How to Establish a Competitive Advantage

Mike Canning

Mike Canning, Vice President of HALL Structured Finance (HSF), has been in the construction lending industry for 12 years. As social media has evolved during the course of his career, so has the influence and impact of face-to-face networking. An expert in the hospitality industry, Mike discusses how HSF remains competitive within this changing networking landscape.

Networking Strategy

The digital world has changed drastically, but face-to-face contact has continued to remain important in creating meaningful relationships and brand awareness. An Oxford study showed that executives estimate that 40 percent of their new customers are a direct result of in-person meetings, while also emphasizing that three-quarters of businesses believe travel builds market share and relationships.

Corporate executives believe in-person meetings are more effective than web-based meetings and teleconferences. In-person meetings produce significant returns and new leads for companies, something that social media platforms will never be able to replace.

Annual Conferences

It is more important today than ever to attend conferences, as the biggest advantage from attending is in-person networking. Brands grow their footprints through attending and speaking at conferences every year, and HSF is no exception. Conferences are a great tool for meeting people from different parts of the world while incorporating the face-to-face relationship building that often leads to more opportunities.

HSF attends multiple conferences every year and two of them are solely hospitality-focused – the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference and The Lodging Conference. The Hunter Conference, hosted at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, focuses on sharing industry trends to help investors grow their businesses, while the Lodging Conference, hosted at The JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, provides multiple networking opportunities and thought-provoking speaking panels. In addition, HSF frequently attends the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Conference in San Diego. This conference is not specifically hospitality-focused, which introduces the HSF loan program to new potential relationships within the commercial real estate finance industry.

Residence Inn | Mesa, Arizona

Competitive Advantage

Attending each of these conferences has played a significant role in developing broker relationships for our team, further illustrating the importance of in-person networking. These connections made can pay significant dividends years later. For example, several years after a chance meeting with a broker at the MBA conference, our team closed an $18.5M loan for a DoubleTree by Hilton development in Hilo, Hawaii with that same broker. We were able to close an additional two loans as a result of networking at the Hunter Conference – a $23M loan for a Hampton Inn development in Watsonville, California and a $17.3M loan for a Residence Inn development in Mesa, Arizona. Similarly, stemming from building a relationship over the course of several Lodging Conferences, we were able to close a $22.8 million loan for a Hyatt Place development in Houston.

The broker relationships made at these conferences have resulted in tangible returns on investment for HSF, but just meeting and exchanging business cards is often not enough. Cultivating those relationships over time is what can yield rewards for years to come. A competitive advantage at HSF – as one of a small number of construction lenders – is our ability to invest in these conferences and host face-to-face meetings with senior-level industry executives. The ability to network and grow, not only as an individual through knowledge-sharing but as a brand, is highly valuable in today’s business landscape and a critical component of brand awareness and adoption.

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