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Personal contact as important as social media to stay connected

We asked a group of 40 Under 40 alums how they stay connected to their peers, inside and outside their business sector.

Keeping tabs on social media, attending community events, volunteering, joining organizations and good old-fashioned socializing out on the town, were among the answers.

While some folks take a very personal approach to staying in touch with clients and peers, others rely on their team to share the responsibility.

Regardless of their method, these young professionals recognize the importance of maintaining relationships and staying on top of the current developments in their field.

Justin Hamilton (Class of 2017), partner at Hamilton Stern Construction:

Hamilton relies heavily on a staff of 42 to keep up with the trends and stay in touch with people.

Justin Hamilton

Justin Hamilton

“We try to find talented people to surround ourselves with here in our office,” he said.

“It kind of comes naturally to them, and when you surround yourself with good people who share similar goals and have the same people skills as you, you tend to absorb things,” he said.

Hamilton sees social media as a good way of keeping up with the trends and staying in touch with people. But he leaves the day-to-day interaction with social media up to a marketing unit that maintains social media accounts — LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

“My brand and my name obviously is the company, so I can’t run my business and also try to stay in touch on the social media side. It’s too hard. It’s consuming,” he said.

“You’ve got to pick and choose what we actually want to tackle, and for me it’s business development. That’s my end, staying in front of the customers and getting that next job,” Hamilton said.

“Just going out socially is a good way of staying in touch with our customers.”

Hamilton handles most of the residential construction accounts for his company, which requires a personal touch. Seeing those customers at restaurants and bars, golf tournaments, and at Monroe Golf Club, where he is a member, helps him stay in touch with the clientele.

“I don’t know that there’s any one way that I do it, or any special way that I do it—it’s just staying out in the community,” Hamilton said.

“Our business is a relationship business, so if you’re not out rubbing elbows with anybody then you’re really not going to find work,” he said.

“In order to be in this business you’ve got to have a personality that can handle change and you’ve got to be a people person.”

He said being actively involved in organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Rise Against Hunger “are great outlets for staying in touch with the community as well as other like-minded professionals who are invested in Rochester.”

Rachel Pickering Bonsignore (Class of 2011), chief operating officer, The Children’s Agenda:

Rachel Pickering Bonsignore

Rachel Pickering Bonsignore

“Last year I completed the certificate in nonprofit management through the Center for Community Engagement at St. John Fisher College. The course not only increased my knowledge of nonprofit management but also facilitated great connections with my peers (across multiple disciplines) in the greater Rochester region.

“The Council of Agency Executives networking groups are a wonderful opportunity to build relationships, organizational best practices and share lessons learned.

“As a member of the United Way of Greater Rochester’s Women’s Leadership Council, I try to attend their networking and philanthropic events whenever possible as a way to connect with awesome women (who are) doing phenomenal work in the greater Rochester community.

“As a member of The Children’s Agenda team, we advocate for effective policies and drive evidenced-based solutions for the health, education, and success of children, especially the most vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health disparities and trauma. With that as our mission, it’s essential to develop new perspectives and build relationships between organizations, networks, and leaders so that together we may achieve great things for kids.”

Truman Tolefree (Class of 2016), principal, director of acquisitions, Morgan Communities:

Truman Tolefree

Truman Tolefree

“With respect to staying connected to peers outside of my industry, historically, I did so via social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  However, I decided to exit social media altogether, save LinkedIn, approximately one year ago.

“Since doing so, I’ve reclaimed the time that was spent checking those applications and I find myself more focused and productive throughout the day.  Now, I stay in touch the old fashioned way — via phone and email — and, oddly enough, I believe the relationships I choose to maintain are more rewarding.

“With respect to peers within my industry, I think it’s important to have a presence on LinkedIn and to join industry trade groups.  Subscribing to industry periodicals and news blogs is also very helpful.  For me, that entails being a member of the National Multifamily Housing Council, subscribing to Multifamily Executive, and Real Estate Investment Today magazines, and checking www.GlobeSt.com as a part of my daily routine.

“I also attend relevant and reputable industry conferences, which provide excellent opportunities to hear and learn about new industry trends and, equally important, to network and strengthen existing personal and professional relationships.

“For example, I recently attended Novogradac & Company’s 2018 Historic Tax Credit conference in Nashville, Tenn.  Not only was I able to learn more about a new exciting industry trend, twinning historic tax credits with opportunity zone funds, but I was also able to reconnect with peers (developers, tax credit investors, accountants, lawyers, etc.) across the county.

“Re-establishing these personal connections makes it easier for me to pick up the phone or to send an email to ask a question or seek guidance, and, in this way, my industry peers become my thought partners, which is invaluable.”

Mollene Benison (Class of 2012), CPA, partner, DeJoy, Knauf & Blood:

Mollene Benison

Mollene Benison

“Staying connected is always a challenge when you have a busy career and active family. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be involved with so many other people who also make the effort to stay connected with me.

“My 40 Under 40 peers are the perfect example. That group is just bursting with individuals who support each other throughout the Rochester community and encourage others to do so as well; and being a part of that team is something I hold near and dear to my heart.

“Just last week, two close friends whom I met through our connection to 40 Under 40 attended the annual YWCA luncheon with me. It was inspiring and humbling at the same time. And sharing it with people I care about makes all the difference.

“Whether I am attending networking events or simply inviting individuals to lunch or happy hours, it’s the effort I put in that makes the difference.

“In my industry, I have established close longstanding relationships and work hard to find winning solutions for challenging situations. This helps me play a significant role in the success of my clients’ businesses. I connect with my clients regularly and often in-person. I’m on the run a lot, but it’s worth every minute of my demanding schedule to maintain those connections.

“It’s critically important to stay active in our community — giving back is something I cherish.  I do this through my volunteer work, as well as attending events for charities and nonprofit organizations that help the Rochester area.

“Not only does it contribute to the greater good, but it keeps me up to date on what is relevant to my connections. I work with the Geneseo Foundation, SUNY Geneseo Business Advisory Council, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Summit Federal Credit Union, and the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County.

“Being honored as a 40 Under 40 recipient, it’s my responsibility to support, give guidance and help other individuals in need. I’m lucky that many of my fellow 40 Under 40 recipients feel the same way. We attend many nonprofit and community events together, which helps all of us grow and build additional connections — and maintain our relationships at the same time.”

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