New Orleans – After Katrina

I spent the last few days in New Orleans for a BNI event hosting the 210 winners (and guests) of the 2007 USA Member Extravaganza for the organization.

There are two things I want to share about my visit to the area.  The first, is my impression of the business people.  It’s great to see business “start” to come back in the city.  One of the things that struck me was how so many businesses THANKED us for visiting the city and helping in some small way to bring back the economy.  It was truly dramatic.  Every time my wife and I purchased something, the stores went out of their way to thank us for our business.  When we told them were with a group of 210 people, they were extremely thankful.  It felt great to help the city and I invite you to visit New Orleans.  They definitely need more business and they appreciate it more than any group of people I’ve seen in recent years.

The second thing I want to share relates to the many stories I heard about courage and giving.  Prior to the event I mentioned above, I had an opportunity to speak to about 150 BNI and Jefferson Chamber of Commerce members in the greater New Orleans area .  I heard many stories about the hurricane and its aftermath.  One that really jumped out at me was a BNI member by the name of Dr. Morris Panter.

Dr. Panter (seen here with me at the event) told me that immediately after the hurricane, he had no practice!  His office was damaged with holes in the roof but it was still partly usable.  So, he spray painted a plywood board that said “Relief Workers Adjusted for Free.”  He told me that over the next several months he adjusted 900 relief workers helping to clean up from the disaster!

I think Dr. Panter’s story is another one of the many examples of courage and giving that we have seen come out of this horrific event.  In the face of the temporary loss of all his business, he took the time to “give” to the people helping his city.

It was an honor to speak to people throughout the greater New Orleans area and I wish them continued success in building the city’s economy back up.

How to Make the Butterfly Effect of Networking Work

I was thinking about the blog I wrote last month about the Butterfly Effect of Networking? and it occurred to me that an important part of the reason I was able to make such effective and rewarding networking connections was the way that I thought about, and therefore went about networking. Here’s what I mean by that . . .

While it’s important to know the right things to do while networking, it’s equally important to start thinking the right way to make your networking efforts as successful and dynamic as they can be. This involves altering your mind-set. Here is an up-close look at some elements you’ll want to include in your mind-set to ensure networking success:

 1. The law of reciprocity or givers gain? approach.

Don’t approach networking thinking I did this for you, now what are you going to do for me? Instead, remember the old adage Give and you shall receive? The law of reciprocity takes the focus off of what you stand to gain from the networking relationship, and in doing so, creates bonds based on trust and friendship. Put it to the test. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.

 2. Diversity in networking.

Look for groups that don’t target people just like you. In this way, you’ll broaden the net you seek to cast for referrals.

 3. Farming mentality.

It’s a long, drawn-out process to go from seeding a field to harvesting the crops and there’s no quick return. But, when you spend time and take care in building relationships, your networking will yield extraordinary results.

Approaching networking with a mentality that focuses on the process of cultivating referrals will create the results you desire. Make an effort to spend more time strengthening your friendships with those whom you wish to have as part of your networking circle and you will certainly make more and better connections.

Teaching My Daughter About Business Cards

One of my daughters recently invested in her first set of business cards and as I was coaching her on the key points of efficient business card use, I was thinking about all of the people that carry around business cards on a daily basis who simply do not realize what an absolutely crucial and valuable tool this one little card is!

Your business card is one of the most important networking tools you have in your quest for increased referrals.  Can you envision a reality where 20—30 people in your word-of-mouth marketing circle carry your cards and have them ready to hand to prospects they’re actually qualifying for you?  That’s what can happen if you use your business card efficiently!

In order to make the most of your business card:

* Make Your Cards Accessible in Every Situation

In short, don’t leave home without them! Keep a small box of your cards in your glove box, put cards in your pocket, your briefcase, wallet and computer bag.

* Seek Situations to Exchange Business Cards

One-on-one meetings, mixers and social events, conventions and trade shows, visits to non-competing businesses, and international meetings and events all present excellent opportunities to exchange your card.


* Contacts at a Distance

Whenever you communicate with someone in writing, send a card if it’s appropriate for the occasion.  Also, after any telephone call in which business was discussed, follow up with a letter outlining the main points of your discussion and include one or more of your cards.


* Special Tricks of the Trade

When giving out your card, hand-write something on one copy, such as your cell-phone number, a secondary e-mail address, etc.  This will give that particular card a greater chance of being held onto. Be sure you give a couple of “cleanâ€? cards to that person as well.   The main thing when handing out your card is to keep in mind what an effective tool it can be.  Take maximum advantage of its full potential. And never, ever, be caught without it.

What To Say When You Don’t Remember Them?

I got a great question today from a chef that I thought I would share with you:

I was in a store last week when a person shouted out, “Hi Chef” I faced the person and drew a complete blank.  Not only did I not know this person’s name, I didn’t recognize them at all.  So I smiled and said “Hi I’m fine” and kept on going. 

I was disappointed with my reaction.  Other choices were to stop and engage a conversation and fake it, hoping to pick up a clue to help me remember.  Or to come right out and say, “I’m sorry I can’t remember your name” or say, “I know you but I don’t remember from where.”

What do I do in a situation like this???

 

A good response in a situation like this is to say something like, “Hi, good to see you.”  Then, start a simple conversation.  For example, if they are in a grocery store, (since this was a chef) ask them what they were planning for their big meal or whatever works in that situation.  The key here is to say “good to see you.”  Clearly, they know you, so you don’t want to say “nice to meet you” because they most likely have met you and will feel put off that you didn’t remember them.  This allows you to start a dialog without being obvious that you don’t remember them. 

 

OK, I’ll admit it. . . I’ve learned this the hard way – from experience! 


What do you think about this approach or, what have you done in this situation?

 

What To Do "Before" You Start Networking

I met someone recently who said she’s been having a hard time building her network because people can’t seem to understand or relate to her business.  I asked her why she thought that was and she responded that her business is pretty complicated and when she tries to explain what it’s all about, she can almost see people’s eyes spinning in their heads.

I told her that before she can even begin to network effectively, she needs to find a way to explain her business in a way that people will easily understand.  We ALL need to heed this rule of thumb and be able to clearly and simply communicate what it is that we do by pinpointing key aspects of our business for our potential referral sources. 

My advice to anyone confused about how to clearly explain what it is that they do is to ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Why are you in business (other than to make a living)?  Why do you do what you do?  How does your business serve others?
  • What do you sell?  Most important, what are the benefits—not the features—of your products or services?
  • Who are your customers?  What are your target markets?  Be specific.  Look at all segments of your business to determine the niche or niches you prefer to work with.
  • What are your core competencies, and what do you do best?
  • How well do you compete?  How do you stand out from your competition?

These questions will help you explain what your business is all about, and make you more effective at implementing a comprehensive referral system.  By communicating these aspects of your business to referral sources, they’re learning how they can refer you; and that’s what networking is all about. 

The “Butterfly Effect of Networking"

I am writing to you today from Necker Island in the Caribbean where I am meeting with about 20 business leaders including Sir Richard Branson the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and owner of the Island.

My journey to this island is a dramatic example of the “Butterfly Effect of Networking.”  The “Butterfly Effect” is the theory that a small action in one place may have a ripple effect that creates a dramatic action in another place. It is like a pebble in a pond creating ripples on the surface.

For networking, it is about how a seemingly minor connection or conversation with one person may, after many ripples across the network, end in a dramatic connection later in the process.  This week, I am living that concept to its fullest.

It started several years ago when I received a phone call from a woman I did not know but who has since become a good friend.  Her name is Kim George.  Kim asked me if I would be willing to help with the creation of an online networking and social capital community.  It took some work to put this together, but at the time I had no idea what type of ripple effect this request would have on my life.  I did it because it fit the values and direction that I wanted to take my company in.  With that, the ripple began.

This relationship turned into a strategic alliance, which turned into a speaking engagement, which allowed me to meet Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul), which led to an invitation from Jack to participate in an international organization called the Transformational Leadership Council, which led to meeting a woman by the name of Nancy Salzman, owner of NXIVM Training. Getting to know Nancy led to an invitation for my wife and I to spend five days on the breathtakingly beautiful Necker Island where we have been meeting with financial wizards of business, movie producers,and successful business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson (OK, I won’t hold back this week is a networker’s dream).

The ripples that take place in the networking process may not be clear when the pebble drops into the water and the ripple begins. What is certain is that there is a ripple. If you follow that ripple and make the most of the contacts that you meet during each stage of that journey, it can lead you to making connections and creating relationships that may very well surprise you when you look back to where the journey first started.

Look for more later about the journey of this particular ripple.

Networking a Soft Science? Only to College Professors!

Recently, I had lunch with the president of a Southern California University along with his dean for the School of Business. We spoke about many things but, specifically, he wondered what I thought the school could be doing better to teach students graduating from his university. My answer was easy–“start teaching courses on networking, social capital and/or emotional intelligence.”

He asked me why.  I told him that if you ask the average business person or entrepreneur what one of the most important ways to build his or her business is, he or she will almost always tell you “networking or word of mouth.” So if networking is so important, why aren’t we teaching it?  I told him that social capital (which is the study of resources developed through personal and professional relationships) and emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ for emotional quotient) are key factors to the successful interaction of people with one another.  I suggested that often people may get hired because of their IQ, but they get promoted because of their EQ.  All of these subjects have a strong influence on someone’s success and there is a wealth of research being developed in each of those areas.

The president looked to his dean for the School of Business and asked him what he thought. The dean looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “My professors would never teach that material here.” I asked him why and he said, “It’s all soft science.”

Soft science! Teaching people how to interact with people in an effective way is “soft science!” I should not have been surprised. I’ve run into this many times before with college professors in the past. I was just amazed that this progressive university would take such a position.

We give people bachelor’s degrees in marketing, business and even entrepreneurship, but we teach them hardly anything about the one subject that virtually every entrepreneur says is critically important to his or her business–networking and social capital. Why don’t business schools teach this subject? I think it’s because most business schools are made up of professors who’ve NEVER owned a business in their life. Almost everything they’ve learned about running a business they’ve learned from books and consulting. Well, I’ve read a fair number of books, I was a consultant for many years, and I’ve run my own business for more than two decades. I can tell you firsthand that if you haven’t actually owned a business, you have a handicap in teaching a course involving entrepreneurship.

Can you imagine a law course taught by someone who’s not an attorney, or an accounting course taught by anyone without direct accounting experience? Yet we put business professors in colleges to teach courses related to marketing and entrepreneurship with little or no firsthand experience in the field. Is it any wonder, then, that a subject that is so critically important to business people would be so completely missed by business schools? Of course not. Networking and social capital courses aren’t taught in business schools because most business professors aren’t practitioners. They don’t really understand the importance of this subject for entrepreneurs. Granted, there was little written in the field of networking and social capital 20 years ago (do a literature search. You’ll see), but that is not the case today. There are hundreds of articles and many books on various facets of the area. A thorough bibliography of many of these articles and books can be found in the back of The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret (Revised Edition).

Networking is a field that is finally being codified and structured. Business schools around the world need to wake up and start teaching this curriculum. Schools like any large institution are bureaucracies, so it’s unlikely to happen quickly; however, for those schools with vision, foresight and the ability to act swiftly (sort of the way business professors claim that businesses should act), they will be positioning themselves as leaders in education by truly understanding and responding to the needs of today’s businesses. These schools will be on the cutting edge of business education to better serve their students while positioning themselves as a leading institution for entrepreneurs.

Word-of-mouth marketing works. Social capital is critically important. And networking is the mechanism to develop both. As more universities and colleges open their doors to professors who want to include this strategy with their marketing instruction, we’re going to see a major shift in the business landscape. We’ll see emerging entrepreneurs who’ll be equipped with another strategy for success in business. We will see networking utilized at its fullest capacity, and we will see business schools actually teaching a subject that the business practitioner says is important.

If that doesn’t happen, the private sector will once again step up to the plate and fill the gap for the lack of practical education provided by universities. Just look at sales training. Colleges totally miss the boat on this subject which has created an “after degree” market in sales training done by people like Brian Tracy (briantracyuniversity.com). I predict the same will happen for networking and referral marketing with organizations like the Referral Institute (referralinstitute.com).

By the way, at the end of the conversation during that lunch, I asked the dean about courses on leadership.  I said, “How are courses on leadership any less of a soft science than networking?”  He didn’t have an answer. What a surprise.
I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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