Alex Ruggieri is a believer who he believes is the first step in taking your business to the next level.
"You have to believe it's possible," said Ruggieri, CCIM, CIPS, CRE, senior investment advisor for SVN-Ramshaw Real Estate in Champaign, Illinois. “At the beginning of my career I didn't think I was going to do business nationally, but after filling the pump for a few years it happened. "
In fact, it took Ruggieri three years to actively network before hitting his first national deal. "In the first few years, I spent over $ 15,000 attending national meetings for free, but by the third year it began to pay off." Ten years later, Ruggieri was curious and added up the revenue from his national networking efforts. When he hit $ 1 million, he stopped counting. It was clear that the investment had paid off.
In recent years, working with international investors has meant taking his business to the next level.
In 2015, the Illinois REALTORS® Global Business Forum held a discussion on joining the National Association of REALTORS® in a pavilion in the US at the annual MIPIM commercial real estate exhibition in Cannes, France. Ruggieri was fascinated. (Note: This discussion took place before the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 MIPIM conference.)
"A lot of people were against being part of MIPIM, saying it was too expensive and it wouldn't turn into a business," says Ruggieri. "I changed my mind and wondered if I could repeat the experience of expanding my business, but this time on an international level."
About 230,000 people live in the market in Ruggieri, in the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area, about two hours south of Chicago. The University of Illinois based there is known for its science and engineering programs, and the university has spawned many tech startups. Hence, Ruggieri knew that the area was an attractive destination for global investors.
When Illinois REALTORS® decided to take part in MIPIM, Ruggieri was one of the first to say, "I'm going."
History repeats itself
His international business expansion reflected his national experience. For the first two years, Ruggieri returned from MIPIM with just one new contact list. In his third year, he secured a $ 6 million hotel deal that defeated both local and Chicago-based competitors for offering one thing the others didn't.
"I told them I could market it internationally through the global network that I had built." This first "international" transaction ended domestically with the buyer from the United States. However, history shows that global positioning can be a valuable marketing tool.
The US has consistently ranks high as a destination for foreign investment. AFIRE, an association of international real estate investors, conducts an annual survey among foreign investors. The group's most recent survey (conducted before the global pandemic) included six U.S. cities among the ten cities where investors said they wanted to increase their exposure in 2020. When Ruggieri listed a five-acre piece of land on the University of Illinois campus, he said Immediately he thought about the potential for international interest and used his network to eventually connect with Chinese investors who wanted a $ 40 worth of student housing project Million dollars built.
"Travel for fun and profit"
Ruggieri is not suggesting that the global market is for everyone. Compared to local or national companies, "it's more difficult," says Ruggieri. “I worked with a buyer in Australia once, the property was in the western US and I'm here in Illinois. At no point did I just pick up the phone to discuss the deal.
“Global business takes longer, both to cultivate and to make a deal. You have to be patient and work on it, "he says," but I say, "So what – even if it takes a few years?"
In addition to income, global business development offers an opportunity to see the world. Ruggieri traveled to industry events in Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur and Cannes, France. "I tell people that I travel for fun and profit," says Ruggieri. "I love to see the world, but more importantly, it's the people you meet. They really add to your quality of life." Ruggieri says he can go to any major city in the world and has a friendly voice and find someone willing to help him or connect him to others who can. "That's huge."
Where to start
For those interested in doing business around the world, Ruggieri recommends expanding your business nationally first. National contacts may be able to help you identify foreign investors as you don't know everyone. Getting involved in global industry groups like FIABCI USA and NAR's own CIPS network is a good start.
But above all is mindset. "You don't have to be in a big market to do international business," says Ruggieri. But you have to be a believer.