was in front of you and saying yes to that lunch outing. I mean, too frequently, people are not willing to put themselves out there to take the perceived risk real or maybe simply perceived.
And the fact that you were willing to do that, that he was willing to reach out to you and that you've formed sounds like a years long relationship is just really an awesome networking story, an awesome relationship building story.
Kurt Browning: He's a wonderful man. If he listens to this, yes, Bob you're in your Twilight years, but definitely a mentor and a pillar of our community. I'm glad I got to cross paths with him and worked for him for, gosh, almost 10 years. So it was a game changer in my life for sure.
Alana Muller: So cool. Well, I was going to ask you how networking has impacted your business. I think you've answered that, but maybe I can ask you more specifically. You were saying earlier that now you've been in real estate for about 25 years, maybe more.
Talk a little bit about how your relationship has evolved over that time and how your network has helped to actually shape your involvement in a wide variety of segments within the real estate industry.
Kurt Browning: I think a deep network is really important for any sort of real estate development and investment activity because you deal with so many different bankers in multiple states, you deal with investors that, sure, a lot of them are based here in New Mexico, but we haven't been in Florida, Texas elsewhere, Hawaii, Seattle, they're all over.
That baseline network helps you expand the network. If that makes sense. For example, we raise equity funds to fund our real estate development. We'll be raising our third fund here this year. And the first fund was first one out of the gate, shorter list of investors, but you start to have success and they talk to people.
And they say, "Well, you got to call up Titan and talk to these guys." And so the list starts to expand based on a really small network that was the seed, I guess you would call it, but I have to give kudos to my two partners here, Ben Spencer and Kevin Reed that kind of planted that seed 20 years ago and it needs to expand.
But you have to be proactive about that network and still be genuine and tell everybody that you've got some great projects. You're trying to convince them to invest with you. They're taking a good word from a friend of yours that's been an investor for 10 years.
But it all started with that network, and what's really ironic is that one investor I referenced right now, who's telling his two cousins, "You ought to talk to Titan and invest with them." I met him on the soccer field 10 years ago, coaching his daughter.
Alana Muller: Comes full circle, right? Full circle.
Kurt Browning: That domino effect.
Alana Muller: And long term in nature, these were not transactional interactions that they were touch points along the way, you were building trust, you were gaining credibility. You talked about being genuine, being authentic. I think not only are you describing it, but you've been living it. So wonderful examples.
Kurt Browning: I've never heard it called that, a touch point, but you're right. It's not always a business transaction.
Alana Muller: Right. That's exactly right. What advice would you share with someone who wants to grow or cultivate their own professional network?
Kurt Browning: I was just talking to one of our associate attorneys here on staff and he's been here, gosh, almost a year maybe, younger guy. He asked me the same question, and I just said, get involved. Not everybody's super outgoing. Not everybody can go work a room without an agenda. But get involved, get plugged in.
Everybody thinks, well, I have to be on the real estate such and such commission. Well maybe. Pick a board that you're excited about or a task force or a municipal official or elected official that says, "Hey, I need some help here. I'm forming a commission or a task force," we're quick to jump on those just because it keeps you involved. And I think that's the key thing to expand that network is just serving on boards, associations, commissions, et cetera.
Alana Muller: Great advice. For you, and you've talked a little bit about this, but let me ask you, has most of your networking been what I would call it organic or kind of unintentional where it was almost, I call them collisions, where you kind of run into somebody and that begins the relationship?
Or has it been more deliberate in terms of building a strong network, asking for referrals and seeking out specific opportunities? Has it been a combination for you or have you tended toward one or the other?
Kurt Browning: I think it's been a combination, but now that I think about it, I bet it leans towards more organic. If you ask people that know me, they would say that Kurt's pretty authentic, pretty genuine. And I think it's a little more organic because that's the way it starts.
You build some trust with some authenticity and then if you're wanting or needing something, it's easier to make that request. So probably leaning towards more organic. That being said, I mean, some of those are deliberate, reaching out to potential new investors in our real estate deals that are very deliberate.
But a lot of those happen because so and so mentioned us to them or them to us. Many times, there's just not a whole lot of cold calls. It's somebody had suggested, "Hey, you ought talk to Titan or vice versa."
Alana Muller: Right. Yeah. Makes perfect sense. So I always have to ask a couple of fun questions. So let me ask you the first of those. So if you could meet with any person for a network interaction, living, not living, fictional, nonfictional, who would it be and why?
Kurt Browning: Oh wow. Probably not for a networking interaction. See, I don't even think about trying to be network or deliberate or what can I get out of this person? I just read the book, The Immortal Irishman by, I think it's Tim Egan, bestseller list for quite a while.
And it's about Thomas Francis Meagher a gentleman from Ireland in the 1840s, went through the famine and lived, ended up in prison in Australia, gets to America, fights in the civil war, becomes the first governor of Montana, fascinating guy. I mean, it's just one of those things where he lived more lives in his than anybody else's. So I know it's a little outside the box, but.
Alana Muller: That's super fun. I mean, what you're sort of conveying is everybody has a story. It sounds like this poor fellow, he had definitely at least nine lives, maybe more.
Kurt Browning: Yeah, fascinating story. It was on the bestseller list for quite a while. I would recommend it to anyone.
Alana Muller: Love that. What's currently on your nightstand?
Kurt Browning: I'm a big reader, voracious reader, nonfiction, Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides, which is a kind of historical account of old New Mexico and the Southwest and Kit Carson. Really good book. And The Bomber Mafia that just came out, Malcolm Gladwell, it too was on the bestseller list.
Alana Muller: Awesome.
Kurt Browning: And the Bible. Those three are on my nightstand.
Alana Muller: Excellent. All right. That's a good one to have there too. That's great. Well, this has been such a fun conversation. I love your energy, your willingness to really put yourself out there and connect with others. So bravo to you. Thank you so much for being part of our conversation today. If our listeners want to learn more about Titan, where can they visit you?
Kurt Browning: We have a website, titan-development.com and there are a couple links in there for both of our equity funds that we've put together to date.
Alana Muller: That's terrific. Kurt Browning, thank you so much for being part of Enterprise.ing Podcast.
Kurt Browning: Alana, thanks for your time.
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