Entrepreneurs, Stay in Your Flame

While attending the Kuala Lumpur Global Networking Conference for BNI in Malaysia last week, I heard a presentation that really resonated with me. The presentation was given by Penny Power, founder of Ecademy.com. Penny is not only an extremely knowledgeable and successful entrepreneur but also a good friend of mine.

Penny’s presentation focused on the concept of entrepreneurs “staying in their flame.” She explained that an entrepreneur’s “flame” is where he or she is the most passionate and excited about his or her business and where he or she truly enjoys what he or she is doing. When an entrepreneur is in his or her flame, work doesn’t really seem like work and the entrepreneur perceives his or her tasks as effortless. If entrepreneurs are able to focus on the aspects of business which keep them within their flame, it allows them to achieve their best.

On the flip side, Penny explained that entrepreneurs  can get caught up in aspects of business that don’t come naturally to them and that they aren’t good at. Working their way through such tasks takes away their energy and leaves them exhausted and devoid of passion. Entrepreneurs  stuck in this situation are “working in their wax,” and they are not nurturing their full potential or doing what will allow them to thrive.

The solution to this problem is that “your wax is someone else’s flame.” In other words, your weakness is someone else’s strength, someone else’s passion. As your business grows, the key to staying in your flame is to delegate the things you don’t like or aren’t good at to employees who actually enjoy doing those tasks and are great at them. Learn to recognize what kind of work keeps you in your flame and what kind of work keeps your employees in their flame because, as Penny says, “flamework” is infectious!

Networking Group Basics

I’m aware that it’s not just the networking die-hards who may be reading my blog, and I wanted to post something that I think is very important for networking newbies. (Don’t worry, it’s a good refresher for you die-hards as well.) When you’re just starting out in the networking world, finding a networking group can sometimes be intimidating and confusing, but it really doesn’t have to be. For those of you looking to join a networking group, here are some networking group basics.

There are at least seven types of business networking organizations to consider joining to develop your business through networking. Depending on your time constraints, you should select at least two or three groups to participate in. There are:

  • Casual contact networks. These allow many people from overlapping professions and meet monthly.
  • Strong contact networks. Their primary purpose is exchanging referrals. They meet weekly.
  • Community service clubs. They provide an opportunity to give back to the community you do business in while making contacts and getting PR.
  • Professional associations. They tend to focus on one specific industry. The primary purpose is to exchange information and ideas)
  • Social/business organizations. They combine social activities with business or networking.
  • Online networks. Includes groups such as Ecademy, LinkedIn and Ryze, which are social networks for businesses.
  • Women’s business organizations. They are non-threatening groups for women to increase business. Many also allow men.

Don’t let chance decide where you’re going to spend your time and effort. Diversify your activities and consciously select a well-rounded mix of organizations. If you have associates, partners or employees, consider their participation when deciding which groups each of you will target.

Global Networking Conference – KL 2008

I am attending the Global Networking Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this week. Roughly 550 people from more than 22 countries are attending the event. It has convinced me that “thinking globally and acting locally” is no longer true for entrepreneurs. We are living in a global economy, and it is becoming easier and easier to do business around the world.

When a local dentist (Dr. Fay Yunus) can give an international referral, you know this is true.

This is a GREAT VIDEO showing the power of local business networking in a global community!

NetworkingNow.com

I’ve been working with a group of authors since January of this year, and quite a few of them have been contributing some great networking articles to a subscription website I’m affiliated with called NetworkingNow.com. I was actually referencing that website when I named this blog and it occurred to me recently that many of my blog readers might not even know about the site, so I thought I’d let everyone know what it’s all about.

NetworkingNow.com is a site where you can gain instant access to dynamic networking information via the web and learn the most successful strategies to build your business through networking. The site offers dozens of downloadable PDF articles, MP3 audio files and digital books as part of its downloadable library. Subscribers receive full access to the wealth of online and downloadable content, which is refreshed monthly.

Check out the site and, if you think you might be interested in joining the NetworkingNow.com community of networking expertise, try it out for free for 30 days. I love hearing feedback from my blog readers, and I would really like to hear your feedback on NetworkingNow.com. That’s why I’m inviting all of you to experience this free trial subscription to NetworkingNow.com.

To take advantage of the offer, go to NetworkingNow.com, click “subscribe now,” select the 30-day subscription, and enter “free30days” in the coupon field. Your first 30 days will be free, but if you want to continue after that you’ll be billed at the monthly subscription rate.

So check it out and let me know what you think!

The Key to ‘The Secret’

By now, most people have heard of the phenomenally successful movie The Secret, which talks about the Law of Attraction and how it can be used to change lives. The Law of Attraction has been used for thousands of years by some very successful people. Jack Canfield, originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series and a good friend of mine, is one of them. He appeared in The Secret to teach about the Law of Attraction, and now he has written an excellent book called Jack Canfield’s KEY to Living the Law of Attraction.

One of the reasons I really recommend this book is because it cuts to the chase and focuses on things such as clarity, purpose and action–things that are crucial to be successful in business and life.

A lot of other books I’ve run across that talk about the Law of Attraction have way too much of a “New Age” feel. For entrepreneurs like me, that just sends me running the other way.

I want straightforward, clear-cut facts and explanations, and that is exactly what you’ll find in Canfield’s new book. He tells you not only what you need to know, but what you need to do in order to attract what you want in your life. In other words, he gives you the simple steps that can help you implement the Law of Attraction, and he doesn’t fill the pages with a bunch of far-fetched fluff.

You can find out more about Canfield and his new book by visiting: http://www.jackcanfield.com/home/

How To Work A Room

As I sat on a plane bound for Orlando, Florida, this week, I began sorting through a stack of books that various authors have sent me as gifts, and I came upon the updated version of Susan RoAne’s How to Work a Room. I immediately had to smile because Susan has been a friend of mine for quite some time.  Anybody who knows her can tell you that she not only knows how to work a room, but she knows how to do it with what she calls “charm and chutzpah”–in other words, she is one funny lady!

I looked around at the other passengers surrounding me on the plane, some with their nose buried in a book or a magazine, others closing themselves off to any kind of communication by leaning back with their eyes closed and cranking up their iPod; and I thought, Susan could walk right up to any of these people and have them laughing and talking in a matter of minutes.

Some people, like Susan, are born networkers; but for most people networking is a skill that has to be learned. I would encourage anyone who isn’t necessarily known for having undeniable charm or chutzpah–but who often walks into events, meetings, conferences, or parties wanting to ease into meeting the people he or she doesn’t know–to pick up a copy of How to Work a Room. The recently updated version offers practical strategies for mingling, interacting, schmoozing and building common bonds. It includes chapters on roadblocks and remedies, preparation, small talk, specifc events–and how not to work a room.

The basic social and business dilemmas are the same as when the book was first published, but (judging from the countless iPods, Bluetooth devices, laptops and other technological gadgets that I observed people devoting every shred of their attention to in the airport and on the plane) it’s easy to see that technology has changed, giving us more opportunities to be rude. Susan addresses how those breaches could impact our careers, businesses and reputations, and offers some great suggestions on how to avoid and overcome them.

To learn more about Susan and How to Work a Room, please visit: http://www.SusanRoane.com

Build Cooperation or Expect Resistance

I read a book awhile back called Solutions Focus by Mark MerKergow and Paul Z Jackson, and it really struck a chord with me.I ran across some of my notes from the book yesterday as I was organizing my desk (no small task, I might add), and I think that networking groups everywhere–and businesspeople in general–can greatly benefit and gain a higher level of success from learning to maintain and exhibit a solutions-focused attitude.As MerKergow and Jackson say, it’s the most effective way to naturally promote and build cooperation.

However, it’s amazing how many people have a problems-focused attitude instead. They assume that in order to achieve greatness, they first must pinpoint everything that’s wrong and lacking in the situation and channel all of their energy into fixing it completely.

By maintaining a problems focus, we get stuck dwelling on:
• What’s wrong
• What needs fixing
• Blame
• Control
• The past
• Deficits and weaknesses
• Complications
• Definitions

Think about how you would react if you were having an issue with someone and he or she was focusing on the negative. It’s easy to see how, in any situation (family, employment, entrepreneurial, networking group, etc.), this attitude almost invites resistance and stunts progression of a positive solution.With a solutions focus, however, you’re already thinking in terms of how you will move forward. Your focus is on:
• What’s wanted
• What’s working
• Progress
• Influence
• Collaboration
• Resources and strengths
• Simplicity
• Actions

Focusing on solutions helps create resonance. You’re focused on what works rather than what doesn’t. With this approach, it is important to remember that sometimes the art of creating resonance is knowing what to overlook. If you try so hard to achieve excellence that you attempt to immediately work through every little problem that comes up, you’ll become frustrated and overwhelmed. Instead, focus on two or three things at a time–pick the things that need the most urgent improvement. Inevitably, those things will positively impact the next 10 problems you have.

In conclusion, here are some supplemental points to focus on when building cooperation and working toward solutions:
• Think of actions as starting something rather than stopping something.
• Concentrate on small actions that can be taken now.
• Focus your energy on what’s working.
• Come up with specific and clearly defined steps that build on successes, not failures.
• Focus on solutions, not problems!
• Take incremental steps to build toward the solution.
• Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
• Find what works and do more of it!
• Spot useful qualities and resources in action.
• Be selective about solutions.

The way to build cooperation is to focus on a positive-solutions focus to problems. When that doesn’t happen, you can almost always expect resistance.

Networking Faux Pas

Most people I meet while networking think they’re great networkers, but a lot of them are still making some of the biggest networking no-nos in the book.

I went to a local networking event this week and saw one guy blatantly trying to gather as many business cards as he could, never spending more than a minute with any one person. This type of behavior indicates that he only had one goal–to acquire a nice, big stack of business cards to add to his cold-calling stockpile. Confusing networking with direct selling, as this guy was obviously doing, is one of the biggest mistakes a networker can make! Here’s my list of the three biggest networking faux pas that no networker should ever commit.

Faux pas number one: Not responding quickly to referral partners
This one really troubles me. I can’t imagine getting a call from a networking partner and not responding immediately. Unfortunately, it happens with regularity.

Faux pas number two: Confusing networking with direct selling
Networking is not simply about gathering contact information and following up on it later. That’s nothing more than glorified cold calling. It gives me the chills. I used to teach cold-calling techniques to businesspeople. And I did it enough to know that I didn’t ever want to do it again. Since then, I’ve devoted my professional life to teaching the business community that there’s a better way to build long-term business.

Faux pas number 3: Abusing the relationship
I’ve seen people abuse relationships with their networking partners by misleading them and doing such things as inviting people to a “birthday party” that turns out to be a business opportunity pitch. Never mislead your networking partners in any way; for that matter, never mislead anyone. Trust is everything when you’re talking about relationship networking. You need to be honest with those whom you want to build a trusting relationship with.

All three of these faux pas directly relate to good people skills. The prevailing theme is to treat your referral partners and potential referral partners with professionalism and care.

Use networking opportunities to meet people and begin the process of developing genuine relationships. As you do this, treat your referral partner the way you would a top client. Finally, always network in a way that builds credibility and trust–be candid in telling your referral partners what you need and what you’re asking of them. Do these things and you’ll avoid some serious mistakes in relationship networking.

Achieving Excellence in a Networking Group

During a recent interview, I was asked what my thoughts are on why my networking organization, BNI, has become so successful. Well, I’ll be the first to admit that success didn’t happen overnight. It took me 23 years, and a lot of bumps along the way, to learn what it takes to operate a successful networking group anywhere in the world. But as I told the interviewer, I attribute BNI’s success to some key steps that are sure to move any networking group toward achieving excellence. I’d like to share some of them with you here:

1. Education, education, education. Take advantage of the staggering amount of resources on networking that are available. Some examples are:
SuccessNet archives, networking articles at Entrepreneur.com, networking books, Audio CDs, etc., etc.

2. Choose quality business professionals to join your networking group. Don’t take the first person with a pulse and a check.

3. Follow the system! When a system is proved to be successful, there is a reason it works. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

4. Pass quality referrals. The only thing more important than passing a lot of referrals is passing quality referrals. Both are important, but quality must lead the way.

5. Attendance is key to a group’s success. Networking groups that have poor attendance always end up having problems down the road. Have you ever gotten a haircut over the phone? Of course not. We’ve learned that you cannot get or give referrals if you don’t show up.

6. Pick great leaders! Don’t settle for who’s willing, but select who’s best! Leaders can make or break a group. It happens all the time.

7. Keep positive people with a solutions-focused attitude in your group. OK, here’s another way to say it–move out the constant whiners! Some people complain as though there were an award for it. Replace them. Find people who focus on building something great rather than complaining as though it were an Olympic event. Seriously, why accept mediocrity when excellence is an option? People, just like water, tend to seek the path of least resistance. The problem is that the path of least resistance may not be the best path. If you expect the best from your fellow networking group members, you will get it. If you expect less than the best from your members . . . you will get it. Expect the best. You’ll get better results, really.

After all, if following these steps could build BNI into an organization with more than 5,000 thriving chapters in more than 36 countries, then I’d say it’s worth giving them a try!!

Twilight Zone Management

Someone recently asked me about some of my more unusual moments in business, and that took me back to a short stint I did working as the general manager of a light-manufacturing plant in Los Angeles.

This story actually begins many years earlier when, as a young boy, I stayed up late watching old Twilight Zone episodes with my mother. There was one in particular that I loved about a little boy named Anthony who had incredible powers and completely controlled a small town. He would do horrible things to people and animals with his mind, and then his family would beg him to send the misshapen or deformed beast to the “cornfields.” As soon as he’d done it, one of the townspeople would inevitably utter the infamous words . . . “It’s a good thing you done that Anthony, it’s a real good thing you done that.” Then everyone would nod their heads in agreement in total fear that Anthony might do it to them next. This made for great science fiction and, because I love science fiction, it stuck in my mind for many years.

Fast forward some 15 years later when I worked as the general manager of a light-manufacturing plant. There, I had the misfortune to work for the absolute worst, most dysfunctional team of people I have ever seen. It was headed up by Sally, the co-owner, whose idea of good management was yelling at everyone who didn’t do what she said–immediately. This woman was Genghis Khan in female form.

As soon as I started the job, I realized it was a horrible mistake and I dreaded coming to work almost every day. Finally, after three months, it happened. “It” being the most surreal experience of my management career. I was in the middle of a meeting with some employees from the production department along with “Ms. Khan” when she went into an absolute tirade, screamed at an employee and then summarily threw the young lady out of her office.

At that moment, one of the horror-stricken production employees remaining in the room looked solemnly at The Khan, nodded, and said . . . “It’s a good thing you done that, Sally, it’s a real good thing you done that.” I couldn’t believe it! It was at that very moment that I thought, “Oh , my God ,  I’m in the Twilight Zone! I’m THERE . . . this is it . . . the cornfields have to be next!! I AM OUT OF HERE!” The very next day I gave my notice.

I have never regretted leaving the company. It was the experience that prompted me to start my own business. Leaving there and starting my own company was the best decision I ever made, and I’ve never looked back (except to chuckle from time to time).

Do you have a Twilight Zone Management experience? If so, please share it with us.

Six Essentials for Networking

Recently, I was handed a copy of a book called Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality by Christine Comaford-Lynch.

In the book, she names six networking essentials that are not necessarily the ones people might traditionally think of as the keys to networking success, but I think they can be of significant value–especially her advice on equalizing yourself with others. So I’d like to reprint them for you here, and I invite you to leave comments. Here’s Comaford-Lynch’s list:

1. Practice “Palm Up” Networking. When you network, are you giving or grasping? Palm up networking embodies the spirit of service, of giving and wanting nothing in return. When you network “palm down,” you’re grasping for personal gain. Palm up = heart-oriented interaction. Palm down = greedy grasping. Give to others; it’ll all come back to you in time.

2. Exercise Daily Appreciation. Appreciate at least one person daily. Sometimes I do this via e-mail so I can be thorough. And often, to my delight, the recipient will tell me that they are saving the message for when they need a pick-me-up. You can also express appreciation over the phone or in person. Simply tell someone how much you appreciate who they are or what they do–whatever about them moves you. They’ll be flattered, and you’ll feel great.

3. Equalize Yourself with Others. I believe we all have one unit of worth: no more, no less. No one can add to it; no one can take it away. We’re all equal. Just because someone is powerful, rich and famous doesn’t mean they are better than you. Practice equalizing yourself with others. This will enable you to more comfortably interact with others and to reach out to people of all walks of life.

4. Rolodex Dip. This is a fun practice when you want to connect with someone but aren’t sure whom. Flip through your contact database and pick a name. Then think of all the things you like about them. Now call them up to see how they are doing. They’ll be surprised and delighted.

5. Pick a “Sensei of the Day.” Each day I pick a sensei, a teacher. This is someone or something that has taught me a lesson or reminded me of what’s important in life. Your sensei can be a person, a pet, a plant; it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to acknowledge that there is much to learn and you are being offered valuable lessons constantly.

6. Do the Drive-By Schmooze. Parties and conventions–groups of all sorts–are great opportunities to network. But sometimes you’ll be tired, not in the mood or have too many events in one evening (like during the holiday season). This is when you’ll want to use the Drive-By Schmooze. Here’s how:

a. Timebox your networking. Decide that in 30 minutes you’ll do a check-in to determine if you need to stay any longer.

b. Set your goal. Determine the number of new connections you want to establish. Remember, your goal is meaningful connections, not simply contacts.
c. Let your intuition guide you. This may sound flaky, but it works! Stand near the door, in a corner, out of the way. Stop your thoughts. Internally ask to be guided to the people you need to connect with. Then start walking. You’ll be amazed at whom you meet.
d. Connect. You’ll always resonate with someone at an event. When you do, ask questions about them, such as: How did you get started in your field? What’s your ideal customer? We all love to talk about ourselves, and these questions will not only help you form a connection with this person, but will also tell you how to help them.
e. Offer help and follow through. If you can provide help, jot down ideas on the back of their business card, commit to follow up, and then do it. If you’ve had a fruitful conversation and want to take it further, offer to meet for lunch or coffee. People say life is 90 percent about showing up. Nonsense! Life is 90 percent about following through!

For more information on Christine and her bestselling book, Rules for Renegades, please visit: www.RulesForRenegades.com.

I ‘Absolutely’ Refuse to Participate in a Recession!

Last month I wrote a blog article headlined: “I Refuse to Particpate in a Recession.” It clearly resonated with many entrepreneurs. A lot of people posted responses to this blog with a clear understanding of how to apply this idea. There were, however, some who e-mailed me directly with a bad case of the “Yeabut Syndrome.” It goes like this, “Yea but” Ivan, things are different for me or different in this area or different in this business or different in my situation or different in my alternate universe, etc., etc.

Sometimes I feel like saying to these people, “Yes, you are different than the people I am talking about. You will fail; they will not” (oh, sorry, gotta remember–must keep that as internal dialog).

I’ve been through three recessionary periods in my business. I don’t need a crystal ball; I have history. Here’s what my history tells me: People with a strong network will survive and even thrive during downturns in the economy. I’ve seen this repeated over and over. Here’s how it plays out in my networking organization, BNI .

[Cue music and fade away to a vision of the past].

The first three to four months of all the past recessionary periods, membership tends to slow. Not as many people join. They say things such as, the economy is bad, I can’t afford it, things are different in my universe, etc., etc. Then something amazing happens. People start to realize that they better do something and do it quickly! They finally recognize that a recession is here and their business is going to “hell in a handbasket” right before their eyes. At this point, the magic happens. They get “networking religion.” They realize that they better get out of their cave and really, really network to build their business and that they’d better do it quickly. Then we start getting more and more people trying to join the organization (some can’t join because they waited too long and their profession is already taken)!

[Cue music and fade back to today].

So here we are today. It looks like we are in the beginning of an economic downturn. You have a choice to make. Are you going to wait six months, like many of the people I’ve seen in the past–or are you going to take control of your business and get a head start on your networking efforts? Only the strong, smart, and “networked,” suvive a recession.

You still have time to start and/or improve your existing personal network. If you’ve been active in networking, now’s the time to get back to basics and reintroduce yourself to the fundamentals. If you’ve done some networking but need to really expand it, take yourself to networking school. Immerse yourself in materials that will help you. Here’s a good place to start for almost 80 free articles on networking: Entrepreneur.com Networking column archive. If you haven’t done much to build your personal network, what are you waiting for? The recession to be over? By that time, your business will be over! Start now!

There’s an old Chinese proverb: When is the best time to plant an acorn? The answer is 25 years ago. When is the second best time? The answer is today.

So, share with me–what are you doing to improve your network today?

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