ICSC_ChicagoI recently attended the 2013 ICSC Chicago Deal Making conference at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL. This annual event is billed as: “… a great opportunity for owners, developers, retailers, brokers, lenders, municipalities, property asset managers and product and service providers to gather under one roof to exhibit, make deals and form successful business partnerships.” With over 2,400 attendees and 200+ exhibitors, a great networking event this truly is.

This is my second year attending the Deal Making conference and I believe my experience the second time around was more rewarding than my first. Last year I had just joined Schulz Properties, Ltd. and had minimal interaction in the retail world, which ICSC is all about, so I was basically there to absorb and meet people. This year, after a year of handling multiple retail centers throughout the south and western suburbs, I had more reasons to be there and many more established relationships to continue to foster.

Also this year I have been asked by some people why even attend this event? Well here are some examples of the things you can accomplish here:

1. Meet hard to reach municipalities

I have been working with a client for over a year on multiple transactions throughout Illinois. There is one city we have been working with a landlord for a year about going into their building but due to some regulations within the city we have not been able to pull the trigger of the lease. After the recent mayoral election and change of the guard we have not been able to set up a meeting with the new mayor to find out the new administrations direction on our use. My client’s internal government team has tried numerous times to meet with the mayor with not much success.

That said, the night before the conference I found out the Mayor and the Business Development Director were going to be at the event. I reached out to them via email, received a call while at the conference, set up a meeting for an hour later and had a sit down meeting with my client, the Mayor, the Business Development Director and one of the Trustees from the municipality. After months and months of calling into city hall to meet face-to-face, in less than 24 hours from one email sent we were able to sit down and have the much needed meeting.

2. Connect with brokers of active deals

One of the easiest and best meetings to set up and establish at this conference are with brokers, and if their clients are with them, of transactions you are trying to get across the finish line. A lot of times you may only speak to the brokers via phone and never have any face-to-face time. This is a great opportunity to meet and discuss the how to move the transaction along. There have been many deals actually signed at this event, which always makes a successful conference!

In one of my meetings, I was meeting with a broker I was trying to get their client to move to a different suite in the property. During our conversation some questions came up about added costs to move to the new suite that we didn’t have the answer to. So we walked a few yards down the conference center and stopped by the Village’s booth and spoke with the Mayor and City Manager. Now how often does that happen? Never!

3. Networking

Of course networking with new brokers, Villages, and vendors is one big benefit at the conference. I have found the after-parties are a great way to build on the established relationships you already have. During the conference brokers are all busy with their meetings and their clients, but afterwards at the different nightly parties you are able to hang out and build on your relationships. Working with brokers is an everyday aspect to our business and having a solid relationship with the active brokers in the market really helps make every transaction move smoothly. You build a trust with each other and it makes working together enjoyable.

If you have an ICSC Deal Making event near you, I would encourage you to attend. To make your time there more worthwhile I suggest setting up at least 4 to 5 meetings ahead of time and then the rest enjoy. Make sure you go to night events hosted by the various brokerage firms.

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