Engaging

‘How many will be there, Charlie?’ Mari asked.

‘A good mix of men and women no doubt,’ I replied.

‘Oh great, I much prefer lots of people, it makes for better value‘I’ll see if I can make it.’ Came the reply.

Contrary to the claims of the paid-for member-driven organisations … networking is not about how many cards you collect, followers gained, or even, who ‘likes’ you.

Results come from authenticity, how we engage and deliver the message.

The reality is, most people attending events spend time with only a small number of people. These usually are the contacts they already know and feel comfortable with. Know why? Because the most important buying decisions come from multiple meetings.

Multiple meetings. Yet, networking is not a numbers game.

My focus has always been on the business of building relationships. The process is affinity, association.

So, unless I’m lucky enough to be invited along as a key speaker(!) I see no real point in ‘being the butterfly,’ from one to another, attempting to inform a delegation, en masse.

Who wants to be known as the frantic networker?

Those in a hurry (though perhaps not frantic) may be like Mari. HR is her business and it’s all about hitting targets. She is accountable to the corporation for results and, being hungry, Mari works hard.

Yes, it’s true that we create our own luck … we can find new business by turning up and simply ‘bumping into’ our next client. Someone new, who may be looking for specifically whatever it is you offer. This is how Mari, and many in the field of sales see networking.

If you don’t do, you don’t …

The opportunity that is networking, the anticipated ‘full room’ creates expectancy, even excitement, joy! Although, it can also be disappointing if the sole purpose of being there is for the new business alone. Hence we don’t find many ‘purely salespeople’ visiting the Weekly Business.

My advice to anyone heading along to a networking event … of any kind, whatever size? Spend time and expect nothing more in return other than an exchange in conversation.

Prepare your ‘story,’ listen and be ready to declare what you may be looking for. People love to help others, even more so if they see that you are comfortable in your own shoes …

Sitting comfortably?

According to those who know …
Airline passengers who prefer the aisle seat are business travellers, who like to sit at the front of the plane and get off quickly. The people who prefer the window seat are leisure travellers, and so generally less valuable to airlines.

I do understand the above statement. People who hop on and off aircraft at different intervals are adding £’s (value) to the seats. New patrons arrive and so …

Less valuable? More or less valuable??

So, do you tend to haunt the window seat, gazing out toward the horizon? Choosing when to lay the head back against the bulkhead to be … [reasonably] assured of a little peace?

Perhaps, there’s less interference in the window seat, you choose to work or read when you want?

Or when travelling, perhaps you’re more like me? Perched on an aisle seat, I find it more convenient, to get up & stretch the legs. The aisle is also useful to the ‘nosey’ person like me, too busy looking. I tend not to log on when flying, I like to see what’s happening around me. People watching, savouring the moment and when our host might be back with a refreshment or a chat …

I wonder if the window-seat is more often than not occupied by the introvert?

When networking I find it fascinating to hear how others contend with the business journey. Whether I’m in conversation with an owner-manager at a point when the business is running itself. Or a chat with another friend who is content on stoking the marketing machine, looking for the plateau. The vision, the way forward.

I find the new business owner, the start-up to be a great sounding board also. As is meeting someone who is looking to leave a well-established business and move on. Pastures new always inspire.

Each time we meet another in business we’re comparing notes, don’t you think? Where are they are in this journey, or perhaps where was I at that same juncture? It’s the opportunity to learn and share knowledge through conversation.  

We all have different preferences for our business and each of us leaves an impression, of differing value to someone else … however we fly, wherever we choose to sit.

Now, that’s an ice-breaker!

I am often asked what it takes to ‘successfully network.’

My answer is usually:
‘It depends on how you interpret successfully?’

Networking is not about transactions. It’s about reaching out to people as you offer your views, opinions, and support.

Each of us has different life experiences and we’re all able to contribute to the conversation in different ways. We should never underestimate the value of conversation.

Wondering where to start? Here’s a (relatively) easy way to start the conversation, I call it the ‘Form Guide:’

When meeting someone new, try and keep the following questions at the back of the mind:

“How far have you come, where are you FROM?’
“Are you part of an ORGANISATION?’
“Is networking part of your RECREATION or are you here on business?”
“So, what MOTIVATES you?”

Chances are the conversation will lead a natural course after the opening line(!)

If you remember that different people are networking for a whole bunch of different reasons … quite apart from the transaction, then an easy conversation is assured.

Give relationships time and success (in whatever drives you) will be just a little closer.  If all else fails … a smile is a great ice-breaker!

cultivating opportunity

Hope you like the Byron Katie quote here, it’s only remotely connected to this post but I like it, there’s so much we miss out on if we don’t keep our eyes open …

I’ve had plenty of time recently to think about what’s important to me/my business.

One routine that’s important to me is networking. It’s become the cornerstone for new enquiries, amongst a lot of other things.

‘Sorry, not for me.’ I hear some say. ‘I’m fine right here!’ Say others. Agreed, it’s not for everybody, there are those where networking is unable to help. 

For me, networking brings more than business. Think, for a minute about the relationships we develop. With like-minded people in conversation, business is easier. The engagement brings an understanding of what makes a difference. Shared thinking helps cultivate and create opportunities.

Networking cultivates opportunity. 

My ‘day job?’ People seek me out to write and publish their memoirs, stories of life experiences. It’s a great learning curve for both of us. We stop and converse. A lot.

How else do we get to know the important stuff?
Not via the blog, (not even this one) not through a website, or even ‘social’ media. To develop the greatest understanding it’s the in-person meeting that makes a difference.

Through collaborative conversation, my client delivers a legacy for the family. For me, the collaborative process of detailing one’s memoir is also fulfilling. My business offers all-around fulfillment. It’s a huge bonus and I love what I do.

It’s worth asking yourself. ‘What does my business cultivate?’ The culture of any business, what is it? I know it’s tough working for yourself, I’m with you there.

The thing is, defining the route ahead when working in smaller, more focused teams is great but sometimes … we need conversation. My business cultivates conversation, relationships.

Another oft-overlooked benefit of networking is “engagement on purpose”. It’s essential for relationships. Take the money and run?  No, not the best practice in enhancing referral, reputations. Engagement is an essential part of marketing and it’s often underappreciated. How we engage, how we ‘follow up’ with our clients has a great impact on … how our customers feel.

If our clients feel valued, there’s a good reason to return … engagement. It’s worth considering, isn’t it?

The aftermath. Greater engagement brings developed relationships. It helps understand not only client expectations but what your business also cultivates.
Are you leaving your client feeling underwhelmed, or wanting more?  

This is the key to moving forward. Think aftermath.

Rewind, retune, repeat

Holiday time is a wonderful opportunity to revisit what matters most. It’s during the quiet times, away from the business, we find space to reflect, reset.

I guess that’s why it’s termed a recharge, we change our gaze, we find clarity, by seeing the next step, we confidently move forward.

Another New Year is with us and we know now what to expect … don’t we? The past year was a tough one, like the year before that, and we’ve come through it, we’ve learned, we’re wiser, tougher. 

A routine I’ve found myself practicing is the regular fine-tune. I keep a diary and find it helpful to compare notes, see where I was successful in the past and what I may not need this time. A simple bookkeeping habit for my small business. It keeps me lean, spontaneous, and more able to adapt than say, any larger organisation.

New connections are key to my business. So regular conversations and shared experiences are important. Conversations bring enlightenment and while it’s true that not every piece of dialogue brings new business … we’re better placed to find out what’s possible through engagement.

We’re making ourselves available for business. Rewind, fine-tune and keep going.

Rewound? Press play and go, show, and tell!  Engage peers and show your intentions. Along the way, enlighten those willing to listen so that they then inform their own circle.

What’s important to word of mouth? Conversation.

Rewind, adjust, fine-tune and repeat.

By allowing ourselves time on the plan, putting in place some simple routines, we fine-tune. We’ve more to engage our colleagues through practiced conversation.

Once we’re done, we go again. Rewind, retune, and repeat. Make yourself available for referrals. When you’re available and reliable, you become referrable.

Reflection

It’s not unusual to reflect, given the season … I find it helpful to take some time to the positives. Particularly those ‘small things’ that sometimes get lost in all the “busyness.”

Generally, 2021 was a good year. Of course, there are many reasons things went well, not all being related to something I did or any action I took and I do need to thank Rob Hatch for the following advice …

One thing I did consistently this year, having the most significant impact was that … I left room. Essentially, I gave myself more time between my work.

One simple example was scheduling time on either side of a meeting. Instead of a one-hour meeting or 121, I blocked off an hour and a half on my calendar.

This wasn’t because I expected I would run over. It was simply that I wanted to make time beforehand to arrive in the right frame of mind. I gave myself time afterward to process or take notes before jumping into the next thing.

The same was applied at the beginning and end of my day and also how I looked at projects as well. I allowed time for the unexpected … or family …

A luxury? Perhaps, although I came to realize how much more focused and effective I was when it mattered.

Enjoy the season, and don’t forget to leave a little room during 2022.

so the saying goes …

The village where I live is pretty small, in total around 60 men, women and children. The nearest ‘facilities’ are a couple of miles in any direction and so, reliable transport is useful,  especially during the winter.

Today, our household of four is still warming up after ten days without power. No electricity, heating, lights, I.T., nothing except for an essential landline telephone service. It’s been tough.

The positive? There were one or two moments. The four of us here were able to keep spirits up by ‘sharing the wear,’ so to speak. We were all kept busy with the fundamentals … most of all we have companionship. 

It couldn’t have been so easy for others, those with small children, or living alone, in darkness without any means of reaching out for support.

I/we’ve been lucky that the local public house had a fire going. The food was good and for those with smartphones, ‘information’ came beaming in.

As it happens, the emergency services here eventually ‘pulled the finger’ and set to reinstating power. Before long they reached our patch and even offered to pay the costs each household incurred. There was even a fish and chip van on-site to feed the community, warm the bellies. 

Oddly, following the restoration of services, I discovered the legacy these past few days offered me … a different kind of challenge. 

I endured one of those ‘duhhh’ moments, a lightbulb realisation … that these past 24 months have been just so extraordinary.

The trials of a recent blackout (during the pandemic) have tested everyone here in Northumberland, combined with the sheer volume of negative reporting, it’s made me sit up and reflect.

What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger … 

The tough times have made me think of values. The positive stuff that is so important. Qualification, clarification. Simple support. That’s most of us, right?

We need that stuff. 

Any size organisation thrives on positivity. From ground level to rooftops and everyone in-between, feel good is appreciated …

The past few years will go down as a marker, a benchmarking exercise for the levels of resilience shown within our global community. 

That’s why I consider myself extremely lucky to regularly access a diverse network of like-minded business owners, those I know well, who I trust.  It’s during the tough times when we reach out to our community, we find out who our real allies are. 

Many hands …

Having been self-employed for over two decades, I’ve always had great faith in my own ability to succeed. I find optimism to be far more productive than the alternative.

While bags of resilience are a must, more importantly, is a well-developed plan to help to routinely ‘put the work in.’ That said, these past few years have been particularly challenging for every business, even for the optimist.

Particularly challenging when taking your eye off the prize for a minute and that distant horizon seems to disappear completely.

The prize? I hear you ask.

At the end of the day, the prize for all our endeavours is something personal to each one of us. It could be (in my case) a new business affiliation where a like-minded soul and I could work together, sharing ideas, supporting those who need to be served. 

For Emma Thackara, pivoting a brand new business, Emma is looking to support SME’s by demonstrating her own 20+ years of marketing experience. My good friend (and Yoga teacher) Harsha Moore provides individuals with ad-hoc, qualified employment guidance – it’s her great skill.

Like myself, Harsha and Emma dedicate their business to helping those in need. Like many, we’re bringing specialist support to the table so that the prize is visible and attainable.

OK, so the prize may be ultimately more business, more receipts in exchange for skilled support. Maybe … although, I’ve often thought there is more to ‘it’ than cash in the pocket and revenues.

When times are tough, like now. When most everyone is struggling to keep at least one eye on the horizon, I’ve found a strong reputation mixed with a depth of reliable friends and associates is invaluable.

You could say that the ‘prize’ is something intangible. Affiliation takes time, as does trust. Just two of those overlooked ‘invisible prizes,’ earned through networking. 

Being ‘in business’ can be challenging, but through trusted connections, you have trusted, qualified support able to help, conjuring echoes of that age-old proverb:

‘Many hands make light work.’
John Heywood.

Closer to home

I stepped out of the house and closed the door behind me, just as Andrew left the bus. It’d been a while since I’d seen him, he looked perplexed.

Good morning Andrew, Good to see you, how are you? I called out.

Andrew offered a smile and an outstretched hand as I approached. “Well, that’s a greeting, good to see you also Charlie …” 

We stood for a few minutes, chatting together before we began the short walk toward the local store. Andrew had a lot on his mind, not least neighbours who were thinking of sub-dividing land adjacent to his home. He was a little flustered because no one was listening to his protests, a feeling that his opinion was not important.

I wished I could have been able to help my friend. His situation looked to be unsettling him. I suggested that apart from approaching local authorities, perhaps having a further conversation with his neighbour may help … 

We’ve all experienced similar situations, haven’t we?  Do we push to have our voices heard, or accept the status quo? 

Andrew and I parted ways as we reached the store. I picked up what I needed and went to pay the cashier. With my receipt, came a leaflet into the palm of my hand. 

‘Thank you for the business Charlie, don’t forget to vote, your participation matters.

It seems the local ‘convenience’ was under threat of closure and the leaflet was asking for my views.

Suddenly, I found myself standing in Andrew’s shoes. The actions of others were threatening to significantly change my own lifestyle.

Of couse I did as asked and voted to uphold our community hub, the only one of its kind for several miles. I also viewed plans for the proposed redevelopment, I even called the local authority.

It wasn’t long when I soon realised what I was doing wasn’t going to be enough. My protests weren’t be heard through my voice alone. Not until I rallied friends, neighbours, community groups, local businesses … 

Leverage. We’re able to achieve much more when we share our stories. We lighten the load just by asking and it also show’s that we mean business. Seeking support can be empowering.

Just now though, outside of my own personal concerns, there are plenty of issues the greater global community is looking to achieve. Each of us can do so much more through accountability and cooperation.

If we only ask.

Chicken soup day

So it promised to be a busy day, Saturday. I may even clear my desk!
Usually, I try not to spend too much time on stuff I’m usually doing during normal office hours … but hey, what are normal office hours? Today, I may even clear my desk!

Besides, if I managed to finish the edits to a short story collection, I’d make headway into a manuscript I’d recently accepted. Normal office hours? Flexibility is very important to my business and using my time to best effect is something I enjoy.

Today I thought I was doing ok until an impromptu visit from my not-so-happy wife had me ‘downing tools.’

I need to go to the dentist. Now, please. I could see by the look on Sue’s face that she was not having a good time. I was aware there was a ‘niggling’ issue although neither of us knew how severe it had now become.

Do you have painkillers/drugs? I asked.

‘Some.’  Came the reply

OK, I thought, yes, let’s do this … prioritise. The dentist …
So I picked up the telephone and dialled, only to met with a voicemail declaring “We’re now closed for the weekend, please call back Monday. Do not leave a message, do not turn up at the surgery unless invited.” 

The news didn’t go down well with Sue. 
‘What are we going to do?’

Of course, there is always something we could try next, but right now? Knowing how debilitating a severe toothache can be, I needed to make plans for the next 36hrs.  
More painkillers, mouth wash, cold packs … wine!
What about food?

‘Can we call the NHS emergency?’

Good idea. I called NHS out of hours No. 111, left details, and waited … within minutes the nurse was on the ‘phone.
‘Sounds like it’s an abscess Sue, nothing we can do until Monday. Don’t take any more Ibroprufen, Paracetamol instead, pick up some Benzocaine, apply cold packs … stick to a liquid diet, but stay off the alcohol …’ 

So I had my shopping list. I left Sue in charge of ‘dear dawg’ and set off. After an hour I had found most of what we required. The ‘liquid diet’ needed work though.

Soup. Of course. Let’s choose, either canned or homemade? No contest, decision made, it was to be homemade, chicken soup … 

In good time I was home, (the last painkiller swallowed by Sue hours ago.) The prescribed paracetamol was set to work. and I made my way to work in the kitchen. 

Where am I going with this? I hear you say.
Saturday it turned out, was not to be the day for catching up with the outstanding business. When it comes to looking after family, there’s no contest. Besides, I found the distraction helped with the clarity once I did return to the ‘tools’ of business.

Life has a way of reminding us that there is more to life than business … just in case we’d forgotten.
Business is personal.

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