Businesses Say Networking Helps Them Succeed; Professors Have to Look up the Term Networking!

My recently completed Referral Institute study of more than 12,000 business professionals from all around the world has ended, and I’ve been going through mountains of statistics and data (oh joy).  I thought I might share an important one with my readers.  This statistic will not surprise anyone in the real world (yes professors, I’m saying you live in a fantasy world):  91.4 percent of all respondents claimed that networking played a role in their success.  Only 6 percent said it did not, and I’m guessing that the 2.7 percent that said networking wasn’t applicable were the professors I just outed as being clueless about the real world.  If you think I’m being harsh, read my blog about my experience with the dean of a local California University who said that networking would never be taught in his school!

OK, so the rest of us aren’t surprised about this result, but here’s why I posted it: Finally, we have some empirical data as to how important business networking is to the success of a business! Maybe now that we are starting to have something boring–like  hard data– more professors in business schools will start to teach this content.  Oh well, it’s good to have goals.

‘Relationships are Irrelevant!’ Really?

Last week I wrote a blog called “Premature Solicitation,” which was about a situation where someone whom I had never met and didn’t know asked me to introduce him and his product to a very important connection of mine.

I shared this blog in a couple of venues, including one of my favorite online social networks.  A great dialog ensued with most people sharing their horror stories and frustrations about people who pounce on them at networking meetings asking for business even though they’ve never met the person before.

Every time I start to think this is an almost universal feeling of distaste for that approach to networking, I am brought back to reality by the minority of people who still think that this is actually a good networking technique.

To my astonishment, someone on the forum actually wrote:

“I don’t happen to believe that you need a relationship with the person you are asking first. What you must have is a compelling story or product/service that would genuinely benefit the referral . . .

The fact that you had not cultivated a relationship with the person has become irrelevant because, more importantly, you had been in a position to help [your contact] benefit from the introduction.  If it’s of genuine benefit to the person being referred, I don’t see the problem . . .

It’s about the benefit of what’s being referred rather than the relationship with the person asking for the referral . . .

Who am I to deny my contacts of something good?”

Wow.  What can I say?  The “relationship” is irrelevant! All you have to have is a good story, product or service and I owe it to any stranger (who says he or she has a good product) to introduce him or her to a good contact of mine!  Really? People really think this way!? According to this writer, it doesn’t matter if I actually know or trust the person wanting the business.  As long as the person has a good product (or so he says), I should refer that person because I would “deny” my contacts “something good!”

Networkers against Premature Solicitation unite!  We need to teach people that this is NOT a good way to network.  After reading my blog, a good friend of mine, TR Garland, started a Facebook page called: Facebook Users Who are Tired of Premature Solicitation (Oh My)! Take a look at it and sign up!

Also–tell me here in this blog what you think about the quotes above.  Do YOU want to get hit up by people at networking events this way?  Please tell me I’m not alone!  Networking is about relationship building–not “pouncing” on people because you think you have something good to sell them!

Premature Solicitation

Have you ever been solicited for a referral or for business by someone you didn’t even know?  Michelle Villalobos, a BNI member in Miami, calls this “Premature Solicitation.” [Say that fast three times and you might get in trouble!]

I agree completely with Michelle, and I’ve been a victim of “premature solicitation” many times.  I was recently speaking at a business networking event and, before my presentation, someone literally came up to me and said, “Hi, it is a real pleasure to meet you.  I understand you know Richard Branson.  I offer specialized marketing services and I am sure his Virgin enterprises could benefit from what I provide.  Could you please introduce me to him so that I can show him how this would assist his companies?”

OK, so what I was thinking was:

Are you completely insane?  I’m going to introduce you, someone I don’t know and don’t have any relationship with, to Sir Richard, whom I’ve only met a few times (here’s the story of the first meeting)so that you can proceed to attempt to sell him a product or service that I don’t know anything about and haven’t used myself?  Yeah, right.  That’s NEVER going to happen.

I am pleased to report, however, that with much effort, I was able to keep that little monologue inside my own head, opting instead for a much more subtle response. 😉

I replied… Hi, I’m Ivan, I’m sorry–I don’t think we’ve met before, what was your name again? That surprised the man enough to make him realize that his “solicitation” might have been a bit “premature.”  I explained that I regularly refer people to my contacts, but only after I’ve established a long-term strong relationship with the service provider first.  He said thanks and moved on to his next victim.

Networking is not about hunting.  It is about farming.  It’s about cultivating relationships.  Don’t engage in “premature solicitation.”   You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.

Let’s Fix The Legal System; Does Anyone Have a Sledgehammer?

OK, let me start by saying that my real beef is with civil litigators, not all lawyers and though I may use the term “lawyer” in my blog, it is the litigators I am really upset with. I also understand that we need rules of law and people to help guide us through them, such as my colleague here on the Entrepreneur.com Blog Network, Nina Kaufman, who writes the Making it Legal blog (Nina, please don’t hate me . . . for what I’m about to say).

Not all lawyers are litigators. However, all litigators are lawyers and it is that particular group of people that I think have made a mess out of our legal system.

The most outrageous legal cases can make it to court and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend. I recently saw a case where a man decided  NOT to renew his services with a business, then sued the business for the loss of income he incurred by not renewing the service! That’s right. He chose to not renew, then sued because he lost income after not renewing the service! Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? Well, to just about any sane person, it is. Unfortunately, litigators can make the most incredible “legal” arguments out of the most outrageous claims, and judges feel compelled to let them go through the system.   Welcome to America!

All of this means that the defendants have to pay thousands–sometimes hundreds of thousands–of dollars to defend these insane claims.

This particular case that I mentioned above dragged on for years in the legal system and cost the defending parties more than $100,000 to defend! The primary defendant refused to settle at any cost. She was not going to buckle to extortion from this guy. However, two of the secondary defendants finally paid a few thousand dollars to make this extortionist and his litigator go away because they couldn’t afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would take to have this go all the way through court. The ONLY winner was the litigator.

When I hear stories like this, I can’t help but wonder if Shakespeare got it right in Henry VI when he said the first thing we do is get rid of the lawyers! (OK, I know, that’s not the exact quote but, I don’t want to be sued by someone saying that I was threatening bodily harm to this esteemed group of professionals).

In preparation for writing this blog, I did some research on Shakespeare’s quote and I read one legal website that wrote that Shakespeare’s statement was actually a defense of lawyers because the comment was made by criminals. Therefore they (the criminals) just wanted the “good guys” (the lawyers) out of the way.  Wow, and we wonder why the legal system is a mess. Sorry, only lawyers could argue that the quote from Shakespeare was a compliment!

Well, I believe in solutions and not just describing problems. So here are some possible solutions. First, I believe that there should be mandatory mediation between parties before any lawsuit can ever be filed (the litigators will hate this one)! From personal experience (and contracts that I’ve done), this often works). The problem is, anyone can sue anyone for anything before there is any face-to-face time with a professional mediator. Second, I believe that 100 percent of the time, the losing party should pay the winning party’s legal fees. Furthermore, I think the losing litigator should share in paying this fee! This will make the extortionists and litigators very cautious about the ridiculous lawsuits that are filed.  Watch how many crazy lawsuits cease if the lawyers pushing the process have to pay something if they lose!

Hey, these are only ideas–there may be many better ones out there. I just know one thing. Our legal system is a mess, and it’s going to take a sledgehammer and a lot of work to fix it. What are your recommendations?

OK, I feel better now.  Oh, wait–I forgot something important:

Legal Disclaimer

This disclaimer does not cover misuse, accident, lightning, flood, tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption, earthquake, hurricanes and other Acts of God, neglect, damage from improper reading, incorrect line voltage, improper or unauthorized use, broken antenna or marred cabinet, missing or altered serial numbers, removal of tag, electromagnetic radiation from nuclear blasts, sonic boom, crash, ship sinking or taking on water, motor vehicle crashing, dropping the item, falling rocks, leaky roof, broken glass, mudslides, forest fire, or projectile (which can include, but not be limited to, arrows, bullets, shot, BBs, paintball, shrapnel, lasers, napalm, torpedoes, or emissions of X-rays, Alpha, Beta and Gamma rays, knives, stones, etc.).

These comments do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Entrepreneur.com, my company, my friends, or my dogs; don’t quote me on that; don’t quote me on anything. Humor subject to change without notice; resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is unintentional and coincidental; all models are over 18 years of age; dry clean only; do not bend, fold, or mutilate; anchovies or jalapenos added to jokes upon request; your mileage may vary; no substitutions are allowed; for a limited time only while supplies last; offer void where prohibited;

Do not use if safety seal is broken; do not use while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment; safety goggles may be required during use; call before you dig; use only with proper ventilation; for external use only; if a swelling, redness, rash, or irritation develops, and you don’t discontinue use you totally deserve a swelling, redness, rash, or irritation;

Do not place near a flammable or magnetic source; keep away from open flames; avoid inhaling fumes or contact with mucous membranes. Allow four to six weeks for delivery; if defects are found, do not try to fix them yourself, but return to an authorized joke service center; please remain seated until the jokes have come to a complete stop; jokes in the mirror may be funnier than they appear;

This disclaimer does NOT cover drug overdoses, stress, lawyers of any kind, small bombs, large bombs, sheer stupidity, floods, earthquakes, dangerous streets, dangerous pilots, sonic boom vibrations, electromagnetic radiation from nuclear blasts, unauthorized repair, improper installation, misuse, typos, misspelled words, missing or altered signatures, and incidents owing to computer or disk failure, accidental file deletions, or milk coming out of your nose due to laughing while drinking; other restrictions may apply.

If something offends you, lighten up, get a life, and move on.

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!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
1 2 3
   Follow Me

Get every new post delivered to your inbox