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.

Why pay me?

Hey, I can do better than that, why should I pay you?

‘Why should I pay you, when I know I could produce the same, just as well, if not even better than you?’”

Friends, do you ever have one of ‘those’ days where everyone seems to be the expert with an opinion?

The following excerpt came via a recent conversation with Tracey Bloxham, Tracey is a highly reputable photographer and a friend of our Friday forum.

I’d barely broken a sweat this Monday morning (what is it with Monday?) when this particular local wise-ass, know-it-all surfaced. He also happened to be a new client.

Let’s identify him as ‘the WAKA.’

I went ahead and offered ‘wise ass know it all’ use of my preferred tool of trade, the latest Nikon (very expensive) DSLR.

‘Please, take the camera, ideal for the interior portraits you called me in for. See if you think you can use this Mr WAKA.’

Nah, far too complicated, besides I’m supposed to be in the picture.”

‘Take the camera, let’s see your skills.’

No, don’t bother, photography is not my trade, besides that’s why I’m employing you.”

Correct.

You have asked me over to visit your home on a Saturday to take portraits of your family. You know I am qualified, I’ve had 20 years experience with plenty of recommendations.

I haven’t the time to do the job myself, besides …’ began our friendly WAKA.

‘Yes, I know, you’re supposed to be in the photo …ok, so you book me here (I continued) to spend 4 hours of my time with the skills I’ve honed and developed over years in my professional industry, skills and time that you simply do not have …

I know I do ‘rant’ at times although our WAKA needed to know this so I went on…

You see, when we engage or pay for professional services, we’re not simply buying the product. We buy the person who is celebrated for what they do. We buy solutions. Someone with the skills and craftsmanship that we don’t necessarily have or which we are unable to use efficiently ourselves.

Beware the WAKA folks, they could cost you your sanity at the very least …

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.

Trust the bun.

I was mulling over my schedule. It was 6am and I’d already jumped in the car for the first meeting of the day, a rendezvous with business colleagues and guests.

There are times when I do wonder of my intentions. ‘What’s it about?’ I ask myself.

It can be tough working from home …

I’ve been working ‘for myself’ for the best part of a decade and still the imaginary violin comes out to play whenever I’m begrudging the fact I don’t anymore have the opportunity of a smile with office peers, banter with opinionated colleagues and the routines that, as part of my lost ‘corporate world’ would see us driven by familiar, similar targets or goals.

‘I’m too old for this.’ Came the reply to my original question to self.

‘I should have stayed in bed.’ I uttered.

As if by autopilot I’d negotiated my way to the venue. The imaginary violin had now retired and I followed the scent of coffee to discover a very lovely Boston bun … set aside, especially for me.

Soon enough we’ve a lively room full of familiar faces. Some jostling for preferred position, exchanging stories, others supporting through offers of help, opinion, direction and discussion. All driven by the desire to help others.

‘Kinda glad I arrived early.’ 

This is of course why I’m here, to be in the room and discover how I can help develop trust.

I’m driven to witness the young and the not so young confirm that ‘what it is all about’ is the people. The network peer group, our resource centre. Where anyone in business with a notion of developing the market is able to connect, pick the brains of learned colleagues and chew the fat. Or in my case, the cake.

Developing a trusted network of colleagues is a fantastic resource for any growing business, any level business.

‘I reached for the hand of an approaching familiar face:

Welcome to the board. Your very own board of Directors.’ I suggested.

‘Put the cake down first Charlie.’ Retorted my colleague.

That could cost you my dry cleaning!’

The resource for referral

It’s been a BIG year for Clarice, lots of new resources and the business looks now to be heading in the right direction.

‘What now?’ I asked – just as the festive mince pie hit her chops …

Once composure was regained Clarice informed me exactly of what I already knew.

‘More of the same Charlie, please.’I don’t know where I’d be without the resources I’ve discovered since becoming a regular attendee of the Weeklybiz network.’

Not everyone shares the vision of Clarice. Indeed many choose to overlook the structure that creates the opportunity when knocking on the door of business. The lure of an easy ‘fix’ is too strong for some, those with deadlines for success, targets to meet and so the real value of resource available in ‘the room’ is simply not given the time to flourish.

Not so for my companion.

‘The resources in place then Clarice?’

‘In place and I can see the path to my goals Charlie …’

‘Look who is on my team Charlie. We’ve a business planning specialist, marketing guru, software and I.T. ‘geek’ as well and more. The people I am in immediate contact with, developing relations and trust is phenomenal.’

Social media is just part of it and I can call upon these resources within Weeklybiz, money people, recruitment, law and human resources as well. Not to mention events, training and coaching.

‘We’re lucky I guess Clarice?’

‘It’s a gift, a great opportunity Charlie, I knew that when I first arrived and I cannot understand those who dismiss Weeklybiz networking as simply a hunting ground. I have now learned to covet and protect my position within the group as I work to cultivate the key relationships that take my business to new levels.’

‘Merry Christmas Clarice … another mince pie?’