Ian Roth has a knack for spotting opportunities. It’s a talent that dates back to a summer during his childhood when he sold ice-cold Gatorades to thirsty construction workers in his neighborhood. His preferred method of transport? A red wagon.
Nowadays, he’s traded the drinks and wagon for more grown-up digs – but his entrepreneurial eye hasn’t wavered. Just four years after graduating from Full Sail’s Recording Arts Bachelor’s program, he’s already a partner at the popular culture site Ridiculous Lifestyle, provides internet marketing consulting services for business clients, and co-hosts a weekly podcast in his home studio. He’s also built a name for himself as one of Central Florida’s go-to luxury real estate photographers.
It started as a hobby, then it turned into a side gig. “I started doing product photography in my living room, then that expanded to exotic cars, and that led to houses.” Now, photography is Ian’s main profession and passion. Two of his current clients are Isleworth Realty and Stockworth Realty, “both of which specialize in luxury real estate and regularly sell homes in the $1,000,000+ price range,” he says.
Clients like Isleworth and Stockworth have provided opportunities for Ian to travel both within and out of the country, and to spend time in the company of some pretty extraordinary people. He doesn’t take this for granted, and uses the limited time he spends with luxury homeowners to strike up conversations about their own travels or passions.
That’s great for homeowners, as candid conversations help Ian see which features are truly important in a given house, and allows him to capture all of those things as accurately as possible in photos. It’s also great for Ian, who’s made a long list of friends and mined some great networking tips over the past few years.
The key to effective networking, he says, is exhibiting curiosity. “I find myself in the places where people spend a lot of their time, so I’m surrounded by clues as to who this person is, what kind of art they enjoy, the music they listen to. And the office! The office is something I always like to glance at. If there’s a computer with three monitors, I know they’re working in there a lot, maybe day trading or something similar. If there’s just a simple desk with an iPad, maybe it’s more for writing or drawing. I try to find what they’re an expert on, and then ask away. You’ll find that people really enjoy talking about themselves if you ask the right questions.”
And for those of us who don’t regularly venture inside strangers’ homes? “Ask simple questions. Find out what they do and where they’re from. One question I always ask is, ‘What’s the best book you’ve read lately?’ Some of my own favorite books have come from that question, including How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Just Listen by Mark Goulston. And if all else fails, there’s current events. As much as small talk gets a bad reputation, it’s a very easy ice-breaker. And remember names! People like to hear their own name.”
During a conversation, you should also remember to provide a lasting method of contact – whether it’s a contact card sent from a phone or a tangible business card – though Ian warns not to lean too heavily on this as a networking tool. “The main faux pas I see from some people is the ‘hand them the business card and walk away’ trick,” he says. “Nobody is going to remember you because of a piece of paper you handed them. They’ll remember a conversation. The business card is how they remember how to contact you.”
Once you’ve struck up a conversation, the final step is to position yourself as a resource. “Making people remember you is about finding out how you can become a resource to them. What do they need help with? How can you provide value to that individual? I don’t worry about selling myself as often as I do about helping other people solve their problems. With that said, never make the mistake of expecting people to help you or thinking a person owes you something. Help people because it’s the right thing to do.”
One example of Ian’s ability to provide value – to his clients, at least – is his genuine interest in real estate. He puts forth a lot of research to stay informed about the industry, and sees emerging technologies like virtual reality as important points on the horizon. “The travel industry is already using VR to convert potential customers to actual customers. I think that’s the future of real estate, too. My clients are very interested in being on the cutting edge of things, and I’m very interested in helping them get there.”
Outside of his real estate acquaintances, Ian meets new people … anywhere. “I love going out in Winter Park, for instance, and striking up conversations. Wherever you go, everybody has a story to tell or a piece of knowledge to offer.”
To see some of Ian’s work, check out his portfolio at IanRothStudios.com.