December, morning coffee…

It was a typically dark, cold December morning and I was more than pleased when Natasha and coffee arrived, just as we surveyed the setting for today’s business over breakfast.

Approaching headlights suggested that our hostess Natasha and I wouldn’t be alone for long though, the first of our company this morning were on their way.

Nice and early Martin!’ I said, glancing at the clock on the clubhouse wall, 06.45.

Courtesy of the Mrs, Charlie. My car had broken-down over the weekend so Sue and the kids kindly offered a lift, they needed to be at school early anyway … I’ll be meeting ‘Bruce the garage’ here as he’s running me back after today’s meeting to attend the vehicle.

‘Sounds like a plan Martin.’

The tail-lights of ‘taxi Sue’s’ car receded in the distance, dawn was finally on its way as were others for our weekly business meeting.

Even on a dark winter’s morning, we enjoyed a good attendance, plenty of interaction and discussion, the business flowed and with a near full-house … apart from ‘Bruce the garage.’

Martin had received a message to say he’d been called out for ‘an emergency’ and that he’d be in touch asap.

‘The best-laid plans eh, Martin?’

Any chance of a lift over my way Charlie?

Among those at the meeting, someone managed the lift Martin needed with an added bonus … the driver knew he could hook-up Martin with an alternative local garage – a ‘start-up’ looking for more business so it wasn’t long before Martin was back on the road and ‘taxi Sue’ back in the old routine.

‘Bruce the garage’ had left an impression, sadly nothing to enamour his reputation as the ‘go to’ service either.

Today in business, relationships matter. Even more so if you are a service provider, business is personal. It’s not what you have or what you can do that impresses your next best client, it’s how you relate.

Better together

 

Bob arrived, pulled up a chair and reclined with a cup of what appeared to be hot chocolate …

‘So, what do you say, Bob? I asked.’

~

Getting good players is easy. Getting those good players to play together is the hard part.” 

It’s so true don’t you think? A quote by Casey Stengel, I thought this was ‘right up our street.’ Just about sums up the development of our referral network, don’t you think?

‘A good one Bob, yes, I like this one as well, collaboration is a huge part of the business. Especially so for the small business.

OK, I get that, what do you say though, when you meet someone who doubts the value of collaboration?

‘It depends on circumstances Bob, we’re all different, aren’t we? Some don’t value it. Others may be wary of the thought of relinquishing the reins of business, perhaps it’s uncomfortable for them. Some of us fear ‘control’ may be lost when meeting new people, developing those new relationships and trust.

Being aware that we are working for ourselves is great for the soul. No matter whether you’re employed, or whether you have your own business Bob. I remember that as soon as I understood the value, of sharing views and opinions outside of the workplace, the sooner I learn to embrace the opportunity and many benefits good relations bring through my network, the human collateral. We’re never truly ‘going it along.’

Sharing the wear?

‘Sharing the chocolate perhaps? Yes, that’s about it, although in my case? More like taking my head out of the sand.

So networking is not about money?

‘Bob, the value of collaboration goes beyond ‘making money’… through collaboration we learn to think differently, we’re inspired while educating and sharing strengths. Networking is the opportunity to develop strong connections with ready-made marketing expertise, finance wizards, creatives and much more. All developed through networking. We’re richer before we know it.

So, engaging others makes you more profitable?

‘We’re immediately better off when we meet someone new Bob. By making the human connection, by offering help and support when required – and not simply at a professional level … networking is hugely educational and can help solve many doubts and dilemmas, even before they materialise.

Henry Ford said it best.

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.”

My quote is better though Charlie.

‘Better together, Bob.’

community network

Community-focused networking has lots of benefits, some are immediately evident, others need clarification and I was witness to this just recently as around twenty met over ‘brunch.’

Our guest was Michael has a lot of domestic responsibility, being the ‘office at home’ and supporting two young kids. He loved the idea of opportunity through engagement, connecting with others in business. The same for many sharing a similar routine these days …

‘Great business today Charlie, met some good people and so glad I accepted your invitation.’

It’s taking that first step, isn’t it? That’s where the intimidation lies, right? Stepping outside of the ‘comfort zone’ into an alien landscape, we all become moulded by our routines and I think Michael was no exception.

With a greater number working from the home office, we soon realise the value of people.

‘I didn’t know what to expect really. Although, I was half expecting the selly-sell, and/or the ‘sign-up’ so today was a refreshing change.’

‘Yes Michael, it is good to have you with us and course there are those who come along fishing for business, with focus on the referral. Others Michael, are just as happy to engage views, share the dialogue, focus on areas of passion, of need and the point of view, not to mention collaboration and to ultimately sample the ‘culture.’

Business is at times a secondary consideration – or ‘the bonus’ as some put it.

Seems to me, the development of community engagement is important, not least because it inspires better efficiencies by creating belonging. Along with a clear infrastructure, community helps us all, in whatever line business.

Most especially, those working from the home office.

‘Happy people mean a happy business, right?’

True Michael, cultivating the community network has enabled many to plan for the realisation of longer-term goals, the chance to step away from the monthly/quarterly led management figures and visualise the ‘bigger picture’.

Cultivating community delivers so much more. Community inspires relationships, affinity, infrastructure and ultimately the trust – then comes referral.

Plant with care

Plant with care, weed with purpose

Long ago I was advised I should be hanging on to those business cards … ‘you never know when it may come in useful.’

Trouble is, I’ve just taken a look at around 25yrs worth of hanging on to business cards and I’ve come to the conclusion that 60% of these need to go…

‘Have you reached-out?’ I hear you say.

‘Don’t wait for the business, drop them a line with an update … include them in your newsletter, stay in mind.’ Yes, yes and I hear you again… but no.

Hey, I’ve been there, done that and I’m not so sure today’s networker has intentions for the long-term. Taking the advice though, half of those I included in updates had moved on, or sadly died. Half again seem to be only ‘in it’ for the now, so no. I’ve new purpose.

These days there are a core bunch of connections with whom I have a natural affinity. I see most of them on a regular basis and I value their advice and support.

I’ve learned over the years to select your close connections and cultivate with care. I look past the commercial engagement and seek more intrinsic values. I’m happy now to be comfortable in my shoes, happy where I sit in this place. Is this so bad?

So selecting my mates, my business connections, those whom I am prepared to spend time with in getting to know and trust is important to me. These are the people I can count on ‘for the journey.’

‘So what happens when someone else reaches out to you, do you accept the invitation?’ I hear you ask.

Sure, we need to engage and be prepared to offer help when it’s required, I believe that’s part of human nature, although if in ‘follow-up’ (and we all follow-up, don’t we?) the communication is lost, then I’m a little more mercenary on with whom I gift my time these days.

For me, cultivating new connections in business is a little like gardening. I’m more prone to plant and care more selectively, I’ve also developed a passion for recovering the space taken up by anything/anyone simply coming along for the ride …

Lose the bad apple

The bad apple. When it comes to referral some of us are our own worst enemies, don’t you think?

I’m writing in business context here, my young friend Ben had told me about a referral that sounded promising. Naturally Ben was upbeat about the connection and as is good practice, he followed up right away.

It turns out, this referral wasn’t picking up the telephone, made excuses via email and over the course of a couple of days the opportunity petered-out.

Seen it before folks? Here was another example of fast-track to oblivion in terms of referral marketing. Who was going to refer such a person after speaking with Ben? It’s true, bad news does indeed travel fast via word of mouth.

I did my best to reassure Ben that not all of his networking efforts are deemed to go the same way although I could see he was disappointed.

Trust is so important, Ben knows this, he had already made some great contacts so he could move on.

It’s six months now since I began working with Ben and his family as they establish the ‘new generation’ and over that time we’ve managed to avoid the unreliable ‘apple,’ determined the USP, covered ‘The Plan’ and worked on our ‘top ten’ attributes developing the dependable referral network … how do they compare with your own?

Attitude Do you have one? Ensure that it’s the positive kind.

Enthusiasm. Just like attitude, it’s contagious and brings out the best during networking.

Good Listener. Be sincere, how do you know what others want unless you listen?

Sharing. Share the knowledge, the good news and more, develop the relationship.

Trustworthy. Build trust by trusting others, sit down and listen to those new contacts.

Showing Gratitude. If someone helps out – that’s a great reason to say ‘thank you.’

Enjoy Helping Others. Some don’t ask it, so make sure you do: “How can I help you?”

Work Their Network …be on hand to support your colleagues.

Recommend others. Then ask them to recommend you.

Follow Up On The Referral. Nothing poisons the relationship faster than not following up on your promises. (Just ask Ben.)

Hey Charlie, that guy doesn’t bother me. He’s his own worst enemy and as far as I’m concerned, I cannot afford to be associated with him.”

That’s understood Ben just like your colleagues in your referral network.