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.’

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 …

He’s no one hit wonder

 

Ben, it’s great to hear you enjoyed the holiday. Welcome back.

 

“Thanks, Charlie, I did enjoy the time away from the factory, I took the opportunity to do a lot of thinking …”

Holidays are good for thinking Ben, have another biscuit with the tea … what do we need to discuss?

Ok, I’m thinking of offering our tailor made line online, you know, the additional income stream you talked about? Networking is great although I’m not getting a lot of ‘hits’ with my engagement – any reason why do you think?”

Hits Ben? The online store is a great idea …

The efforts you put into your business, your people and your network are a progressive development of the ‘reliable, dependable, Ben.’ It’s about you becoming the person your contacts can rely on, not only for the so-called ‘hits’ but for direction, advice and support.

Sure, you will find and always welcome the odd single order for your fine, bespoke footwear although is that the end game here?

What do you mean? Of course, I want orders, that’s what I’m networking for isn’t it?”

Ben, anyone can buy a pair of shoes that suit the budget, we get free financial advice, accountancy solutions or websites in a box, logos for not much more than a fiver, it’s all ‘out there’ Ben.

The meaningful partnerships in business surpass all of the above. The reason those ‘in the know’ are networking is the fact that the road to fruition is that much shorter with the help of our colleagues. Even if your network is the slow-burn, the odd order here, the single referral there … think about what you are cultivating Ben.

Your scope of contacts – even over a short time networking while developing the relationships and trust is enormous. Think of the connections others have and who they are able to refer you to given the relationship. Never underestimate leverage. Think also of the advice and support, the range of services at your fingertips for the sake of caring about others a couple of hours per week.

It’s not about the ‘hits’ Ben, it’s about your leverage and quality of connections, who knows you and who may then introduce you to others.

Have faith Ben, you are no ‘one hit wonder.’

So, what else did you do on holiday apart from thinking about work?

Be you, get naked

 

‘We become part of the company that we keep, that’s for sure.’

 

I was having a conversation with a friend as we walked the local beach the other day. Brendon was up for the holiday and we were reminiscing somewhat. The dogs were doing their doggy thing and the wind was howling, but hey …

Brendon was telling me about a mutual friend, someone who was so busy playing catch-up through his social media accounts, he’d forgotten to live the life.

It’s not that Brendon was feeling neglected, it was, in fact, the understanding that our mutual friend was shadowing the life others, being led through a series of likes/follows/retweet/shares, whatever else.

So why do you think that is Brendon? Is it ‘the business he pursues?’

‘Undoubtedly it’s business but there is something else Charlie. I say that because he just does not see the good around him, what he has already, ‘it’s as if he is missing out if he’s not in touch.’

I kind of agreed, and I said so. We are all aware of the potential for new business with most entrepreneurs on-line and looking for the opportunity we’re surely missing one important point, aren’t we?

The news is in fact you.

It’s not what others have or what they offer or might do or save or sell or enhance …

Let’s use the social for what it is – as a sounding board for flavours. We need to offer our own newsworthy flavours and if we are to embrace the net for what it’s worth – let’s make it work for us and stop simply being ‘there’ for everyone else. Resist the temptation to be first, the envy that comes with missing out on the latest pic., the conversation. Be you.

So … what’s holding him back?

Most likely fear I said, fear that he won’t make it, anxiety that he is not ‘one of them’ and fearful that if he tries to be so and offers naked ambition, he may not be seen at all.

Hey, why be led by the flow of popular opinion when you have so much individuality to share with others? Show me a room full of naked ambition (ok, transparent then) individuals who are happy to confront their fears, those who are happy with that. Give me that option anytime.

Oops.

The dog had demonstrated her own needs and as I bent toward the sand to clean up after her I realised what I had become myself …

No, I can see what you are saying, right now is not my true vocation …

I could see what Brendon meant now. I could relate to that, I’d become a product of my own network. We are what we practice, the reality is, we become part of whom we spend the most time with.

Don’t we?