Story Of Wallflower Experience At Networking Event

Look for the Wallflowersstring(24) "Look for the Wallflowers"

I was talking about networking with a good friend of mine, Dr. Mark Goulston (a well-known psychiatrist and consultant), some time ago, and he said, “People should always introduce themselves to the wallflower in the room.  Nobody attends a networking event wanting to stay in a corner and be left alone. They’re in that corner because the most technically skilled people are often socially shy. You never know when you’ll meet the next Bill Gates.”

This comment really resonated with me, and it reminded me of a time a few years ago when I was at a party put on by Virgin Galactic relating to the testing of White Knight Two and SpaceShip Two. I walked outside the party and looked over in the corner by the pool where I saw a man standing by himself looking uncomfortable and very much out of his element. Then I noticed who it was. It was the legendary Burt Rutan, Founder of Scaled Composites, and designer of the SpaceShipTwo! He was by himself at a party with hundreds of people celebrating the work of the company he founded as well as Virgin Galactic.

This was an opportunity I could not pass up. So, I went up and introduced myself to him.  I asked him if he went to many of these events, and he said, “Counting this one – that would be one.”  I asked him why he decided to go to this one, and he said, “Because Richard asked me to come.”  By the way, that would be – Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin Galactic.

Although he didn’t seem very outgoing in this setting, he did seem good with having a conversation, so I pushed on. I said to him, “It must be incredible to see this amazing, long-term vision come to fruition.” He nicely replied, “This isn’t my long-term vision of what the company can do.”  I’m sure I was visibly surprised as I asked him, “What’s your long-term vision?”  He said, “Well, I believe the company can push forward past sub-orbital flights and expand to allow space tourists to do orbital flights around the earth.”  I naively said, “That’s an amazing long-term vision.” He replied, “That’s not my long-term vision.”  I was really surprised and said, “Okay, what’s your long-term vision?”  He replied that he felt “the company could provide orbital flights to passengers who could then stay at a hotel in space for a short period of time.” At this point, I’m completely blown away, and I once again said, “That’s an amazing, long-term vision,” and, yet again, he said, “That’s not my long-term vision.” At this point I’m all in, and I’m completely fascinated with this visionary, so I again asked, “What’s your long-term vision?” He replied, “I believe we can launch flights into orbit, stay at a hotel in space, and then take flights around the moon and back – that’s my long-term vision.”

Burt was probably in his late 60’s when we had this conversation, and I asked him one final question, “When do you think that vision can become a reality?” And he replied, “I think it can be done in my lifetime.”

The British have a term for what I felt at that moment – “gobsmacked.” I was utterly astounded by this man’s vision, and I was incredibly honored to have had this opportunity to talk with him.

I founded the largest referral networking organization in the world, and I’ve met tens of thousands of people during my tenure in BNI. I can easily say that this was one of the most interesting conversations I ever had with someone at a party or networking event. Burt Rutan’s (and, of course, Richard Branson’s) vision of what can be done through their entrepreneurial efforts has left an indelible mark on me.

The important lesson here relates to Dr. Goulston’s belief that we should always look for the “wallflowers” in the room. Not everyone of them will be a “Burt Rutan” but I’ve found that most of them are interesting and well worth the conversation. Just every now and then, you might meet a Bill Gates or a Burt Rutan, and that makes the effort of finding those wallflowers worth it.

Do you have a story to share about talking with someone who was alone at a networking event? Or have you had your own “wallflower” experience when someone came over to talk with you at a meeting or event?




Photo courtesy of:
File:Burt Rutan – Cropped.JPG” by Steve Paluch is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

How To Follow Up People For Networking

Why many networkers fail to follow up (and how to reverse this trend)string(69) "Why many networkers fail to follow up (and how to reverse this trend)"

This guest blog is from Shelly Lefkoe, my long-time friend and fellow member of TLC (Transformational Leadership Council). I recommend her book to all my readers.

Imagine running a marathon. You run past mile marker 25. Then mile marker 26. Just 1/10th of a mile left to go. You still have gas in the tank. The finish line is in sight. But instead of running any further, you walk off the path and go home.  Sounds silly, right?

But many otherwise smart people do something similar when it comes to networking.

They make connections. They have great conversations. They get contact information. Then they are never heard from again.  From the outside, we can’t understand why this happens.

We know the value of following up with new contacts. We get remembered. We build relationships that are crucial to furthering our businesses and careers.

And if we don’t follow up, we miss all that.

So what stops smart people from following up?

To answer that question, let’s examine a networking situation.

You have a great conversation with someone at a networking event. Maybe they can refer people to you. Maybe they could even be a client in the future.  The next day, you look at the business card, thinking you’ll send a follow-up email.  You feel uncomfortable and think, “I’ll do this tomorrow.”  This process may repeat for a few days before you forget about following up altogether.

Sound familiar?

The uncomfortable feeling was, in most cases, accompanied by uncomfortable thoughts such as:

  • “I can’t figure out what to say.”
  • “They don’t really want to hear from me.”
  • “I’ll sound stupid.”

These thoughts are almost like stop signs. We see, and we obey.

Most typical advice tells you to argue with interfering thoughts such as these. But in my 30 years of helping people make long-lasting changes to their lives, I’ve found a better way.

We find the beliefs that lead to the thoughts, and then we change them.

Here’s how this works.

Each of these thoughts points to a limiting belief.

  • If you keep thinking, “I can’t figure out what to say,” you may have beliefs such as “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not capable,” or even “I’m not a good writer/communicator.”
  • If you have thoughts like “They don’t really want to hear from me,” you may have beliefs like “I’m not important” or “People aren’t interested in what I have to say.”
  • If the painful thought “I’ll sound stupid” shows up, then you could believe “I’m not smart enough,” or even “I’m stupid.”

(By the way, over the decades, I’ve worked with five Harvard PhDs who believed “I’m stupid” despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. This shows you can have a belief even if it makes no sense to the outside world.)

When I first met my client, Ted, he decided he needed to network to grow his plumbing business.  He joined BNI but, at first, would avoid the meetings.  He kept feeling like he was less than the other professionals who he felt were “smarter” and more successful than he was. I helped him discover that he believed “Others are smarter than me,” “I’m not good enough,” and “No one wants to hear what I have to say.”

The next time I spoke to Ted, he had attended a meeting and didn’t have all those old feelings anymore. He kept going.  Eventually, he did gain referrals through BNI and now has a successful plumbing business.

Most of us have a little Ted in us. We have doubts and concerns that keep us from taking important steps to grow our businesses, like following up with potential referral partners. When we get past them, we can act swiftly to reach our goals.  However, you may not be convinced yet.  You might think …

“My beliefs are not why I don’t follow up, I just don’t have the time.” 

Ivan Misner has provided fantastic templates for writing a follow-up email. These take seconds to use.

“I don’t have time” is a reason we give when we’re uncomfortable about a task. Look inside. Imagine you were given a day off from work and all responsibilities. You are about to write a follow-up email.  How does that feel?

If you feel fine about it, why not do it now? But if you feel uncomfortable, you’ve just learned something useful.  You can find the belief causing your discomfort and do something about it.

Next step

In my book, co-written with Vahan Yepremyan, titled “Hitting the Wall: Eliminate the Beliefs That Sabotage Your Business and Your Life,” I detail the specific process for finding and changing your limiting beliefs. When people use this process, they report that their attitudes, feelings, and behaviors improve with great ease.

Often we unconsciously avoid things that are uncomfortable, but when the discomfort goes away, we can charge ahead with full force.  If you’ve ever felt you were driving with the brakes on, get my book, but more importantly, read it. It will make a massive difference in your life.

Hitting the Wall: Eliminate the Beliefs That Sabotage Your Business and Your Life is available on and anywhere books are sold.

Click here to get the book on Amazon.

tips for successful business

Tips for Hosting a Successful Business Mixerstring(44) "Tips for Hosting a Successful Business Mixer"

Hosting a successful business mixer can be a powerful tool for fostering connections and expanding your professional network. While it might seem like a challenging endeavor, you’ll be okay if you remember that your primary purpose is to facilitate networking. With that in mind, I offer eight tips that can contribute to the effectiveness of your business mixer.

1. Strategic Planning

Start planning the event at least eight weeks ahead of time. This window allows you to effectively invite a diverse range of guests, ensuring a healthy mix of professionals attending. You can also encourage potential attendees to donate door prizes to enhance engagement.

2. Optimal Venue Selection

If your office space or building is sizable enough, consider hosting the mixer at your place of business. This provides exposure to your workspace and also creates a casual and comfortable environment for networking. Make sure that the venue you select has is easily accessible and has enough parking for the attendees.

3. Showcase Products and Services

Dedicate specific areas that are marked with clear signs for attendees to display information about their products and services. This encourages interactive conversations and information exchange among participants OR the networkers.

4. Designate a Welcoming Committee

Appoint a group of “Visitor Hosts” who will warmly greet arriving guests. Name tags should be prepared for everyone, ensuring that each guest completes theirs properly. To encourage a dynamic networking environment, limit the availability of chairs by only having very few in the room. This will prompt people to actively mingle.

5. Engage in Networking Exercises

Kickstart the mixer with a brief networking activity. This could involve participants meeting three new individuals or finding someone in a related field to discuss their most effective networking strategies. These icebreakers cultivate meaningful interactions.

6. Innovative Mixer Ideas

Add excitement to your event by incorporating innovative concepts. For instance, organize a “Meet Your (Business) Match” session where attendees with similar professional backgrounds gather in designated zones (examples: finance, real estate, health care). Alternatively, you can introduce a fun twist by having guests draw cards with the names of famous duos, encouraging them to find their “partner” during networking (examples: Romeo – Juliet, Mickey Mouse – Minnie Mouse, Lois Lane – Clark Kent, Han Solo – Princess Leia, John Lennon – Paul McCartney).

7. Stay Focused on Networking

Focus on the primary purpose and fundamental objective of facilitating networking throughout the event. While it might be tempting to take the spotlight with speeches or presentations, remember that keeping the atmosphere conducive to connections is the priority.

8. Efficient Closing

When concluding the mixer, allocate around ten minutes for introductions and door prize distribution. Briefly acknowledge everyone and express gratitude for their participation, reinforcing the networking aspect of the event. Remember to start the event on time and to end on time.

The success of a business mixer lies in your ability to foster an environment where professionals can engage, share insights, and create valuable connections. By adhering to these tips, you can establish an event that can benefit your own business and provides a platform for others to expand their networks and collaborate effectively.

Remember, the core focus should always be on networking, and by prioritizing this objective, you will be well on your way to hosting a successful business mixer.

If you have hosted networking mixers before and have additional tips to offer, or if you have an interesting story to tell about your experience with hosting a mixer, please share it in the comments section.




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Human Behavior And Caterpillar Behavior Story

Processionary Caterpillars and Human Behaviorstring(45) "Processionary Caterpillars and Human Behavior"

Nature is a treasure trove of fascinating phenomena, often defying human understanding and challenging our perception of the world around us. One such enigmatic behavior is exhibited by processionary caterpillars, a group of insects that exhibit an eerie and puzzling tendency to walk in endless circles until they meet their demise. One of the first people to write about them was Jean-Henri Fabre in the early 1900’s.

Fabre experimented with the caterpillars by arranging them so they would walk in a circle to see how long it would take one of them to realize its mistake and change course.  He assumed it would take just minutes or maybe hours.  However, to his horror, they walked in a circle for more than a week before they started dying.

A Mirror for Us

The natural world often offers a mirror through which we can reflect on our own behaviors and choices. The intriguing behavior of processionary caterpillars, known for their endless circular marches, holds uncanny resemblances to certain patterns of human behavior that lead to negative consequences. By looking at the parallels between these caterpillars and human actions, we can gain insights into the complexity and the unintended consequences that can emerge from seemingly innocuous choices.

Much like processionary caterpillars, people often find themselves caught in repetitive patterns that lead to unfavorable outcomes. These patterns can be observed in various aspects of life, from personal relationships to societal trends. I have personally witnessed it many times within networking groups that refuse to change their unproductive behaviors despite the marginal results of the group. The inability to break away from these patterns, despite evidence of their harmful effects, is reminiscent of the caterpillars’ persistent adherence to their circular marches.

The caterpillars’ circular marches, while seemingly devoid of rationality, also reveal the dangers of stubborn adherence to a status quo that is not working. All too often I meet people who are happy in their hole, and they don’t want a ladder. Just as the caterpillars march in circles despite the evident signs of danger, people sometimes continue down destructive paths simply because they are unwilling to consider alternatives.

A Cautionary Tale

The processionary caterpillars’ behavior, driven by an innate inability to perceive alternatives, serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of critical thinking. This echoes the human tendency to make decisions based on habits, biases, and preconceived notions rather than a rational evaluation of options and more importantly, the ability to engage in behaviors that have proven to work over and over again by other successful individuals.

The inability of processionary caterpillars to adapt their behavior when circumstances change, holds a mirror to human resistance to change. People frequently find themselves clinging to outdated beliefs (often because they “seem” easier), or methods even when they are no longer effective. This inability to alter course to do something known to work can lead to stagnation, missed opportunities, and a failure to address pressing issues within the organization.

The behavior of processionary caterpillars holds disconcerting parallels to certain negative patterns of human behavior. The tendency to blindly follow someone leading them in circles, resisting change, conforming to group dynamics, and perpetuating destructive cycles is a reminder of the intricate interplay between individuals within a group.

Ultimately, the story of processionary caterpillars serves as a cautionary tale that prompts us to reflect on our own behaviors and the potential consequences of our actions. Just as we study and learn from nature, we should also strive to learn from the mistakes and behaviors of people who have a track record of success, using their stories as opportunities for self-improvement and growth.

Don’t just follow the leader – follow the leader who is taking you towards success.

Risk taking and Adversity in Learning

Risk Taking and Adversitystring(25) "Risk Taking and Adversity"

One law of human nature is to want more – more horsepower, more serenity, more intimacy, more money, more power, more life. However, getting “more” is often an uncomfortable business. To reach the juiciest apples, we have to climb high, we have to reach out, and we take the risk of falling off the ladder.

This risk taking journey requires us to tread on uncertain ground and is often uncomfortable, whether physically, financially, socially, and especially emotionally. The path to attaining more is seldom paved with comfort; we spend a lot of time feeling awkward, inept, and out of our element. We grapple with physical strain, financial uncertainty, social unease, and the rollercoaster of emotions where terror and exhilaration dance a reckless tango on our nerves.

The Pursuit of “More” Takes Learning

Reaching for “more” necessitates learning, and learning makes us feel like children again, with all the excitement, wonder, and fear that blended together and colored our earliest experiences. It’s not the subject matter of what we are learning that is transformative; rather, it is our starting point and how far we’re trying to reach that make the difference.  Learning is not an absolute; it is relative, profound, and personal. The journey of a paraplegic rediscovering the complexities of walking is as intense as that of a teenager learning to drive. The uphill struggle of a downhill skier learning to snowboard and conquer the half-pipe aligns in spirit with a manicurist embarking on the entrepreneurial journey of running their own shop. The ordinary – something that is routine for one, becomes an extraordinary success for another.

Adversity – a Catalyst for Growth

In learning, we all start from adversity. We don’t make enough money, we dislike our job, we don’t know enough, can’t climb the mountain. Adversity is a catalyst for growth; it may creep into our awareness as dissatisfaction, a natural manifestation of personal growth, or it may be forced upon us by accident or catastrophic illness. Regardless of its guise, we intensely desire to move the arc from adversity to triumph, from struggle to victory. Along this path, we encounter fresh ideas, hone new skills, embrace evolving beliefs, and adopt new attitudes. We face down adversity and stretch ourselves toward success. We improve.

To improve, we must weigh the desired end against the pain of getting there.  No risk, no gain. If we opt for comfort and ease, we forgo the rewards of accomplishment. And yet, if we take to heart what professional athletes are taught and “do something every day that scares you a little,” we stretch our boundaries and move into new territory. As we move beyond our comfort zones, change occurs, we gain more self-confidence, making it easier to push boundaries, and emboldening us to confront and tackle greater challenges. We convert nervous energy that once sent jitters cascading within us into kinetic energy.  We become unstoppable.

In the grand tapestry of existence, our journey is a quest for “more.” More growth, more understanding, more mastery of self. This pursuit is not for the faint-hearted or the seekers of ease. It is for those who dare to defy complacency, who revel in discomfort for the promise of growth, and who understand that the pinnacle of success is reached through valleys of unease.

In the chasm between aspiration and achievement, amid the realm of uncertainty, lies the wonderful experience of growth—an eternal dance of risk, resilience, and reward.

I’d like to hear from you. If you have a story about how you took a risk or faced adversity in order to grow, share it in the comments.




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Building Authentic Business Relationship

Networking is About Stamina, Not Speedstring(38) "Networking is About Stamina, Not Speed"

In the world of professional relationships and business growth, networking plays a pivotal role. As the founder of BNI, an organization built on the foundation of referrals and networking, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power it holds. So, let’s take a look at what this marathon should look like – with a little humor added in.

Building Authentic Relationships:
It’s Not Like Speed Dating!

Networking is about building authentic relationships, not just accumulating contacts. It’s not a speed dating event where you collect as many business cards as possible and hope for the best. Nope, that won’t cut it. It’s essential to invest time and effort in getting to know others on a deeper level. Remember, it’s not about exchanging pleasantries and pretending to be interested while secretly plotting to make a sale. Building rapport, trust, and a genuine connection requires a commitment to building long-term relationships. Treat it like a slow-cooked meal; let the flavors develop over time!

Establishing Credibility and Trust:
Actions Speak Louder Than Words, and Bad Puns

A successful networker understands the significance of establishing credibility and trust within the business community. And what better way to establish credibility than through consistent effort and delivering on your promises? Show up, be reliable, and provide value to others. But wait, there’s more! How about sprinkling in some humor to lighten the mood? Just make sure your networking humor doesn’t fall flat like a pancake. Remember, a good joke can break the ice, but a bad joke might just make people feel as cold as an iceberg!

Imagine that you’re at a networking event, and you strike up a conversation with a potential client. You are both discussing your businesses when you drop a perfectly timed pun. They chuckle, and suddenly the tension eases. You’ve established a connection beyond the ordinary small talk. So go ahead, let your sense of humor shine through. Just be careful not to overdo it.

The Power of Referrals:
Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Referrals are the lifeblood of successful networking. However, they’re not something that magically appears with the snap of your fingers. Oh no, referrals are more like that delicious meal you wait hours for at a fantastic restaurant. They take time to cook. As connections grow stronger and trust deepens, individuals become more willing to recommend your services or products. So, don’t rush it. Patience is key, just like waiting for that dessert you’ve been eyeing on the menu. Trust me, the referral soufflé will rise beautifully when the time is right!

Now, let’s imagine a scenario. You meet someone at a networking event who expresses interest in your business. Instead of bombarding them with sales pitches, take a different approach. Build a genuine connection, show interest in their business, and find ways to support them. Remember, networking is a two-way street. If you provide value and support to others, they’ll be more inclined to refer you to potential clients or partners. And when those referrals come flowing in, it’ll feel like winning a delicious food-eating competition—except without the stomach ache and gained weight!

The Depth of Connection:
Skip the Small Talk and Embrace the Quirkiness

While a sprint may be a quick burst of energy, networking thrives on the depth of connections you develop. It’s not about how many people you can engage within a short period, but rather the quality and depth of those relationships. So, minimize the small talk and embrace the quirkiness! Find common interests, share your passions, and let your authentic self shine when you network with people. After all, it’s the quirks and unique qualities that make us memorable. Just be careful not to overshare; we’re aiming for memorable, not creepy!

Imagine attending a networking event where everyone is wearing the same professional mask. The conversations revolve around the weather, the latest industry trends, and the most boring aspects of business. Sounds dreadful, right? Break free from the mundane! Instead of blending in, embrace your quirkiness. Talk about your love for comic books, your passion for knitting tiny hats for your pet turtle, or your secret talent for juggling oranges (for me, it’s catching and releasing venomous snakes back into the wild – that’s always a conversation starter). Be memorable, be authentic, and watch as those connections deepen like a well-developed plotline in a gripping novel.

Patience and Long-Term Vision:
Marathon Training with Snacks and Dance Breaks

Networking is a journey that requires patience and a long-term vision. It’s like training for a marathon, but with more snacks and dance breaks. Sure, there will be times when progress seems slow, and the finish line feels distant. That’s when you break out the snacks and groove to your favorite tunes. Keep that networking stamina high! Embrace the ups and downs, celebrate the small victories, and keep your eye on the prize. Remember, it’s not just about reaching the finish line; it’s about enjoying the process and the connections you make along the way.

Let’s envision a networking event as a vibrant dance floor. You’re wearing your networking shoes, grooving to the beat, and mingling with other professionals. You may stumble a few times, but you pick yourself up and keep going. As you dance, you share stories, exchange ideas, and forge connections. And when the DJ plays your favorite song, you let loose and celebrate the joy of networking. So, don’t forget to pack your favorite snacks, keep those dance moves handy, and embrace the marathon with a smile on your face.

Networking truly is a marathon, not a sprint. It involves building authentic relationships, establishing credibility and trust, earning referrals, fostering deep connections, and embracing a long-term vision. By understanding and embracing the principles of networking, individuals can unlock its true power in creating opportunities, fostering collaborations, and achieving professional success.

So, lace up those networking shoes, grab a handful of networking-themed snacks, and let’s embark on this marathon together. Embrace the journey, cultivate authentic relationships with a sprinkle of humor, and forge lasting connections that will propel us forward on our path to success. And don’t forget to laugh along the way because, let’s face it, networking can be serious business, but a little humor makes the journey all the more enjoyable!

helping in business networking

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Wherever you live in the world, Givers Gain® is the Number 1 rule to remember when networking. Always be thinking, “How can I help this person?” 

After all, business networking is about building relationships, and helping others is absolutely the best way to begin the relationship-building process.

Where to Begin?

In most social interactions, the common question is usually, “How’s everything going?” The typical response is often something like, “Great, things couldn’t be better.” This standard answer is often given as a gesture of courtesy because most people are aware that sharing their troubles might not be suitable for casual conversations. However, this automatic response seldom reveals the entire picture.

In reality, there is always room for improvement, and there are many ways that you can extend a helping hand. However, most individuals are reluctant to delve into specifics or disclose their challenges, particularly at social or networking events. To unveil genuine insights, avoid generalities like, “How are things?” Instead, ask more specific questions that dig a bit deeper.

For instance, if someone tells you things are going great, perhaps sharing that their business is thriving and surpassing their expectations, you can ask, “Are you successfully meeting all of your goals?” Even if the response is affirmative, this is still a big opportunity to help.

Consider this: It’s a business that is expanding faster than the owner had projected.
What potential support might it need?

By going beyond surface-level exchanges and genuinely understanding someone’s unique needs, you gain the ability to identify introductions that could prove beneficial for them and their situation. However, you can only figure out what introductions to make after getting past the generalities and finding out their specific needs.

Ways to Help Others

While many people think of networking solely as a channel for acquiring clients, embracing the Givers Gain mindset redefines it as a powerful tool for establishing relationships. The act of extending help introduces an avenue for building meaningful connections. Your assistance can come in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:
Making Introductions
Linking someone to individuals within your network can lead to profound outcomes. These connections can foster mutual appreciation and open doors for potential collaborations.

Sharing Knowledge
Providing industry insights, articles relevant to their business, or valuable resources underscores your willingness to contribute to someone else’s growth. Perhaps you can share something from your profession, such as an upcoming change in procedures that will affect them.

Skill Exchange
Sharing your areas of expertise or skills can be an impactful contribution to the success of others. Often, what may seem like a small thing to give can be of huge significance to the receiver.

Problem Solving
Helping someone in the resolution of business challenges they are experiencing demonstrates your ability to navigate complex issues. This can include giving tips on how to initiate the changes they will need to make to resolve the situation.

Offering guidance and mentorship can be invaluable to someone’s personal and professional development, including your own. I have found that every time I was a mentor to someone, it was also a learning experience for me, and I realized that I was improving myself while helping them.

Helping Builds Trust

When you embrace the Givers Gain philosophy, networking can go beyond transactional exchanges that are focused solely on getting a new customer. Instead, it becomes a way to build authentic and meaningful business relationships.

When you help someone in any way that serves their needs, you will begin a professional relationship with them, and creating a relationship helps build trust. Trust is the cornerstone of effective networking. When you practice Givers Gain often enough, you will be on the road to a powerful personal network predicated on trust that is built through helping someone else.

By genuinely aiming to assist others, you solidify a reputation as a valuable resource and a trusted collaborator. This embodies the true essence of business networking: fostering connections that enrich the lives of all parties involved.

The Number 1 networking rule, maintaining an attitude of, “How can I help this person?”, is the most effective way to build mutually beneficial relationships. Simply put, helping equals opportunity.

How to avoid assumptions in business networking

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When it comes to business networking, assuming that others know everything about your business can be a costly mistake. A florist once made this error, assuming that everyone in a networking group was familiar with the extent of his services. I heard him tell the members of the group, “I’m not sure what else to say. You all know what a florist does, right?”  Wrong!  His presumption was not only completely wrong, he also missed a valuable opportunity to educate potential customers and referral partners about his full range of offerings.

After the meeting, I asked him if he was an FTD florist, and then asked him several other questions:

  • Did he offer seasonal specials for holidays?  If so, which ones?
  • Did he handle emergency orders?
  • Did he have experience with weddings?
  • Could I set up a billing arrangement with his company?
  • Could I order online?
  • Do certain colors of roses signify certain things?
  • Could he give me tips to keep flowers alive longer?

I told him there were hundreds of things I didn’t know about his business, and other people surely felt the same way. They need to know what he offers, who he serves, how he does it, and why he is the best choice.

The florist’s case serves as a lesson for all entrepreneurs: never assume that people know everything about your business. Even in networking circles, where professionals come together on a regular basis to connect and exchange information, there is still a need to educate others about your services, products, and the solutions you can provide.

The Power of Educating Others

To effectively engage in your networking group and capitalize on the referral opportunities, consider these steps:

Prepare a List of Questions
Start by creating a list of questions that potential clients might have about your business. These questions can encompass the range of services you offer, pricing details, special promotions, customer policies, and anything else relevant to your industry.

Address One Question Per Meeting
At each networking event, focus on addressing one question from your list when you are speaking to the group. Present concise and informative answers that showcase the depth and breadth of your business. This approach educates others about your offerings and is engaging and memorable.

Showcase Your Expertise
In networking, people seek expertise and trustworthiness in potential business partners. By taking the time to educate others about your business, you establish yourself as an authority in your field. This credibility enhances the possibility of gaining referrals and attracting new customers.

Share Unique Selling Points
Educating others about your business allows you to highlight your unique selling points. Use networking opportunities to showcase what sets you apart from competitors and why potential clients should choose your products or services.

Emphasize Customer Benefits
As share information by answering questions from your list, always emphasize the benefits your customers can expect from working with you. Highlight the value you bring and how you address the specific needs of your target market.

Be Open to Learning
Networking is a two-way street. While educating others about your business, be open to learning about theirs. Understanding their needs and interests better allows you to tailor your responses more effectively and identify potential collaboration opportunities.

Follow Up with Interested Contacts
After networking events, follow up with individuals who expressed interest in your services, and follow up with the referrals you receive, preferably within 24 hours. You can answer any questions they may have and continue educating them about your business with timely and personalized communication.

Bonus tip
If you have ten questions from your original list, and you develop ten weekly presentations from those questions, plan to reuse them again at future networking meetings. People need to hear your information more than once, and there will be new people in the room who know nothing about what you do.

Educate Others

Networking provides a platform to educate others about your business, ensuring that potential customers have a comprehensive understanding of your offerings. By avoiding assumptions and proactively sharing valuable information, you can position yourself as a trusted authority and gain a competitive edge in the market. Embrace networking as an opportunity to educate, connect, and build lasting business relationships that pave the way for success.

Remember the florist from above? He knew his business and assumed that everyone else knew it as well. Avoid making that same assumption in YOUR networking group. Everyone has something they can say that will educate people about the products and services their business has to offer. Avoid assumptions and don’t pass up a chance to teach people more about what you do!




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Knowledge Networking and Referral Networking – Using Both for Business Growthstring(83) "Knowledge Networking and Referral Networking – Using Both for Business Growth"

In today’s interconnected business world, networking plays a pivotal role in achieving success. There are two primary types of formal networking groups that most people are involved in: Knowledge Networking and Referral Networking. They each offer distinct benefits which I’ll share in this blog.

Knowledge Networking

Knowledge Networking is also known as intraprofessional networking. It emphasizes self-help, information exchange, and resource sharing among professionals. It fosters improved productivity and work-life harmony. This networking style is influenced by the megatrend of information exchange impacting our society.

Knowledge networks have been around longer than almost any other kind of group – from the medieval guilds, to crafts associations, to today’s professional groups and industry associations. Some of these groups limit membership to their own industry. However, quite a few groups that represent industries other than your own will allow you to join as an associate member of their organization. This can connect you with a concentrated target market, including many top-quality contacts.

Referral Networking

Referral Networking is interprofessional networking; it involves professionals from various occupations collaborating to increase each other’s business. In fact, the primary purpose of most interprofessional networking groups is to increase one another’s business through referrals.

In strong interprofessional networking, participants typically get the majority of their business, or their best business, through referrals. Organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and Industry, JCI (formerly known as Jaycees), and BNI are typical groups in this category. Different groups offer different strengths and weaknesses in helping their members generate word-of-mouth business. It is important to look closely at the makeup and structure of each of the various organizations that you might join before selecting those that best fit your needs.

If your past experience with business organizations wasn’t as successful as you wanted, don’t let that get in the way of doing what needs to be done to build your business through word-of-mouth now. The best way to begin the process of building a referral-based business is in a group or groups of other business professionals.  The only alternative is to meet with one person at a time, which inevitably means you’re going to be working harder, not smarter.
To effectively build a referral-based business through networking, here are four strategies to consider:

1. Diversify Your Networking Involvement

Join multiple types of networking groups to diversify your word-of-mouth activities. Engaging with various professionals widens your reach and exposure to potential clients and referral partners.

2. Embrace the Hub Firm Approach

Develop your company into a Hub Firm, offering coordination and connection with effective services that businesses rely on. Positioning yourself between other people’s networks allows you to become a central resource for other professionals and strengthens your position and referral potential.

3. Engage with Professional Organizations

Don’t be a cave dweller; avoid being isolated by actively participating in professional organizations that are tailored to networking purposes.  These groups provide opportunities to meet and build relationships with like-minded business professionals.
You won’t get results if you are a member who doesn’t attend meetings or interact with fellow members.

4. Cultivate Trust and Connection

Building a referral-based business hinges on trust and connection. Invest time to cultivate meaningful relationships with friends, associates, customers and clients, peers, and family members. The only people who are going to consistently make referrals for you are the ones who know and trust you. Remember, strangers are not going to consistently give and refer business to you.

If you want to grow your business, you need to start spending time with the right people in structured professional environments. In a competitive business landscape, referral networking remains a powerful tool for success. Implementing these strategies can help your business grow.  

What is your experience in Referral Networking and/or Knowledge Networking?




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Six Ways to Use Networking to Find a Jobstring(40) "Six Ways to Use Networking to Find a Job"

As job markets continue to evolve, networking remains a powerful tool for finding employment opportunities. More than 80% of all jobs are found through networking according to a LinkedIn study. So, I thought I would share some ideas about how both recent graduates and seasoned professionals can find a new position.
Here are six networking steps that can help someone who is looking for a job.

1.Cultivate a Confident Mindset

Desperation is not referable. Approach networking with confidence, rather than desperation. You will be depending on your network to vouch for you and speak highly of you to their hiring manager and their contacts, so confidently showcase your skills and abilities.

2.Curate Your Online Presence

Ensure that all of your social media accounts project a professional image. Potential employers often review online profiles, so make sure yours reflects positively on you; you don’t want to make your network look bad if they recommend you.
I once checked out the Facebook page of someone I was considering hiring. OMG! There were excessive swearwords in most of his posts, along with many inappropriate comments and tirades about people. He was not the kind of influence I wanted in my office.

3.Leverage Existing Relationships

Start by connecting with friends, family and business contacts, both in person and on platforms like LinkedIn. Communicate your job search goals, telling them exactly what kind of position you’re looking for. Ask them to keep an eye out for suitable openings.

4.Tap Into Diverse Contacts

Expand your network beyond your immediate circles and connections. Reach out to neighbors, professional organizations, past clients, and community groups for additional contacts. Sometimes, even weak ties can lead to valuable job referrals.

5.Categorize Your Contacts

Assess the nature of your relationships – active, passive, or dormant, and then tailor your approach accordingly. This is my strategy to approach each of them.
Active – pick up the phone and ask for assistance. You have a relationship with them; most likely, they will love to help you.
Passive – set an appointment to reconnect with them, preferably in person. Find out about them and how they’re doing and let them know you’re looking for something.
Dormant – reconnect through social media or email. Just talk. Don’t ask for anything – yet. Stay in touch and gradually build the relationship before you ask.

6.Network In-Person

Engage in face-to-face networking by visiting companies in the industry you are interested in. Check in with the front desk, drop off your resume, and ask to meet with the HR director. Even better, find out if someone in your network can connect you to a current employee in that company.

Once you get a referral or a great connection, do these two things.

Research the Prospective Employer

Prepare thoroughly before interviews. Learn about the company’s history, their corporate culture and values, and any recent news or latest press releases – whatever you can find. Checking out their website is only the start. Research the organization to get more information. If possible, research the interviewers to gain insights into their professional backgrounds.

I landed one of the biggest jobs of my career (before starting BNI and long before Google) because I researched the company and knew so much about the organization and the professional background of the person interviewing me that it blew him away and he hired me.

Offer a “Working Interview”

Suggest a “working interview” to showcase your talents and work ethic. It is a great way for a company to take your experience for a “test drive.” It will give you an opportunity to show them what you’re made of. This approach allows employers to assess your suitability for the role in a practical manner. If all goes well, ask them to consider you for the position. A successful “working interview” can lead to immediate job offers.

I have been recommending this to job-seekers for many years. I once suggested this idea to my eldest daughter. She tried it out with a company she wanted to work for, and they took her up on the “working interview” offer. She did such a great job, they hired her the next day!

Networking remains an indispensable approach for job seekers across all career states. By following these steps and integrating the strategies, you can navigate the competitive job market with greater confidence and increased chances of success. Share this with someone you know who is looking for employment.

Has networking helped you find a job? I’d love to hear your experience; share in the comments below.




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“It’s work” to show up but “it works” to show up!string(79) "“It’s work” to show up but “it works” to show up!"

In a fast-paced and interconnected world, success often depends on one’s ability to show up consistently and make a meaningful impact. While the phrase “It’s work” implies that being present requires effort and dedication, “It works” signifies the effectiveness and results of consistent effort. This blog explores the significance of both expressions and the transformative power they hold in shaping personal growth, professional success, and societal progress.

“It’s work” – The Importance of Showing Up:

The phrase “It’s work” embodies the notion that showing up and being present requires commitment and effort. This can be applied to various aspects of life, including relationships, networking, education, business, and career. To achieve success or make a difference, individuals must overcome obstacles, manage time, and remain dedicated to their goals. The act of showing up signifies reliability, responsibility, and accountability, traits that are highly valued in both personal and professional spheres.

Personal Growth: Whether it’s pursuing a passion, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, or improving oneself, consistency in showing up is vital for personal growth. By consistently engaging in self-improvement activities, individuals can foster resilience, discipline, and self-confidence.

Academic Pursuits: Students who regularly attend classes, complete assignments, and participate in discussions demonstrate a commitment to their education. Regular attendance not only leads to better academic performance but also prepares students for future responsibilities in their chosen careers.

Professional Life: In the workplace, people who consistently show up on time, meet deadlines, and contribute to team efforts are more likely to be recognized and rewarded. Reliability and consistency build trust among associates, colleagues, and supervisors, leading to greater opportunities for business development.

“It works” – The Power of Consistent Effort:

While showing up is essential, it is equally crucial for those efforts to yield tangible results. “It works” celebrates the positive outcomes of consistent and diligent work, highlighting the effectiveness of sustained effort and perseverance. It’s one of the reasons I set BNI up as a weekly meeting.

Achieving Goals: Success rarely comes overnight.  I have often said that “I am a 20-year, overnight success!” Instead of overnight success, achieving one’s goals often results from ongoing effort and determination. “It works” acknowledges the progress made through continuous dedication and reinforces the idea that sustained hard work can lead to the realization of dreams and goals.

Innovation and Progress: Significant breakthroughs and advancements are often the results of tireless work and dedication from researchers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. The phrase “It works” celebrates these achievements and inspires further innovation to drive societal progress.

Social Impact: Many societal changes are brought about by the collective efforts of individuals who tirelessly work towards a common goal. From social justice movements to environmental activism, consistent dedication to a cause can create meaningful change and inspire others to join the movement.

The expressions “It’s work” and “It works” embody complementary aspects of success and achievement. “It’s work” emphasizes the importance of showing up consistently and committing to personal growth and professional development. On the other hand, “It works” celebrates the power of consistent effort and highlights the transformative impact that dedicated individuals can have on their lives and the world around them.

To truly succeed and make a difference, one must embrace both sides of this idea. By recognizing the value of showing up consistently and acknowledging the fruits of labor, individuals can cultivate a mindset that fuels personal growth, empowers professional success, and drives positive societal change. So, let us remember that while “It’s work” to show up, it is the assertion that “It works” which propels us forward in our pursuit of excellence and significance.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. You are welcome to share in the comments below.

Avoid Premature Solicitationstring(28) "Avoid Premature Solicitation"

Have you ever been solicited for a referral or for business by someone you didn’t even know? Asking for a referral before there is a business relationship is premature.
Years ago, I heard a BNI member from the U.S. call this “Premature Solicitation,” and I completely agreed. When you give a referral, you give away a little bit of your reputation. You certainly don’t want to put your own reputation on the line for a stranger.

I’ve been a victim of “premature solicitation” many times. One time, I was speaking at a business networking event, and before my presentation, someone came up to me and actually 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?”

So… this is what I was thinking:
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 is 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!

However, I am pleased to report, 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? My response surprised the man enough to make him realize that his “solicitation” might have been a bit “premature.” I explained to him 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. His approach was not networking, it was direct selling (and I would argue it was bad direct selling).

By the way, you are welcome to use my response if it happens to you, “Hi, I’m sorry – I don’t think we’ve met before. What was your name again?”

The way I look at it is that if it is somebody you know and they know you, and you have a relationship built with trust, and you’ve done business with them, I’m happy to put people together. That’s what my business is all about. That’s what much of my professional life has been about – connecting people I know and trust with someone who needs a product or service.

What I’m not okay with is connecting people I don’t know or trust; I’ve never used their product, I’ve never used their service, and I’m being asked to connect them with other people who I do know well. As I said above, when you give a referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away. If you give a good referral, it enhances your reputation. If you give a bad referral, it hurts your reputation, so you really don’t want to give those kinds of referrals away.

Remember, networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships with other business professionals. Avoid “premature solicitation.” You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.

Have you experienced this, too? I invite you to share your story in the comment section below.




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