Double Dip Recession?

The third quarter survey of the BNI Business Index was not very promising for business around the world.  The survey included responses from over 1,200 business people representing every populated continent in the world.

The number of people who said that business was growing or growing substantially in the third quarter of 2011 dropped to 66.9% compared to 70.4% in the second quarter of 2011.  More notably, the number of people who said that business was declining or declining substantially almost doubled from 5.4% in the second quarter to 9.6% in the third quarter of 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
In addition, the number of people who said they would or possibly would be hiring in the next few months dropped from 53.9% in the second quarter to a low of 45.9% in the third quarter of 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost 300 respondents left open ended comments on the survey.  There were at least three common themes throughout the open ended responses: problems related to government regulations, developing new services to offer, and increased networking efforts.

Government Regulation

Once again, government regulation came under fire in many of the open ended comments that business people shared in the survey.  There was a fair amount of frustration about “anti-business policies having a very negative effect” on the business environment.

One respondent said that his business was “down 80%” because of government “bungled schemes.”  Another response said, “Today’s business has been hurt from the government’s restrictions on business in this country.”

This kind of frustration was echoed by many respondents throughout the survey.

New Services

On a positive note, people who seemed to be doing better often discussed new services or target markets that they were developing.  One respondent stated, “We re-evaluated our strengths, costs, and profit.  We realigned our costs and added new services to our offering.”

Another person said they were “offering new service features and distinctly communicating our target market to our referral partners.  We’ve had to adjust to the market.  It’s not ‘business as usual’ anymore.”

One respondent stated, “I’ve had to change my business strategies due to the economy.  I have added more services at more price options that will appeal to a broader scope of people.”

Another person summed up this theme well by saying, “We have grown because we are embracing change.”

Networking

Networking and referral marketing strategies again came up as positive ways to deal with the economy.  One person stated, “Business is picking up due to my learning more and more about developing word of mouth and other referrals.”

One respondent combined the “new services” and “networking” themes by saying that he was doing well due to “a combination of new innovations on my products and increasing my networking relationships.”  He expressed that these things “contributed greatly to this year’s business.”

Other people made statements such as:

  • “Networking and sponsorship of corporate events is the key to growth at the moment.”
  • “My referral base is responsible for the growth of my business during the economic downturn.”
  • “We are working hard at building a strong network of positive people.”

Summary

One respondent in particular summed up the general consensus of many of the respondents very well when she said, “There is less confidence in the marketplace now than there was during this same time last year.”

Another survey respondent made what could be considered a somewhat prophetic statement—“The financial industry is out of control.  The protesters have the right idea!”

Hmmm . . . Wasn’t it Thomas Jefferson who once said, “Every generation needs a new revolution”?  It might be time for businesses to pull out some poster boards and markers.

To take the next BNI Business Index survey, click here.  I’d love to have your thoughts about how business is doing.

Can Cultural Differences be Affecting Your Networking Success?

 

A few weeks ago, I spoke at an event in Israel and while I was there, I got to talking to my good friend Sam Schwartz about the very different networking styles and tendencies which occur from country to country.

It is very important to consider and respect cultural differences when networking and doing business in different countries across the globe and, in this short video, Sam and I discuss why it is important and how you can prepare yourself in order to achieve great networking results no matter where in the world you may be.

After watching the video, please share your own stories in the comments section about the differences in business and networking styles and tendencies you’ve observed when networking in various countries around the world.  Also, be sure to visit the following website which is a fantastic educational resource in regard to cultural differences: www.ExecutivePlanet.com.

My Daddy Is Ambassador and I’m a Brownie

When Martha Taft was a young girl in elementary school, she was asked to introduce herself to a group of people. “My name is Martha Bowers Taft,” said the child. “My great-grandfather was President of the United States. My grandfather was a United States Senator. My daddy is Ambassador to Ireland. And I am a Brownie.”

 I thought of that quote when I recently heard the following story from Nanette Polito from Cincinatti:

In this day of technology, our younger generation understands all the social media and how to communicate through texting, email, instant messaging, and Facebook. We, the slightly older generation, need them to help us wade through it.

But does the younger generation really understand the importance of creating face-to-face personal relationships?

 

As a member of BNI for the last 14 years and an area director for Greater Cincinnati and Northern KY for the last eight years, my son and daughter both grew up on BNI. What I never realized was they were watching from afar and taking it all in.

During the summer months, the kids sometimes would tag along with me to my chapter visits. Because they were business meetings, I would have them sit off to the side. One particular morning my daughter, then 12, sat in a different part of the restaurant. The group did not want her sitting alone and insisted she sit with us. So, I let her.

The meeting proceeded, and it came time for the 60-second commercials; Alexandra was sitting on my right and the commercials were going clockwise. As the gentleman on my daughter’s right stood to give his commercial, I prepared to give mine. But, before I could stand, Alexandra jumped up and said, “Hi, my name is Alexandra Polito. I am 12 years old and a Red Cross Certified babysitter. A good referral for me would be your children, if you need a qualified sitter.”

I was proud—and shocked—and so were my fellow members! Of course, we all commended her on a job well done. Proof? She received two referrals!

Who knew that those years of watching taught both of my children how to network. To this day they both have used those skills. Recently, I was talking to Alexandra about this memory and asked her if her fellow college mates really knew how to network; she stated they really didn’t.

Networking is not something taught in school, and our younger generation doesn’t understand that real importance of that face-to-face meeting and becoming visible, which leads to credibility.

So, yes, we are our children’s most important teachers, they are watching us! Make sure they see you networking and help them to understand what it is you are doing and why it is important.

 

What are we teaching our children about networking?  I’d love to hear a story from you about this.

The Proper Way to Give Your Business Card

Have you ever wondered about what the best way to pass your business card to someone might be?

Watch this under-two-minute video where Phil Berg from BNI UK offers a very valuable tip on how (and how not to) to pass your business card to ensure that it will be valued and well received.

At the end of a video, Phil and I ask a question that we’d love for you to answer in the comments section below so, please, don’t be shy and chime in with your comments . . . thanks!

Diversity and Networking

When it comes to business networking, you never know who people know.  One of the important keys to being successful at building a powerful personal network is diversity. 

In running a large business networking organization for the last two decades, I often speak to people who tell me they want to network exclusively business professionals who have similar clients.  Although it is good to include these people in your personal network, networking with them exclusively would be a tremendous mistake.

It is human nature to congregate with people that are very much like us.  People tend to cluster together based on education, age, race, professional status, etc… The problem with this is that when we surround ourselves with people who have similar contacts it may be difficult to make connections with new people or companies with whom we desire to do business.

A diverse personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors or “linchpins” in your network.  Linchpins are people who in some way cross over between two or more clusters or groups of individuals; this allows them to link groups of people together easily.  The best way to increase the number of possible connections in your network is to develop a diverse network – not a homogeneous one.

Having developed thousands of networking groups in dozens of countries around the world, I can categorically state that the strongest networking groups I’ve seen are generally ones that are diverse in many, many ways.  I believe that one of the problems in understanding this concept is a somewhat built-in bias that many people have about networking with individuals that are outside their normal frame of reference.  Let me give you an example.  A good friend of mine in Boston, Patti Salvucci, recently told me an amazing story.

Patti runs dozens of networking groups for BNI in the Boston area.  She arrived a little early to the meeting of one of the groups she was visiting that met in a private room at Fenway Park and noticed an older gentleman setting up coffee mugs in preparation for the meeting.  Patti is a master networker and so she struck up a conversation with the man while waiting for members to arrive.  In talking to him, she was really taken by the amazing tenor of his voice.  She mentioned to him that he had an incredible voice and asked what he did before this.  The gentleman informed her that he used to be a commentator for CNN!  He went on to tell her that in his later years, he wanted to work in a less hectic job as well as live closer to his daughter.  He decided to take on the job of managing the owner’s suite at Fenway Park in Boston because it gave him an opportunity to be close to his family while having a less hectic career later in life.

Patti asked him about some of the people that he met during his time in broadcasting.  He shared many great stories with her including an interview that he had done with JFK a week before he was assassinated.  He also talked about meeting Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela during his career.  It was an interesting conversation that she genuinely enjoyed.

Later when the meeting was in full swing, one of the members, Don, publicly mentioned that he would really like to do a radio talk show someday and was looking for some contacts that could help him pursue this dream.  After the meeting, Patti asked Don… “Do you see that guy over there (pointing to the ex-CNN commentator)?  Have you seen him before?”  “Yea,” said Don, “he’s the guy who sets up the coffee for our meeting.”  Patti said to Don, “did you know that he used to be a broadcaster for CNN?”  Don said, “I had no idea!!!”  Patti suggested that Don introduce himself and learn a little about the man he’s seen every week for the last several months because he may very well be able to make a connection for him in the broadcasting industry.

The irony in this story is that he had seen the man on many occasions but had not struck up a conversation with him because he felt that they had little, if anything, in common.  The truth is, when it comes to networking – not having a lot in common with someone may mean that they can be a connector for you to a whole world of people that you might not otherwise be able to meet.

If you wish to build a powerful personal network – branch out.  Build a diverse network of professional contacts that include people that don’t look like you, sound like you, speak like you, or have your background, education, or history.  The only thing that they should have in common with you and the other people in your network – is that they should be really good at what they do.  Create a personal network like that, and you’ll have a network that can help you succeed at anything.

Visit WorkingOnIt.com and Build Business with Systems

In this video, Michael Gerber and I discuss one simple idea: SYSTEMS.

I used Michael’s ideas about systems to build my business and as a result, my networking organization has grown to over 6,000 chapters in 50 countries around the world.

Watch this video to find out more about building business with systems and about Michael’s new website www.WorkingOnIt.com–a fantastic resource for business owners and entrepreneurs around the world.

Perception is Everything

I saw a presentation at a BNI Conference a couple years ago by Chick Gallagher, my Executive Director in Delaware and part of Pennsylvania.

In his presentation he talked about “perception” being relative and how small things can substantially alter one’s perception.  On one of his Power Point slides he had the words:

A woman without her man is nothing.

As you might suspect, it got loud boos from the audience.  Then, he added two commas to the wording.  It still fell in disfavor with the audience (especially the women):

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

Finally, without changing any words he simply changed the first comma to a colon and moved the second comma to a different place in order to make this sentence:

A woman: without her, man is nothing.

As you might suspect – this sentence got loud applause from the audience (especially the women).  His point was that small changes in communication can completely alter the meaning of what is being communicated.

Punctuation is like people’s perception. A minor change can make a big difference in how the message is received and understood.

Have you run into this during your lifetime?  If so, share it here. 

ps. Before I posted this blog, I showed it to my wife.  She told me about a FaceBook page called: Let’s Eat Grandma OR Let’s Eat, Grandma.  The site says – see, punctuation saves lives!

 

Want Terrific Networking Results?–Get Specific!

In this video, Michael Mayer, an esteemed worldwide business networking expert from Austria, gives an excellent example that teaches why it is so important to  be specific when introducing your business to others at networking meetings and events.

Watch the video and find out what to say and what not to say when introducing your business in order to get great results from your networking efforts.

On a side note, you’ll also be surprised at what a powerful tool the image of pink socks can be  in helping you to remember that specificity is key . . . I’ve never given much thought to pink socks–in fact, I’ve never really thought about them at all–but  now I think about them absolutely every time I think about being specific!

What do you think about the point Michael makes in this video?  Does it help you think of ways you can improve the way you introduce your own business to other people?  Come back and leave a comment . . .

What Is ‘Active’ Networking

I was talking with a business woman recently who is fairly new to networking and I was explaining that networking is a contact sport–that it requires people to get out there and actively and strategically build relationships.  At one point she asked, “Well, what exactly does that involve? . . . What defines ‘active’ networking?”

This is actually a great question because it opens up a discussion about not only ‘active’ networking but also about ‘passive’ networking.

Actively networking with others means you invite those people to one or more of the networking organizations you belong to, carry several of their business cards with you all the time, and above all, refer them whenever you have an opportunity to do so.  Active networking also means having a reciprocal relationship with others.

We prefer doing business with people who do business with us.  Why give your business to someone who’s not willing to return the favor?  There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of competent, dependable business professionals in your area who provide any given product or service.  They don’t have to buy something from you to reciprocate.  They can join one of your networking groups, carry your business cards, or simply refer you to people looking for your product or service.

Passively networking with others means that you use them as a resource occasionally but for some reason cannot actively network with them.  It may be because they represent a narrow market where you have no way of assisting.  Perhaps they’ve told you they’re not interested in participating in any networking organizations.  Maybe they’re located too far away to refer to them regularly.

Now that you know the difference between active networking and passive networking, strengthen your networking strategy by making it a point to:

1.  Identify members of your information, support, and referral network components.

2.  Spot the voids and weaknesses in your network, and work to improve and fill it with valuable members.

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