Our fair weather friend(s)

 

“Hey, c’mon we’ll be late for kick-off!”

It’s Saturday morning and I’d called by to collect one or two lads for the local rugby meet, the regular transport being unable to support us this time around …

As the boys clamoured into the back of the wagon, there was the usual hubbub, high spirits and lots of chatter with plenty of wise-cracks. It was just what you’d expect from a bunch of ten year old’s out with mates, on the way to ‘rugger.’

The exception amongst the car load being Joe, our ‘perennial sub.’

“So what happened to transport this morning Joe?” I asked.

‘Oh dad said he had a few things to do around the house, he said he’d be back to see us when we start winning again …’

“Whaa … ??”

Joe explained … ‘Dad said he liked to watch the team although didn’t like the coach so once we start winning he might come along.’

The response from our clearly deflated chum was profound enough to hang in the air for a minute, a full minute before the usual in-car banter recommenced.

Nice encouragement Dad! I thought to myself.

Sure the boy’s team were on an unlucky run just now and morale may be low but hey, how to inspire belief, eh?’

As it happens our opponents didn’t play so well that morning, whilst we, the home team managed to excel and win the game by a good stretch, even Joe being amongst the scorers. Much reason to cheer!

Sure enough, our coach had come good and this particular win was a prelude to a welcome run of good fortune which brought the ‘part-time support’ back to the fold, even Joe’s fair-weather supporter managed to be with us toward the end of the season …

With friends like that, I hear you say?

Attitudes. We all know the importance of a positive mental outlook if we are to be competitive on the sports field and it’s certainly the same in business. We learn from our peers, we listen for inspiration … but what lessons are we passing on when all we have is apathy?

Fair weather friends, can you afford to have them in your network?

Innovation

In my business, I get plenty of questions. Mostly these focus on the difference. Innovation and how they can increase the level of business.

It’s something I ask myself on a daily basis. How about you?

If we’re not ‘on top of our game’ it’s very easy for business these days to find that they’ve become lost in the crowd. Even if we start out with all the right intentions, if we’re not aware of the needs of our audience, we soon find we’ve become one of a number of others producing the same service/product provision … and so guess what?

We need to focus on innovation. Diversity, innovation and timing are so important.

Sure, timing is something we can tune into, as learned business people it’s over time we come to understand the seasonal landscape and learn to pitch for the max reaction.

Now if we embrace diversity, if we consciously focus on that one special something that sets us apart from the rest … then put this into practice, this is where we become more successful.

Innovators themselves are on the lookout for innovation …

Be an innovator.

We’re tuned in, to listen out, so find your diversity and think ‘my innovation,’ be mindful and talk it up when that question inevitably comes …

‘What can you, do for me?

Vision through friends

The coffee was cold, cake a memory and as I prepared to leave the office the mobile sprang to life with text:

‘Just sent you an email, come back to me!’

The number was familiar although ‘nothing current.’ Being curious, I did of course proceed as instructed and checked ‘mail’ anyway.

Hey Charlie, it’s Jackie here!

‘Some of the kids here are with you in spirit, see the attached please and let me know what you think!?’

Now I don’t know about you but whenever I’m engaging an unfamiliar email and being instructed to check the attachment, I’m a little cautious …

Still, I was curious and didn’t ‘bin’ this one but parked it, then dispatched the remainder of the (now ice) coffee and escaped with the boss (dear dog.)

It was some time later I’d recovered from the latest ‘trek’ and approached the kitchen for refreshment once again …

‘Did you get the message from Jackie?’ A distant shout came from Sue.

Memory was restored! ‘Jackie’ was the Carer for an elderley some-time client, someone I catch up with much too sparingly, only occasionally.

I returned to the email and scanning the contents immediately felt more positive about prospects.

The note began:

Hey Charlie, Jackie here, a note from the school front …

We had a sit down with the kids today (six 5 year olds) and we asked them to play along …

‘First we asked them to close their eyes until the count of ten and to think about what they were good at. We also asked the kids to think about where they would like to be when they grow up?’

”As you can imagine, the room erupted with shrieks of enthusiasm and the first hand that shot up I immediately thought of you:’

‘I’m really good at helping people.’ Came the answer from said 5 year old. ‘When I grow up I want to be surrounded by my friends.’

So, why tell me this Jackie?

I needed just a minute before the ‘penny finally dropped’ …

Jackie had been reminded of something by her young companion … something that she and I had discussed many times in the past. We’d talked how Carers needed help just like everyone else. The most helpful of people need their friends and just a little support at times.

Jackie also knew that the network of friends was one of the reasons I enjoyed my business so much and hence she was so taken aback by the youngsters comments, it became the reason she decided to make contact.

Sometimes kids have a great way of enlightening us to some of life’s really important stuff, like the mutual benefits that come through helping friends.

I was happy … my first testimonial of 2017, even if it was from a 5yr old!

 

Meerkat vs Coyote

I put the telephone down from Hans, I’d not spoken with him for a while. It was a rewarding conversation – one of those times you pick up just where you left off as if it were yesterday. A sign of real friendship don’t you think?

Hans called to tell me of (amongst other things) a network he’d heard of back home in his native Chicago, it was a ladies-only group with a really great psychology. Something I can certainly relate to, see what you think …

It seems the ladies, a close knit collection of very successful business owners are meeting once per month, engaging to develop the business, support and discuss the opportunity.

‘Nothing new.’ I suggested.

Hans wanted to make a point. ANY group outside of their own circle these ladies saw as a possible visit needed to have specific criteria in place before even being considered a complementary destination to share business.

The potential network needed to demonstrate a good presence of ‘Samaritans’ – those who were natural supporters of the needy, going out of their way to help. The Group should have ‘Librarians,’ those members who were willing to deliver unconditional learning and support.

Additionally the proposed network partners should have a good sprinkling of ‘Meerkats.’ Now, the vision hardly needs description, most of us can relate to these cute beasties. Those busy creatures always supporting, constantly on the look-out, those networkers akin to Meerkats who went out of their way to cultivate the lead and referral.

Meerkats Hans? I asked.

‘I told you it was good Charlie, I thought you could relate to this.’ came the reply.

Sure, Hans was right about the importance of diversity. It’s a critical part of the referral network.

‘I asked: ‘What about the Coyote though Hans?’ Do our all-star ladies identify with the Coyote within the network?

I knew how Hans had an answer although what about the ladies?

‘Charlie, every network has it’s Coyote-types, those out for the quick deal, the easy fix. Our ladies believe that each of us should have some part of the essential ingredients enabling cultivated business … but not a trace of the hunter Coyote.

The Samaritan, Librarian, the Meerkat … a fine (if not amusing) blend of characteristics that make up the environment for success every regular network should aspire to. Take a look in the mirror …

Coming in for landing …

If you can get them, try holidays next year; they really work!

Occasionally the challenge can be coming back to ‘biz’ don’t you think?

If we’re not on the ball, the best-laid plans are soon scuppered by the unexpected.

It was 7.30am and the first tea and sticky bun were already a distant memory as  I spied a familiar face heading my way. Brian and I shook hands and naturally, I asked how his networking was progressing?

‘Charlie, I’m under-whelmed’ he said.

Having not seen Brian for a number of weeks I enquired further.

‘I’ve been visiting my group for the past four weeks and still it’s the same, the same routine, same messages, even the breakfast has become ‘samey.’

You are unhappy because of the routine or the breakfast??  I replied.

‘Well it gets to a point where I expect what’s coming next … it’s about who needs help with this and how someone else can support you with that – I know all that stuff now and I’m thinking of moving on …

At that precise ‘go figure’ moment I enquired exactly why he was networking.

‘Business of course, I’m looking for more orders.’

I did my best to explain to Brian that, for some in business, the structured network meeting was not the answer.

If you are not looking for a fast-track to a diverse business community right on the doorstep, or a purpose-built sales team intent on learning about you and your own skills, it could be that regular networking is not for you … I added.

Brian then handed me his new business card with a detailed list of products and services printed on reverse. He suggested that … ‘if ever I needed his type of product, why not get in touch?’

I enquired after the coffee …

Structured networking is great for business; sadly some of us are not so great for networking.

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