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  • Writer's pictureAlexa L. Barnett

2023 Lesson Two: If Someone Says You Can’t, Ask Why

Disclaimer: this is the personal blog of Alexa L. Barnett and does not reflect any position of her employer.

I had an idea. I wanted to coordinate a panel event with six speakers. It would require attendees to miss a half day of work, and I wanted to do it in four months. ServPro had generously offered us their training room that held 50 people, but that was the only progress I had made when we met.  

I asked someone (extremely qualified) to grab lunch so I could run an idea past them. This person planned similar events for a more established industry organization in town, and they told me this was an unrealistic goal, if not an unachievable one. Instead of taking this at face value, I spent the next hour asking “why” over and over until I understood the obstacles ahead / the check arrived:

  • High caliber speakers are scheduled 6-10 months in advance and charge anywhere from $500 to $10,000. 

  • After paying the speakers, I would need at least $10,000 to pull this off. Crappy catered lunches are expensive. 

  • Companies would not want to sponsor the first year. They’d want proof of concept before writing a big check. 

  • Some of the more established professionals in town had heard CRE615 was a “party organization” (to clarify, networking should be fun and the venues should energize you, but many of our events are kiddo friendly for working parents!). They found value in paying $25 for their employees to attend our happy hours after work, even sponsoring said happy hours, but that might not translate to them wanting to spend real money on tickets that require their employees to take the day off for a "party panel” with minimal substance.

Asking “why” uncovered the external obstacles. I had to convince highly successful people to speak at my event for free. Then I had to brand the event in a way that companies would want to sponsor, and so that established professionals would not only see the value, but encourage their employees to attend on the company's dime. 

But the biggest obstacle was internal. Did I have what it took to pull this off in four months? And if I did, was it worth it?

No. I did not.

But I had a village of members who saw the value in making this happen. They helped secure sponsors, speakers, and volunteered the day of.

So how'd it go?

I was not able to secure or pay six high caliber speakers.

But as a village, we had eleven, including Tony Giarratana, Johari Matthews, Deb Varallo, and Meg Epstein; and none requested a speaking fee. 

I was not able to get 50 attendees.

But as a village, we had 207. 

I was not able to raise $10,000 in sponsorships.

But as a village we raised nearly $20,000. 

I was not able to convince the more established professionals that they should pay for their employees to miss work for this event.

Our members did that themselves, and many of them brought their bosses.

That lunch was the catalyst that turned a one-off event idea into The Changemakers Summit.

Key Takeaways:
If someone says an idea“won’t work”, don't take it personally. They're trying to help, so let them. Ask them to elaborate until you understand all of the perceived obstacles.
Just because you can, does not mean you should. Big things require big time commitments. Only you will know if the sacrifice is worth the intended outcome. 
YOU probably can’t do it alone, but if you surround yourself with the right people, it can be done. If you don't have those people in your life right now, start networking and you will.

Click HERE to see all the photos by Morgan Visual Productions!

Click HERE to checkout the 2nd Annual Changemakers Summit on 1/25/24!

Alexa L. Barnett is the owner of CRE615, LLC, a networking, educational, and mentorship platform for the Nashville's next generation of commercial real estate professionals.


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