Get Value for Your Time

As the founder and chairman of an international organization, I am sometimes overwhelmed by commitments and obligations, so I know firsthand how important it is to make the most of your time.  Have you ever tried to get back an hour you spent on something that didn’t turn out well? It’s not possible. Since you know you can’t retrieve an hour, much less a day of precious time, you obviously want to spend it as wisely and effectively as you can.

So if you spent your time networking, you would want to get a high return on your networking investment, right? Here are some tips on how you can do just that:

1.  Be “on” 24/7
Be on the top of your networking game all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Networking opportunities present themselves in the most unsuspected places and times.  If you snooze, you just might lose.

2.  Learn to play golf or something
Challenge yourself to a game of golf or some other activity that aligns with your interests and skills.  A lot of business that happens on the golf course could just as easily happen on the badminton court, the soccer field or across a pool table.

3.  Have purposeful meal meetings
Get more value out of your meal meetings.  If you’re going to meet and eat, you may as well get more out of the experience than calories.  Make this activity pull its weight as an opportunity for business networking.

4.  Make first impressions count
Make sure you get off to a good start.  Learn to take a closer look at your appearance and your body language.  Are they helping you start good conversations–or ending them before you can even say a word?

5.  Seek out a referral networking group and join a chamber of commerce
If you’re going to venture out and attempt to build a network, the first steps should be to seek out a referral networking group and a chamber of commerce to help network your business.

6.  Sponsor select events and host a purposeful event
Focus on how you can leverage sponsorship opportunities and specific events to position your business in front of key people.  Of course, you need to take the initiative to make it happen.

Work on these strategies so you can strengthen your network, get more return on your networking investment, increase your visibility within the community and, most of all, get the most value from the time you spend networking.

Sponsor Select Events

Sponsorships seem to have become a part of our consumer culture.  You can’t watch or attend a big sports event, for example, without being exposed to the event’s sponsors.  On a smaller scale, local communities and organizations also depend on sponsorships to make ends meet at some of their events.  In most cases, the dollar amounts for sponsoring events of this sort are modest–ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

How many times have you been asked to be a sponsor?  How many times have you offered to sponsor a select event in order to help out someone in your network?  Both situations have the potential to give you huge exposure if done well.  In addition, sponsoring an event for someone on your word-of-mouth marketing team enhances the relationship, because you are helping that person meet a goal.

Be selective and choose carefully when you’re thinking about sponsoring an event.  Is it a good investment of your time and money?  The questions below will help you determine the value of a sponsorship before deciding to become a sponsor:

*  What is the target market for this event?

*  What kind of exposure do I get for my investment?

*  Can I get this kind of exposure without this investment?

*  Do I get direct access to the audience?

*  Does it make sense for me to be there?

*  Which business or networking goal does it help me complete?

*  Are other sponsors my competitors?

*  How does this enhance my credibility with the person I’m helping?

*  Why wouldn’t I do it?

What do you look for when you are considering sponsoring an event?

I Refuse to Participate in a Recession–Now More Than Ever!

I’ve written a few articles about refusing to participate in a recession and I recently had someone e-mail me saying, “Don’t bother telling me . . . tell my customers. They are not as willing to accept a platitude as you feel I am.” (Ouch, I guess he didn’t like my thoughts on this matter.)

Well sir, I’m afraid we’ll just have to agree . . . to disagree. You see, I don’t think it’s a platitude, I think it’s an attitude!

Today’s news is full of economic soap operas. In the United States, Congress, the White House and the pundits have all debated about the bailout of yet another pillar of corporate America. European nations and others around the globe are struggling with recessionary pressures. Voices everywhere seem to be spouting economic doom and gloom.

Now, please, lean in close and listen carefully. I’m going to ask you to do something very difficult, yet very important: Ignore all those doom-and-gloom voices.

It’s not that I want to deny reality. Nor am I even judging whether all those important voices are right or wrong.

What I am saying is, all those voices are sending you useless information. Not only are they urging you to be afraid . . . very afraid . . . they are completely ignoring the solutions on which you need to focus. Nothing like freezing a good entrepreneur in his or her tracks with old-fashioned fear.

When Franklin Roosevelt wisely said during America’s depression that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . he left something out. When you are in business, at any time in any nation, the other thing you have to fear is: inaction. Not very poetic, I know, but it’s true.

Let others worry about the macro-economic picture. You have a micro-economy in which you are a vital and central player. Does the government or an economist know the ins and outs of your business better than you? Have you received any calls lately offering to bail you out with taxpayer money if your business slides to the brink of ruin? I’m guessing the answer is “no” to both questions.

You already know this in your gut: No bailout is coming your way . . . unless you do it yourself. No rescue plan is being prepared for your business . . . unless you do it yourself. And no solutions to your problems will be developed . . . unless you do it yourself.

The more you focus on fear, the more afraid you will become. The more you focus on obstacles, the larger they will loom. And the more you focus on today’s global economic doom-and-gloom headlines, the less time, energy and faith you’ll have to focus on building the prosperous, successful, well-networked business you really want.

If you tell yourself, “I can’t succeed in this economic downturn,” you’ll very likely prove yourself correct. But if, instead, you focus on specific solutions to the particular issues, challenges and opportunities of your business, your niche market, your current and prospective customers . . . you are very likely to enjoy more success than all the naysayers put together would have predicted.

What the bigwigs on Wall Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, the London Financial district or the European Central Bank don’t seem to understand is, out here in the real world of entrepreneurial small business, by sticking together and helping one another, we can face down the doom and gloom. We can build our businesses despite the headlines, and we can show others around the world the economic power of persistent, skillful and focused networking.

Join me and the many other successful businesspeople. Become someone who sees opportunities when others see problems, become someone who seeks growth when others expect collapse, and be someone who sees success when others see failure.

I refuse to participate in a recession, now more than ever!

Send a Thank-You Card

A simple thank-you card may not sound like going the extra mile. To many people, however, it truly is. The old-fashioned, personalized, handwritten thank-you card has been largely replaced by e-mail. When was the last time you received a traditional, handwritten thank-you card? What was your reaction? If you’re typical, you were pleasantly surprised, and you appreciated the sender’s time and effort.

If you don’t think you have time to write a thank-you card, think again. How many times have you found yourself sitting in the car with your kids, waiting for the school bus, riding the train to work, eating lunch alone, waiting forever in the doctor’s office, or sitting in a 10-mile-long traffic jam?

Grab hold of a few of these time fragments and use them to strengthen a networking relationship with a personal touch by writing a thank-you card to someone who has given you a referral, made an in-person introduction, helped with an event or solved a problem for you. Just remember: Never, ever include your business card, because the minute you include your business card, it becomes about you and not about thanking the other person.

Every time you make a personal connection, you are networking. So why not store some blank cards and stamps in your car and in your briefcase? That way, when you do find those few minutes of underutilized time, you’ll have a card ready to write on and drop into the next mailbox you see.

OK, OK, so you just won’t do a handwritten card no matter what I say. Then take a look at SendOutCards.com. They allow you to send out a card that “looks” handwritten but can be done from your computer and sent through the mail. This is a great service for the “handwriting impaired,” like me. I highly recommend the service.

International Passion Day

This week celebrates International Passion Day. With that celebration comes the release of the paperback version of The Passion Test written by good friends of mine Chris and Janet Attwood.

According to the Attwoods, “80 percent of the population is not passionate about what they do for a living!” Ouch. That’s amazing (but not surprising) to me.

I really love this book, and I highly recommend it. They have done a great job of creating a system that really allows you to hone your thoughts down to a point where you can understand and appreciate what your true passions are.

Take a look at their website and their book; you’ll be glad you did.

Become a Networking Catalyst

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no mechanic. In fact, when I was a kid, my father (who can fix just about anything) brought me out to the garage one day and said, “Son, you’d better go to college because you’re never going to make a living with your hands.” Well, that was great advice, Dad. I think things have worked out pretty well with that suggestion.

Fully acknowledging my lack of skills as a mechanic, I can, however, tell you how a catalytic converter relates to networking your business.

By definition, a catalyst is an agent that initiates a reaction. In networking, a catalyst is someone who makes things happen. Without a catalyst, there is no spark, and not much gets done.

So, what would it take for you to become a catalyst for your business and your network? Four things: initiative, intention, confidence and motivation.

Initiative. Catalytic people don’t sit still–they make things happen in all aspects of their lives. As networkers, they stay alert for a problem that needs solving, then spring into action, calling on someone from their network to solve the problem. They operate with a “get it done now” mentality.

Intention. Catalytic people operate with intent and are goal-driven. As networkers, catalytic people have both business and networking goals. They learn the goals of others in order to help people get where they wish to be.

Confidence. Catalytic people have confidence in themselves and in the players on their team. This helps to ensure that the task at hand will be accomplished with stellar results.

Motivation. Catalytic people are not only motivated themselves, but they also can motivate others to perform at their highest potential. These people excite others to contribute, sharing their energy and excitement through their words and actions. They are motivated by personal and professional rewards that they can’t wait to share with others, and they desperately want to help others succeed.

To set your network in motion toward helping your business, make it your goal to become a catalytic person. Think of your network as a row of standing dominoes. Each domino will remain standing until you act upon the first domino. As a catalyst, you must tap the first domino to watch the chain reaction of tumbling dominoes. Your network is standing in place, waiting for you to set the pieces in motion.

I Refuse to Participate in a Recession (Part 2)

Recessions come and go. Statistically, we have one every six years or so. This recession is a serious one. I get that. I also believe that the people who look for opportunities when times are tough will not only survive, they will thrive. I’ve been in business long enough to see it over and over again.

Given the recent developments with the U.S. economy, I thought I would refer my readership to a blog that I wrote back in April of this year, along with a link it to a telebridge recording that was recently done by a friend of mine, John Assaraf, CEO of OneCoach and author of “The Answer.”

Be a “thriver” not just a “survivor” in this recession.

Read my article from April: I Refuse to Participate in a Recession (Part 1)

Then, listen to John’s free telebridge recording: Thriving in a Recession–“What To Do Now.” The first two-thirds of this free call is all about staying focused on success while everyone else is panicking about the economy.

When you are all done, join us in “refusing to participate in the recession!”

Networking ROI

Have you ever wondered how effective networking really is for different types of businesses? I have. Consequently, I am assisting a university project that will establish the best approach to networking for companies of different sizes and types. The results will be published here when completed, and we need your participation!

By asking networkers across the globe about their businesses, marketing and networking strategies, and which types of approaches work best for them, we will discover some “best practice” marketing mixes for both small and large businesses. So be part of the process and take a few minutes (really, it’s just a few minutes) to complete this survey.

Take the Networking Survey Here.

Feel free to share this link with others! The survey will wrap up in October.

Thanks! If you take the survey, share with me what you liked and what you thought was missing.

Volunteer and Become Visible

One of the first steps toward networking your business is to become more visible in the community. Remember that people need to know you, like you and trust you in order to refer you. Volunteering can position you to meet key people in your community. It connects you with people who share your passion. It gives you opportunities to demonstrate your talents, skills and integrity, as well as your ability to follow up and do what you say you are going to do. It instantly expands the depth and breadth of your network.

People who volunteer demonstrate their commitment to a cause without concern for personal gain. Thus, you should be volunteering with organizations or causes for which you hold genuine interest and concern. If administrators or other volunteers perceive that you are in it primarily for your own gain, your visibility will work against you, and you will undermine your own goals.

Volunteering is not a recreational activity; it’s a serious commitment to help fulfill a need. To find an organization or cause that aligns with your interests, you need to approach volunteerism with a healthy level of thought and strategy.

Start by asking yourself the nine questions below.

1. What do you enjoy doing for yourself in your spare time?

2. What hobbies do you enjoy?

3. What sports do you know well enough to teach?

4. What brings you joy and satisfaction?

5. What social, political or health issue are you passionate about because it relates to you, your family or your friends?

6. Based on the answers to the first five questions, what are three organizations that you can identify that appeal to you? (Examples: youth leagues, libraries, clubs, activist groups, church groups, homeless shelters) Choose the one that most appeals to you, and research the group online and in the community.

7. Now that you’ve researched this group, will it give you an opportunity to meet one of your professional or personal goals? If so, visit the group to “try it on.”

8. Now that you’ve visited this group, do you still want to make a final commitment of your time?

9. Are other group members satisfied with the organization? (To learn this, identify three members of the group to interview in order to assess their satisfaction with the organization. Consider choosing a new member, a two- to three-year member, and a seasoned five- to six-year member to interview.)

Once you’ve done the research required to satisfactorily answer these nine questions, join a group and begin to volunteer for visibility’s sake. Look for leadership roles that will demonstrate your strengths, talents and skills. In other words, volunteer and become visible. It’s a great way to build your personal network.

Create Your Networking Future

I had a conversation this week with a florist who was bemoaning the commitment he’d made in becoming a member of a local referral marketing group. He complained that he had never considered himself a natural networker and had assumed joining the group would jumpstart his networking efforts. But after five months, he still felt uncomfortable trying to build relationships with people he considered to be virtual strangers. He still felt like he had no real networking experience and that he didn’t have a clue how to develop the necessary networking skills that would make his membership worthwhile. He said it would probably be better for him to stop wasting time and just quit the group.

Here’s what I told him: It’s never too late to start creating your networking future. You can make a new start right here and now, no matter what wrong networking moves you may have previously made.

Start by taking stock of your networking strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge to make goals and plans for yourself. Implement weekly networking strategies and be clear with yourself about what you need to work on to improve your networking skills. Just as in building a new house, you need a strong, stable foundation on which to construct your “networking home.” First things first: You must set goals, develop a plan and start accomplishing networking steps.

If you feel a lot like the florist when it comes to the current status of your networking efforts, here are seven keys to create your new, successful networking future:

1. Start by setting networking goals. Networking goals are vital. They keep you focused on the steps needed to network your business every day. Careful attention should be paid to this process.

2. Block out time to network. Carve out time in your weekly schedule for networking. To meet your goals, you must dedicate time to networking.

3. Profile your preferred client. Describe your preferred client in very specific and strategic terms. Knowing exactly whom you want to attract to your business as a client or customer–and being able to clearly, concisely and quickly describe that preferred client to everyone from your mother all the way down to the CEO of a Fortune 500 firm–is a vital step for networking success.

4. Recruit your word-of-mouth marketing team. Begin recruiting the individuals who will serve as your ambassadors. They are critical to your success. Why? Because networking, by definition, is a team sport. You win only when others are winning alongside you.

5. Give to others first. There is tremendous power in te law of reciprocity in networking. You will find that there are great benefits to giving to others in your network first, before expecting anything in return.

6. Create a network relationship database. Organize the people you know into a network database. An organized network database saves you time and energy in the long run.

7. Master the top 10 traits of a successful networker. Set a high bar for yourself by aiming to master the top 10 characteristics that define a master networker. This gives you something to aim for and a way of assessing where you stand now, relative to that goal.

Empty Your Purse Into Your Head

Most entrepreneurs pay lip service to education! OK, maybe not you . . . you’re actually taking the time to read an article on business. I’m talking about the average entrepreneur.

Ask a number of businesspeople if they’d be willing to attend a seminar on building their business, and three-quarters of those in the room will raise their hand and say yes! Tell them that it is four weeks from tomorrow at 7 p.m., and only a handful will actually sign up!

It used to surprise me when I heard that 50 percent of all businesses fail in their first three years. Now that I’ve been in business for several decades and have seen many entrepreneurs come and go, I’m somewhat surprised that 50 percent actually make it past three years!

Maybe I’m being a little harsh . . . but not much. One thing I’ve learned is that most successful entrepreneurs embrace a “culture of learning” in order to excel. Personal and professional self-development is a journey–not a destination. It’s always a work in progress. Often, businesspeople get so caught up working “in” their business that they forget to spend time working “on” their business. Part of working “on” a business is one’s professional development.

Benjamin Franklin once said; “If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the highest return.”

With that in mind, here’s an action item for you this week. Look at your financials (or checkbook, or credit-card statements) for the past year. What have you spent for any type of ongoing business education? If you aren’t “emptying some of your purse into your head,” take a few minutes to think about what you want to learn to help you build your business–and sign up for something this week! Don’t put it off any longer.

If you want to earn more, you need to learn more! Oh, and reading this blog from time to time won’t hurt, either.

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