4 Key Things You Need to Know About Your Business to Truly Succeedstring(66) "4 Key Things You Need to Know About Your Business to Truly Succeed"

Co-creation is a process in which several parties come together to produce goods or outcomes that serve a common goal. In our new book, “The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Success”, Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto, Dawa Tarchin Phillips and I outline five types of co-creation that can result in success for businesses. But before you begin collaborating with outside companies and individuals, we stress that it is vitally important that you have a solid understanding of your own operation. We call these pillars “The Four Knows” and in this excerpt from the book, we explain why each is so critical to success.

The Four Knows

No matter which of the five types of co-creation you use, you will need to have all four of the following in place to succeed:

Know the Right Focus
Know the Right Process
Know the Right Communication
Know the Right Execution

The Right Focus: Establish Mutually Desired Outcomes

Everyone involved in co-creation needs to be rowing in unison and in the same direction. This means everyone must be focused on a mutually desired outcome. Disaster strikes when people fail to work together. We conducted a survey of 4,200 business professionals, and one respondent shared how ineffective teamwork derailed their leaders’ attempt to market an event: “We had not been able to communicate the WHY to them or get their views to make the event a part of the entire team.”

Focusing on the mutually desired outcome requires that all team members have a shared “why.” Co-creation leaders can guide their teams through a series of questions that will help them work together efficiently, effectively, and creatively, even if they are composed of diverse stakeholders.

This process will help identify their right focus. The outcome cannot be vaguely defined—it must be clear. When it is, the co-creation stakeholders will have the necessary shared purpose and intention. Once the mutually desired outcome is established, teams can accomplish the unthinkable. One survey respondent shared this sentiment: “If the right people, with the same goals, lifting, encouraging, and working together with the same commitment to achieve TOGETHER are in place, wonders can happen.”

The Right Process: Implement a Framework

Identifying the right process for a co-creation project ensures stakeholders can work efficiently and effectively. It is not enough to have a team that is committed to a mutually desired outcome. Without an underlying process guiding the mission, frustrations will mount, and the project will become mired in problems.

The process of choosing a framework begins by selecting from the five types of co-creation we previously introduced (think tank/brainstorm, crowdsource, open source, mass customization, and user-generated content).

Once the co-creation leaders determine the right type, additional pragmatic considerations will provide the overarching framework and process. These include determining clear roles and responsibilities for team members, developing an accountability system, defining the situational context of the co-creation project, and mitigating unconscious bias.

Some survey respondents attested to the importance of having the right process: “All persons working on a project should be specifically responsible and accountable to some extent. All persons should be required to provide input.” Others remarked on the importance of having “a good framework for growth in place” and the “need to be clear on the set tasks, with deadlines and people being responsible to either follow up with them or track the process.” Defining the process can be at a granular level, such as one respondent who shared, “We used to have daily review meetings on the product development, so it helped us to have a close watch on the development process.” Another recommended to “hold each member accountable for their piece of the process. Make sure the pieces fit moving into the next phase. Avoid backstepping.”

The Right Communication: Ensure Open Communication

Open communication is crucial to successful co-creation. This must span employees, customers, vendors, and all of a company’s other stakeholders. Without clear communication, co-creation will fail, even if everyone involved is passionate and fully engaged in the project. Many survey respondents underscored the importance of having the right communication:

“Communication is vital.”

“I cannot say this enough: The better the communication you have with the people who work for you, the more successful your company will be.”

“In companies where ideas are freely shared, a tremendous amount of growth happens. I have been at companies where the people in charge did not want to hear any ideas that weren’t their own, so no growth happens there.”

“[Co-creation] needs a lot of clear communication at every stage for the idea to develop properly.”

“The larger the organization, the more there is a lack of communication about strategy and goals, which results in having no direction.”

One of our more memorable respondents wrote, “EVERYONE MUST BE SINGING OFF THE SAME SHEET OF MUSIC!!!!!” Indeed, a chorus full of enthusiastic singers each giving it their all will have a miserable time if everyone isn’t performing the same song.

The Right Execution: Ensure Knowledgeable Leadership

Even with everything else in place—the right focus, the right process, and the right communication—all will be for naught if an organization lacks the right execution. Leaders of co-creation must lay the groundwork for successful empowerment and execution. With this final Know, leaders must have a clear plan and capably execute it while empowering stakeholders.

The entire process is at stake if the co-creative initiative falls short on execution. One survey respondent quipped, “Just a joke from my university days: When I die, I’d like the people I did group projects with to lower me into my grave, so they can let me down one last time.” With the right execution, stakeholder morale soars; without it, disappointment abounds.

Anyone who wants to implement co-creation in their organization must understand each of the four Knows and its interdependency with the other three Knows. Co-creation will only succeed if all four of these key things are in place and functioning effectively. Once you master the Four Knows, you will be well on your way to successful co-creating.

Co-Creation Can Boost Creativity, Community and Sales for Your Business. So What Is It?string(87) "Co-Creation Can Boost Creativity, Community and Sales for Your Business. So What Is It?"

There is no aspect of your business that cannot be improved upon with the help of co-creation. Co-creation is a big step further than mere cooperation. As my co-authors Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto, Dawa Tarchin Phillips, and I write in our new book, “The 3rd Paradigm”: “It is about bringing different parties together to actually produce, improve, or customize a product or service, based on a mutually desired outcome.”

In this excerpt for the book, we break down the five types of co-creation, and what each of them brings to the table for like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners.

Five Types of Co-Creation

Co-creation is unlike earlier business models, the latter of which business professors C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy compared to traditional theater in a 2000 Harvard Business Review article:

Business competition used to be a lot like traditional theater: Onstage, the actors had clearly defined roles, and the customers paid for their tickets, sat back, and watched passively. In business, companies, distributors, and suppliers understood and adhered to their well-defined roles in a corporate relationship. Now the scene has changed, and business seems more like the experimental theater…; everyone and anyone can be part of the action.

This is part of what makes co-creation so attractive: It is always a joint process. The group of people working together on a solution and the involvement of other stakeholders determines the form of co-creation you can or want to engage in.

And like all frameworks, co-creation comes with its own set of limitations and challenges you should be aware of. The drawbacks mentioned most often in our survey are personality conflicts and dealing with egos— not unusual problems when there are multiple cooks in the kitchen.

The Board of Innovation, a global innovation firm, also points to six barriers that arise, particularly in B2B contexts: cost, time, resources, capacity, creativity, and fear of change. Co-creation has immense potential but also risks. Choosing the right type of co-creation for your business is a crucial step to mitigate challenges.

Here we highlight five types, or frameworks, of co-creation. They can be likened to five different paths, which can all lead you to your destination. Which road you choose depends on which path you consider the most suitable for your journey.

Some types of co-creation are more popular and thus more familiar to the average person than others. Many types of co-creation happen in plain sight, but unless you are trained to perceive co-creation in action, it might look very similar to a traditional business model. In fact, it is radically different.

Learn About the Five Types

Here are the five types:

Think tank/brainstorm: A group or company brings together a consortium of people, experts, suppliers, and/or partners to develop a new solution, product, or service. In some instances, this even results in customers handling part of the “production” (e.g., flat pack furniture that customers transport and assemble themselves, self-scanning systems in supermarkets, and self-serve ticket counters at airports).

Crowdsource: A large group of people (often volunteers) co-create (often for free) a product or service by using web-based creative tools. (e.g., Wikipedia, Kickstarter). This type of co-creation can lead to an increased quality of creativity, which was also one of the benefits mentioned in our survey.

Open source: A group or company invites a large group of internal and external experts to tackle its innovation challenge or contribute to its data pool (e.g., Center for Open Science and ResearchGate). This can lead to what many participants in our survey described as a shared sense of ownership and shared resources.

Mass customization: A group or company mass-produces products that have been individually tailored to the customer’s wishes. (e.g., a T-shirt printed with your own photo, personalized Vans shoes, or customized luggage). Many participants in our survey of several thousand entrepreneurs mentioned the diversity of ideas as a major benefit of co-creation.

User-generated content: A group or company uses knowledge and content that is made public by people (e.g., posted online). There are all kinds of web tools to help you find very quickly information that others have posted online (e.g., customer feedback on blogs and forums, YouTube videos, and social media platforms). This is another great example of gaining access to shared resources, which many in our survey listed as one of the advantages of co-creation.

Two Buckets

You can also group these five types of co-creation into just two different buckets:

According to what role the group or company plays in the process: This is about who steers the process. Is it the individual consumer, or the company?

According to the kind of value created: This is about whether your value is a standardized value that all customers can enjoy (co-creating a better product or service), or a personalized value individually tailored to each customer (co-creating a personalized product or service).

Co-creation, following the five types above, is about making something better or making something unique. If unique is the value proposition, even average products can find market success because they tap into the value of co-creation. If it is making something better, even average products can still find market success by being improved with the help of customers and consumers.

That is why co-creation is continuing to rise in popularity among new and established businesses alike. What type of co-creation would work for you and your company?

As you can see, co-creation can unlock additional value in your value creation chain and make that value available for your and others’ success. Wouldn’t it be great if you could optimize the value you provide because you trust and engage with others, rather than keeping your value generation tied to an outdated model? Wouldn’t it be meaningful to elevate your relationships and engage the talents, knowledge, and skills of those who care the most about what you do—your customers and the consumers and stakeholders of your products and services?

There is no aspect of your business that cannot be touched and improved upon with the help of co-creation. Every part of every business can benefit from unlocking and harnessing the power of co-creation to identify the value yet to be discovered, unleashed, and scaled. Every business could achieve greater success by embracing the co-creation process and expanding the trust and investment it can generate among customers, consumers, and stakeholders alike.

It’s No Longer About Competition or Cooperation. This Is the New Force That Is Driving Business Success.string(110) "It’s No Longer About Competition or Cooperation. This Is the New Force That Is Driving Business Success."

Imagine a world where you can tackle the greatest, most challenging problems with a proven approach that leads to unmatched success. That is the premise and the promise of The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Successthe new book I co-wrote with Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto and Dawa Tarchin Phillips. In the following excerpt, we discuss the state of the relationships between businesses with their competitors, their customers, and their internal teams.

We live in an age of sweeping conflict, widespread skepticism, and intense anxiety. Contention feels pervasive. Balanced discourse is a thing of the past, and pundits constantly tell us what’s wrong with society. People complain like it’s an Olympic event, and gurus in the marketplace obsess over the massive problems they see in the world. Negativity seems to be the norm.

However, we believe there is hope. There is an answer, and it starts with focusing on the solutions. When people focus on problems, they become world-class experts on “the problem.” When they focus on solutions, they can become world-class experts on “the solution.” We believe “the solution” to today’s massive challenges lie within the 3rd Paradigm.

As a reference point, a paradigm is a philosophical framework or discipline within which theories and laws are formulated. We believe we are entering the era of the 3rd Paradigm. Let us take you on a short journey through what we define as the three paradigms of the modern era.

The 1st Paradigm

The 1st Paradigm is the era of competition. This paradigm was formulated within the framework of the laws of production by early pioneers of business thinking. Formal theories of management began to be developed in the late 1800s by experts like Frederick Taylor, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, Max Weber, and others who focused on issues like workflow, economic efficiency, and labor productivity. This was the era of “scientific management,” which was the beginning of business theory. Scientific management’s focus on production led directly to the 1st Paradigm’s emphasis on competition.

The 1st Paradigm was so focused on productivity and competition that it failed to account for the needs of the people in the workforce. Competition was about gaining something by defeating your rivals or establishing superiority over them. It meant having a winner and a loser. The impact this had on individuals was generally minimized—unless it had an impact on productivity.

Can you imagine living in this production-oriented, competitive model today? Sixty-hour workweeks would be the norm, there would be few—if any—breaks, you’d be expected to work during much of your current lunchtime, safety regulations would be nonexistent, and children might be working right next to you in a factory. In most “developed” nations, that now seems inconceivable, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common throughout the world. In those countries where employees are still required to work extreme hours, it can easily lead to burnout, stress, and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

You might even be working in an environment like this right now. Did you find yourself nodding your head when you read about routinely working 60-hour weeks, eating lunch quickly—or even at your desk— and feeling stressed and burned out? If so, your company might be stuck in the 1st Paradigm, so focused on “getting ahead” of the competition that workers like yourself are left behind. If so, know there is a better way to do business.

The 2nd Paradigm

The 2nd Paradigm is the era of cooperation. This paradigm evolved over time as people learned that a strictly production-oriented approach did not take into account the interaction of the people involved in the process. This era was about two or more people working together toward shared goals. The focus on acting together for a common purpose started to evolve in the 1960s.

Around this time, MIT management professor Douglas McGregor published his groundbreaking book The Human Side of Enterprise (1960), which introduced the concepts of Theory X and Theory Y. His framework highlights the motivating role of job satisfaction and argues that people can do their work without constant direct supervision. McGregor insisted that people are one of the most valuable assets for driving organizational success and that success comes from people being highly engaged in the process, with management recognizing employee contributions. His theory further focused on the motivating role of job satisfaction for individuals in the workplace.

We may be puzzled by this because these ideas seem so obvious now, but they weren’t at the start of the 2nd Paradigm. This was, in fact, revolutionary management thinking in its day.

During the time of the 2nd Paradigm, management consultant Peter Drucker developed the MBO process (Management by Objective), whereby managers and employees could identify common goals, define their areas of responsibility, and determine measures to guide the contributions of each individual. These and other advancements led to forms of collaborative project management, which enabled teams of people to collaborate across departmental, corporate, and national boundaries to achieve organizational objectives.

Today’s organizations are much more collaborative. Old command-and-control methods have largely been replaced by much more openness and transparency than during the 1st Paradigm. Cooperation focused on better communication and compromise.

The collaborative approach used in large companies has trickled down to small and medium-sized businesses as well. In a 2012 study entitled “Punching Above Their Weight,” published in the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, it was found that the vast majority of small businesses (almost 78 percent) were very open to collaboration as a way of developing their operation.

While the collaborative model was a massive improvement from the strictly competitive, production-oriented model, it was still lacking the full potential that the human experience can bring. In the 1980s, John Naisbitt wrote in his groundbreaking book, Megatrends, that humanity is moving toward a “high-tech, high-touch” society, saying that the more technologically advanced we become, the more important it is to become highly connected to people. Advances in management theory and technology have been leading society toward the next paradigm. It’s important to note, however, that the transition from one paradigm to another doesn’t happen overnight. They emerge by evolving over time.

The 3rd Paradigm

The 3rd Paradigm is the era of co-creation. This concept begins where cooperation leaves off. The difference between cooperation and co-creation is the difference between working together and creating together. You may collaborate on a project, but you co-create products and services. Co-creation is a significant step beyond cooperation. It is about bringing different parties together to actually produce, improve, or customize a product or service, based on a mutually desired outcome. We define co-creation as creating value through a joint effort, typically involving both internal and external stakeholders.

While some scholars recognized the theory of co-creation in the late 20th century, it was in the 21st century that the internet brought the concept to the forefront. Crowdsourcing has become a critical tool for engagement. Waze, the navigation app, used by millions of people is a good example of this concept. The widespread application of digital technology has made customer empowerment a must.

Society is rapidly moving from a passive to a more participatory consumer culture. Co-creation plays a key role in this, since today’s consumers want a say in creating new products and services or improving existing ones. In their 2000 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Co-opting Customer Competence,” C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy make the distinction that from approximately the year 2000 and beyond, customers transitioned from being a passive audience to being active players—becoming “co-creators as well as consumers of value.” In this age of co-creation, consumers want to work together with their favorite brands to ensure that products and services are adapted to meet their needs. In addition, many want to make sure there is a social cause related to the brand. Organizations engage in co-creation because they wish to foster the buy-in of stakeholder interest and increase value through innovation. People tend to genuinely care about what they create.

I invite you to learn more about co-creation in The Third Paradigm and how it can help drive your business success, too.

Unlock Networking Success by Mastering Approachabilitystring(54) "Unlock Networking Success by Mastering Approachability"

Have you ever found yourself at a networking event, feeling awkward and isolated, watching others engage in lively conversations while you stand alone wondering what’s wrong? You’ve dressed the part, you’re in the room, yet people don’t seem to be lining up to speak with you. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, it might be time to consider whether your approachability is the issue.

In the world of business networking, being approachable is a game-changer. Your body language and behavior can make the difference between someone viewing you as a potential referral partner or just another face in the crowd. You may not realize that you are the one getting in your own way when it comes to meeting new people and kindling business relationships. To succeed in networking, you must ask yourself a critical question: Am I approachable or alienating?

The Power of Approachability

Approachability is the quality that makes people feel comfortable approaching you and engaging in conversations. It’s the secret sauce of networking that encourages others to connect with you. To become a master networker, you must assess whether you exude approachability or radiate alienation.

Behaviors of an Approachable Networker

Positive Attitude
Approachable individuals maintain a positive and pleasant attitude. They smile, laugh, and create an atmosphere that invites interaction. It may sound simple, but your demeanor speaks volumes. Many people don’t realize they are frowning, or that they look bored during a conversation. Try it – look in the mirror and observe how your facial expressions transform when you frown versus when you smile.

Open Body Language
In my book “Networking Like a Pro – Second Edition,” I discussed the concept of positioning during conversations. Instead of engaging in one-to-one conversations with closed-off body language, approachable networkers stand in ‘Open 2’ and ‘Open 3’ positions to ensure their stance allows for others to easily join in. They create an environment that welcomes new connections.

Approachable individuals are consistent in their actions and words. They live by their values and demonstrate authenticity. In networking, authenticity is a prized asset, as people can easily detect inconsistencies and insincerity. At networking events, conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of that particular event. If you were at someone’s party, you would want to make them feel good about themselves and the party, right? Make it a point to consistently engage others in conversation by being genuinely interested in them and their business.

Alienating Behaviors to Avoid

Negative Attitude
Constantly talking about personal or professional hardships can repel potential referral partners. Leave your problems at the door of networking events. If you’re always complaining or focusing on the negative aspects of life, you’re going to turn people off. Networking is an opportunity to create positive connections, not to bring others down with your grievances.

Closed-Off Body Language

Alienating individuals exhibit body language that discourages interaction. A scowl on your face or having your arms crossed over your chest can deter others from approaching you. Open and welcoming postures are essential. Put away your phone, too; being engrossed in a call or text is a sure way to miss out on a conversation with someone in the same room.

Lack of consistency between your words and your actions can erode trust and credibility. For example, if you are reiterating how much you value kindness in others and then speak poorly to a server or the event host, your potential referral partner may be skeptical of your sincerity and dependability. If you say one thing and do another, people may perceive you as insincere and unreliable.

Take Action for Improvement

To enhance your approachability and shed alienating behaviors, consider these practical steps.

Attitude Adjustment
When you are getting ready to go to a networking event, choose your attitude ahead of time just like you choose what to wear. Focus on maintaining a positive attitude and leave personal problems behind when attending networking events. Approach each gathering with a welcoming demeanor.

Body Language Awareness
Pay attention to your posture and facial expressions. Put a smile on your face and position yourself in an open and inclusive manner. Maintain eye contact with others, especially during conversation. Avoid behaviors that convey disinterest such as fidgeting, looking at your phone or around the room, and yawning.

Ensure that your actions align with your words… all the time. Stay authentic and consistent in your interactions by showcasing your true self when networking. Strive to be interested more than interesting during conversations. Remember, a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately.

The Compound Effect of Approachability

In networking, as in life, the little things add up. Approachability is a skill that can be cultivated. Don’t assume that because some of the suggestions mentioned above are simple and easy to understand that you don’t need to practice them. I recommend you practice them on a weekly basis because repetition produces results. Incorporate these strategies into your business networking efforts to create an inviting and welcoming presence.

If you’re not sure whether you’re projecting approachability or alienation, consider bringing a trusted friend or referral partner to your next networking event. Observe each other’s body language, tone of voice, and words. Afterward, engage in constructive feedback with the intention of helping each other become better referral partners.

Approachability is a critical factor that significantly influences your networking success. Networking isn’t merely about meeting people; it is also about how you make others feel when they meet you. It is about forming meaningful business relationships. Being approachable is the key to forging those connections.

Approachability isn’t a one-time achievement; it is an ongoing, lifelong practice. By mastering this trait, you can transform yourself from a wallflower into a magnet for meaningful connections. As you venture into the world of networking, remember that success is not only about the number of people you meet but also about the quality of relationships you build. Learn how to be someone who is easy to approach so you can navigate business networking events with ease and watch your connections grow.

Soft Science Yields Hard Resultsstring(32) "Soft Science Yields Hard Results"

I want to delve into a concept that has been central to my philosophy throughout my career: the idea that “caring is a soft science that yields hard results.” In the world of business, networking, and personal development, the term “soft science” often refers to fields such as psychology, emotional intelligence, or communications. While these fields may not involve mathematical equations or lab experiments, they play a vital role in understanding human behavior and interactions. When it comes to achieving lasting success in any area of life, including business, caring, and cultivating genuine relationships are essential elements that often produce tangible, “hard” results.

The Power of Relationships

Relationships are the foundation of success in both personal and professional life. As someone who has spent decades researching, teaching, and practicing effective networking, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformational power of meaningful connections. Building strong relationships is not about superficial interactions or transactional exchanges but about genuinely caring for others and seeking mutual benefit. This approach represents the soft science of human connection, and it undoubtedly yields hard results in terms of professional achievements, personal fulfillment, and overall well-being.

Networking: A Soft Skill with Hard Outcomes

Networking is often perceived as a soft skill; a domain where personal qualities and interpersonal dynamics outweigh technical expertise. However, the tangible outcomes of effective networking are undeniable. When individuals take the time to build authentic relationships, they tap into a vast reservoir of opportunities, referrals, and resources. These connections can lead to concrete results such as increased sales, job opportunities, and business growth.

Consider a scenario where two entrepreneurs, Alice and Bob, start their respective businesses in the same industry simultaneously. Alice prioritizes building a strong network and invests in nurturing relationships with mentors, peers, and potential clients. Bob, on the other hand, focuses solely on perfecting his product engaging in transactional activities and ignores the soft science of networking and relationship building. Over time, Alice’s network begins to refer clients and collaborators, while Bob struggles to gain traction. The tangible, hard results of Alice’s caring and relationship-building efforts become evident as her business flourishes, while Bob faces frustration and roadblocks.

Trust: The Currency of Success

Trust is a cornerstone of any successful relationship, whether in business or personal life. Trust is the ultimate “soft” concept, rooted in emotions, perceptions, and intangible factors. Yet, it leads to concrete, “hard” results. When people trust you, they are more likely to do business with you, refer others to you, and collaborate on projects. Trust accelerates decision-making processes, reduces transaction costs, and fosters loyalty.

Think about a renowned brand like Apple. Their commitment to quality, customer satisfaction, and innovation has cultivated an immense level of trust among consumers. While trust itself cannot be measured on a balance sheet, Apple’s hard results, including record-breaking sales and market capitalization, are a testament to the power of this soft science.

Caring as a Competitive Advantage

In today’s hypercompetitive business landscape, differentiating oneself from the competition is crucial. Caring can be the key differentiator that sets individuals and organizations apart. When you genuinely care about your customers, clients, employees, and partners, you create an emotional connection that goes beyond the transactional. This emotional connection fosters customer loyalty, employee retention, and long-lasting partnerships.

Consider the example of Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer. Zappos has built its reputation on exceptional customer service, and caring is at the heart of their corporate culture. Employees are encouraged to go above and beyond to delight customers, even if it means spending hours on the phone to ensure a customer finds the perfect pair of shoes. This commitment to caring has translated into hard results for Zappos, including high customer retention rates and word-of-mouth referrals, contributing to their success in the competitive e-commerce industry.

Personal Fulfillment and Well-Being

While much of this discussion has focused on the professional realm, it’s important to acknowledge that caring also has profound effects on personal fulfillment and well-being. The soft science of caring extends to our relationships with friends, family, and community. When we genuinely care about the well-being of others, we experience a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and happiness that enriches our lives.

In a study conducted by Harvard University, researchers found that strong, supportive relationships were the most significant predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. These soft, emotional connections had a direct impact on individuals’ overall well-being, demonstrating the undeniable link between caring and personal fulfillment.

In the world of business, networking, and personal development, caring may be considered a soft science, but its results are anything but soft. The power of relationships, trust, and caring as a competitive advantage are undeniable. When we prioritize building genuine connections and nurturing relationships, we tap into a wellspring of opportunities, referrals, and resources that lead to concrete, “hard” results.

As we navigate our professional journeys and seek to achieve lasting success, let us remember that caring is not a weakness; it is a strength. It is a fundamental element of the soft science of human connection, and it is the catalyst for achieving hard results in business and in life. So, let us embrace the power of caring, cultivate meaningful relationships, and watch as it transforms our personal and professional landscapes, propelling us toward unprecedented success and fulfillment.

Top Ways Your Networking Partners Can Promote Youstring(49) "Top Ways Your Networking Partners Can Promote You"

Networking is not just about meeting new people. It is about building strong, mutually beneficial relationships. Whether you’re new to business networking or a seasoned pro, understanding how others can promote you and your business is essential.

Has a fellow member from your networking group ever said to you, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you with your business.”?
If so, did you respond with, “Thank you. Now that you mention it, there are a few things I need.”?
Or maybe you said something like, “Well, thanks, I appreciate that. I’ll let you know.”

Most of us aren’t prepared to accept help at the time it’s offered, which means the opportunity may pass and we miss out. Before you can do so, you must make the connection between specific items, services, or connections you need and the people who can supply them. Systematic referral marketing helps you do that by determining, as precisely as possible, the types of help you want and need. Some are simple, cheap, and quick; others are complex, costly, and time-consuming.

Here are 15 ways others can promote you to help your business.

Display or Distribute Your Materials

Your networking partners can exhibit your marketing materials and products in their offices or homes. If these items are displayed well, such as on a counter or a bulletin board, visitors will ask questions about them. Promo­tional items can be shared in other places, leading to increased visibility and potential interest. For example, a dry cleaner can attach a neighboring hair salon’s coupon to the bags covering their customers’ clothes.

Make Announcements

When attending meetings or addressing groups, your network can boost your visibility by announc­ing an event or a sale your business is con­ducting. They can set up exhibits of your products or services. They can also invite you to make an announcement yourself, amplifying your reach.

Invite You to Events

Workshops and seminars are oppor­tunities to increase your skills, knowledge, visibility, and contacts. Members of personal or business groups that you don’t belong to can invite you to their events and programs. These opportunities provide a platform to meet prospective sources and cli­ents. Additionally, being invited to speak at such events can establish you as an expert in your field.

Endorse Your Products and Services

When your network sings your praises or endorses your products or services, it can significantly influence others’ decisions. Encourage them to share their positive experiences through informal conversations and with testimonials on social media or other platforms.

Nominate You for Recognition and Awards

Your referrals sources can nominate you for service awards, recognizing your contributions to your profession or your community. This not only enhances your visibility, it also positions you as a dedicated professional in the eyes of your peers and clients.

Make Initial Contact with Prospects and Referral Sources

Instead of merely sharing their contact information, a network member can introduce you to important prospects. This personal touch can build relationships faster and provide the prospect or potential referral source with insight into your business as well as shared interests they may have with you.

Arrange Meetings on Your Behalf

Your network can go a step further by coordinating meetings with key contacts. Ideally, they will set the date, time, and location, and they will attend the meeting with you, offering support and insights.

Publish Information for You

Leverage your network’s connections to have your business featured in publications they influence. For example, a referral source who belongs to an association that publishes a monthly newsletter can help you get an article or story published, boosting your visibility.

Form Strategic Alliances with You

Of all the kinds of support that a source can offer, this one has the greatest potential for long-term gain for both parties. These partnerships involve mutual referrals, creating a symbiotic connection that benefits both of you. Seek out businesses that complement your own and foster lasting gains by agreeing to refer business to each other whenever possible.

Connect with You Through Online Networks

Expand your online presence by connecting with your networking partners on social platforms. This opens the door to event notifications, project updates, and the exchange of business information. Recommendations and testimonials from these connections can further elevate your online profile.

Provide Referrals

Referrals are the lifeblood of business networking. Encourage your sources to refer specific individuals who require your services or products. As the number of referrals you receive increases, so does your potential for increasing the percentage of your business generated through referrals.

Introduce You to Prospects

Personal introductions are powerful. Your network can facilitate introductions with prospective customers, providing key information about you and the prospect, which can expedite the relationship building process.

Follow Up with Referrals

Your sources can follow up with prospects they referred to you to ensure a smooth transition and answer questions or concerns, enhancing trust. They can also give you valuable feedback about yourself and your products or service, which you might not have been able to get on your own.

Serve as a Sponsor

Some of your sources may be willing to fund or sponsor a program or event you are hosting. They may offer resources such as lending you equipment, or they might let you use a meeting room, or provide other support that can elevate your business activities.

Sell Your Products and Services

The most immediate way your network can positively impact your bottom line is by selling your products or services. A well-connected source can persuade a prospect to make a purchase, then have you deliver the product to your new client. If you do so swiftly and cordially, you may gain a lifelong customer.

Networking is a dynamic and multifaceted endeavor. Put your networking circle to work for you with these strategies to harness the power of your network and promote your business effectively. When others offer their support in promoting your business, seize the opportunity and deploy these strategies for success. By cultivating these mutually beneficial relationships, you can supercharge your business’s growth and impact.

Strong Relationships Anchor Networking Groupsstring(45) "Strong Relationships Anchor Networking Groups"

This blog comes from a family vacation several years ago. We took a multi-day tour of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia on a small ship. The first night we noticed that the anchor being used to secure our small ship in the middle of the vast Coral Sea was quite small compared with the size of the ship itself. The sight of this seemingly inadequate anchor piqued our interest.

The second night of our voyage, while we were anchored off Hope Island, some very strong winds began to kick up. In response, our captain decided to start the engines and back the ship up, allowing more of the anchor chain to be let out. We were curious, and admittedly a bit concerned, which led us to ask the captain how it was possible for such a modest anchor to hold the ship in place against the relentless wind gusts.

The captain’s explanation was profound and carried a valuable lesson. “It’s the chain that is holding the ship, not the anchor,” he informed us. Apparently, after the anchor is lowered, the captain receives signals from the first mate, who is stationed at the prow of the ship, indicating the direction in which the chain is positioned on the sea bottom. The captain can then maneuver accordingly and release the appropriate length of chain to maintain stability considering the particular conditions at that time.

That night, with the winds growing stronger, the captain realized that he needed to let out more of the chain to keep us steady, which he did.

The Anchor Represents the Process

The relevance of this maritime analogy to business networking groups became unmistakable. In networking groups, the anchor represents the system or the process through which business is conducted. However, the strength of a networking group is not solely determined by the anchor (the system/process) itself. Instead, it hinges on the quality and depth of relationships formed among its members.

Let’s apply this insight to your networking group. Think of the relationships you have established with other members as the links in the chain. How many “links” do you have in your chain? Do you have strong and solid relationships with all of the other members in the group? Or are you closely linked with solid connections to some members and less connected or detached from others for various reasons?

How do we go about adding more links – building more relationships – so we can let out more chain during times when the economic winds have strengthened against our businesses? We need to be intentional about developing stronger relationships with every member of our networking group, even those who may not seem to have the exact contacts or businesses that align perfectly with ours.

Naturally, we tend to build relationships more easily with businesses closely related to our own. But what about those members whose businesses appear unrelated or disconnected from ours, those who may seem incapable of providing referrals that match our needs?

Add More Links to Your Chain

This is where one-to-one meetings come into play. Scheduling one-to-one meetings with every member of your networking group is a proactive approach to extend and reinforce the chain of relationships. Each member is a link in the chain, and expanding these connections is critical. Investing your time in one-to-one meetings with each and every member of your group helps you develop a longer and stronger chain of relationships. Remember, each person in your networking group is one of the links that lengthens that chain.

The wisdom of extending the chain to enhance the anchor’s ability to hold steady is vital for the success of your networking group. As we embark on this journey, let’s make it our primary objective to cultivate and strengthen our relationship chain within our networking groups. Rest assured, it will serve as the anchor for your business and your group, ensuring longevity and resilience, regardless of economic fluctuations.

We can learn a profound lesson from a small anchor in the Coral Sea – the strength of your networking group lies in the quality and number of relationships you build within it. Just as the chain, not the anchor, secures the ship, your network of relationships is what will anchor your business through both fair winds and storms. So, let’s start strengthening our relationship chains today for future networking success.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this in the comment section below.

Create an Identity for Your Businessstring(36) "Create an Identity for Your Business"

Creating a strong and distinct identity for your business is of paramount importance in today’s competitive landscape.
Your business identity goes beyond your logo and brand colors; it’s about the image you project, how you position yourself, and the lasting impression you leave on your target audience. Jeff Davidson, the author of “Marketing on a Shoestring,” aptly notes that we are living in the age of the image, and the impact of your business’s image is undeniable. Your success, regardless of the size of your business, heavily depends on how you position yourself and what you project.

The concept of positioning was popularized in the early 1980s by Al Ries and Jack Trout. They astutely pointed out that in today’s over-communicated society, very little communication actually takes place. To break through the noise and create a lasting impression, a company must create a unique position in the minds of their target audience, recognizing that the most effective communication occurs when optimally placed and timed.

Being the “first” is one of the most effective ways to establish a position in someone’s mind. Think about Neil Armstrong – he was the first person to walk on the moon, a fact that is universally recognized. However, try naming any of the astronauts who walked on the moon during subsequent NASA missions, and you’ll likely draw a blank. This demonstrates the power of being the first – it’s memorable and enduring.

When you effectively position your business, you save time and resources because your message is clear and others quickly understand what your company represents and offers. Every networking encounter, advertisement, message, employee, and every square inch of your office space should contribute to delivering a consistent and memorable theme to your target market.

The identity you develop for your business should be unique and tailored to your specific goals and values. You might aim to become a leader in a burgeoning industry or a compelling alternative to the established giants. Your business might be known for being open 24/7, or it could be an exclusive, by-appointment-only establishment. In today’s fast-paced, swiftly changing, and highly competitive environment, creating a distinctive identity isn’t just a choice; it is a necessity for survival and growth.
Positioning can help you create an identity and maintain a secure spot in the minds of those you wish to serve.

Start by Answering Three Fundamental Questions

  1. What You’re Going to Be
    Define your core purpose and values. What is your business all about? What do you stand for, and what are your long-term goals?
  2. What You’re Going to Offer
    Be clear about the products or services you provide. What makes them unique or better than the competition? What problems do they solve for your customers?
  3. To Whom You’re Going to Offer It
    Identify your target audience. Who are the people or organizations that will benefit the most from what you offer? What are their needs, preferences, and pain points?

Once you have a clear vision of these aspects, you can begin crafting your business’s identity. This identity should permeate every facet of your business, from your marketing materials and website to your interactions with customers and employees. Consistency is key.

Immerse yourself in learning about creating a business identity, brand, and image. Carve out time each day to explore this topic further. There is a wealth of valuable information available online – articles and blog posts, books and courses. The more you educate yourself on the subject, the more equipped you’ll be to define and communicate your business’s identity effectively.

Creating a strong and memorable identity for your business is a crucial element in your journey to success. Your identity sets you apart, communicates your value, and leaves a lasting impression. Take the challenge to delve into the process of identity creation for your business. Start by answering the three foundational questions and dedicating time to research and learning. Within a week, you’ll likely find yourself equipped with a clear answer about your business’s identity that you can confidently share with others.

how to overcome the fear of public speaking

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speakingstring(43) "How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking"

Did you know that people have ranked the fear of public speaking as worse than the fear of dying? Talking to an audience can be frightening, especially if it is for more than a minute or two. The mere thought of standing before an audience, trying to convey a message or pitch an idea, can send shivers down one’s spine.

Well, the fact is that no matter how much you try to avoid it, networking for your business is going to involve public speaking. You may find yourself giving a 30- or 60-second weekly presentation at a networking meeting, a ten-minute presentation at a Chamber of Commerce function, or a comprehensive thirty-minute educational presentation to a prospective customer. At some point you will likely be in front of an audience. My recommendation? Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can do it.

Use These Strategies

These five strategies are my top tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking and gain confidence to start winning over your audiences.

1) Preparation is Key 

One of the most effective ways to alleviate the fear of public speaking is thorough preparation. Avoid the urge to “wing it.” Instead, create a clear outline of what you intend to say and rehearse it. Utilize note cards or have your speech typed out with large, easily readable fonts to ensure you don’t lose your place. However, be cautious not to over-prepare, as this can lead to heightened anxiety. Strike a balance between being well-prepared and allowing yourself some flexibility to engage with your audience naturally.

2) Be Specific and Showcase Your Expertise

When delivering a presentation, especially in a networking context, avoid overwhelming your audience with too much information. Focus on one or two key aspects of your business that you are most knowledgeable about and passionate about. By concentrating on what you know best, you will enhance your comfort level and reduce stress. Remember, the audience perceives you as the expert, and they are eager to learn from you. Trust in your expertise and present your subject matter with confidence.

3) Use Supporting Materials Wisely

Visual aids such as handouts, PowerPoint slides, and props can be valuable tools to support your presentation. These resources can help you stay on track, and they also offer an additional layer of engagement for your audience. However, be cautious when using PowerPoint. It should enhance your presentation, not serve as a crutch. Avoid the temptation to read directly from the slides. Invest time in understanding how to effectively utilize this tool; there are numerous books and articles that provide guidance on the subject.

4) Embrace Your Role as an Expert

It is important to understand that as a speaker, you are the authority on your subject. Your audience is eager to gain knowledge from you; they want to hear what you have to say. Focus on what you excel at, and you will naturally exude confidence and credibility. Believing in yourself and your message is pivotal to your success as a public speaker.

5) Be Creative and Engage Your Audience 

Don’t feel constrained by traditional speaking approaches. Experiment with different ways of communicating that make you feel comfortable. Instead of simply talking at your audience, engage them in a conversation. You can even start with a Q&A session then answer at length. Don’t be afraid to be different and surprise the audience. Move around the stage, interact with the audience, or use unexpected elements to invigorate your presentation. Having fun with your message can help convert nervous energy into positive energy. When your enthusiasm shines through, the audience will feel it, and anxiety will dissipate.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Starting your journey to conquer the fear of public speaking begins with practice. You can’t get better at something if you never practice it, and the best time to start practicing is NOW. Begin with small opportunities, such as delivering a one-minute elevator pitch, and gradually increase your speaking time as your confidence grows. Look for opportunities to speak at events or educational presentations. Many associations and membership organizations are constantly seeking speakers, and positioning yourself as an expert can be highly satisfying and beneficial for your business.

While the fear of public speaking is prevalent, it is a skill that can be mastered with practice and the right approach. By following these strategies, you can increase your confidence and become a more effective and engaging public speaker. Remember, it’s natural to feel a little nervous. With the right mindset and techniques, you can transform that anxiety into a powerful and positive energy that captivates your audience. So, don’t let the fear of public speaking hold you back; embrace the opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise with the world. Overcome the fear of public speaking and enjoy the satisfaction of educating other people about what you do.

I would appreciate your feedback. Please respond in the comment section to any, or all, of these questions.

  • On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “not really afraid” and 10 being “more afraid than death,” how afraid would you say you are of public speaking?
  • What mental and physical manifestations of fear and anxiety do you experience when you are faced with having to speak in public?
  • What tools, tactics, or strategies have you personally found to be helpful and effective to manage your fear of public speaking?
Recognize great customer service

Recognizing Great Customer Servicestring(34) "Recognizing Great Customer Service"

I had an experience at the 2014 BNI® U.S. National Conference that reminded me of how important it is to take time to notice really good customer service.

During that conference, the hotel’s room service would deliver my meals to my suite. Very often the delivery was right as a meeting in my suite was finishing up. Leslie was the hotel employee who made most of the deliveries during the last part of my stay. On one of the days, I had a group of ten BNI Directors in my suite who were kind enough to give me a Givers Gain® plaque made by one of their local members.

As a group, we started to gather around to get a photo and Leslie said, “Would you like me to take the picture?” That’s rather common; employees at hotels and restaurants have become accustomed to taking photos of the many people going through their establishments. However, Leslie then said to everyone, “Okay, everybody give me all your cameras–I’ll take a photo with each of them.” She then dutifully accepted each camera and phone and took many photographs, one by one, making sure that everybody got their own picture.

As I watched this, it struck me that she didn’t act annoyed or irritated by having one camera after another given to her; she happily took the pictures very patiently and professionally. She smiled and chatted with us while she took each photo as though she were taking photos of her own family. I couldn’t help but think that there was a supervisor downstairs wondering what was taking her so long. The truth is, she was giving the guests at her hotel a very nice and memorable experience.

It got me thinking about each trip that Leslie had made to the room during the week. She was courteous, friendly, helpful, and attentive. I was so wrapped up in the business of a running the conference that I hadn’t really noticed just how good she was until the end of the event when things started winding down for me.

While doing her job, Leslie worked diligently to create great guest experiences. So much so, that I later told the hotel manager that she should be teaching customer service training – she was that good.

I’ve traveled a lot in my years as the Founder of BNI and I certainly do appreciate great customer service. I believe in the importance and the power of recognition. I do like to thank people in person, in the moment during the situation or the event where they were so helpful. And I also have a way to fully share my appreciation after the fact when I receive a survey from a hotel or cruise line. When someone provides outstanding service or goes above and beyond to help me, I ask them, “May I take your picture?” That way, I’ll remember their face, see their name tag to spell their name properly, and easily recall the day, place, and circumstances of how and why they were so helpful, giving them the well-deserved recognition.

Have you had a terrific customer service experience in the past? I’d love for you to share it in the comment section. What specifically was it that made your experience great?

Art of building referral relationship

Building Referral Relationships: The Art of Patience and Persistencestring(68) "Building Referral Relationships: The Art of Patience and Persistence"

In the world of business, good referrals are akin to gold. They can open doors, create opportunities, and supercharge your professional network. However, the question that many professionals wonder is, “How long does it take to receive referrals from your network?” The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Building referral relationships is a process that resembles the development of close personal friendships, and it takes time and effort. Let’s talk about the timeline for nurturing these valuable connections and I’ll share insights on how to expedite the process.

The Friendship Analogy

Strong referral relationships mirror the gradual progression of friendships. It is not about the quantity of contacts as much as it is the quality of the connections you establish. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shed light on the timeline of friendships. It revealed that it takes roughly 50 hours of interaction to transform an acquaintance into a “casual friend.” To become “real friends,” individuals require a total of 90 hours, and to reach the status of “close friends,” the threshold is approximately 200 hours. According to the study, “friendship status was examined as a function of hours together, shared activities, and everyday talk.”

Building Trust for Referrals

Now, let’s translate this into the realm of business referrals. To receive referrals from your network, you need to cultivate trust and rapport with your referral partners. It’s a process that cannot be rushed. So, if you’re impatiently looking for immediate referrals, you might need to rethink your strategy. In most cases, it takes between 90 and 200 hours of meaningful interaction to foster the trust necessary for regular referrals.

I know that 90 to 200 hours may sound like a lot, however that is almost an exact match with what I’ve seen in BNI. When BNI members hit the 90-hour mark of participation they almost always begin receiving more and more referrals. Based on an independent study published in 2012 for BNI, when those same individuals cross the 200-hour mark, they generate an average of over five times the number of referrals they did in their first year! Yes, you read that right: more than 500% more referrals when they have built strong relationships with their referral partners.

Steps to Accelerate Referral Success

Building a referral-based business is a deliberate process that involves nurturing meaningful relationships. To expedite this journey and start receiving referrals sooner, ask yourself the following four crucial questions:

  1. Am I Building Relationships?
    Are you actively engaging with your referral partners and investing time in getting to know them? Building trust is a two-way street, and your effort will be reciprocated.
  2. Am I Demonstrating Value?
    Regularly make stimulating, educational presentations to your network about the value you provide to your clients. This showcases your expertise and reinforces your credibility.
  3. Am I Giving Back?
    Engage in business transactions within your network, allowing you to give dynamic testimonials and direct business to others. This reciprocity is often rewarded with referrals in return.
  4. Am I Staying Informed?
    Maintain regular meetings with your networking colleagues to learn about, and stay current on, their businesses. This knowledge will enable you to confidently refer your contacts to them, strengthening the bond.

The Depth of Relationships

Building a referral-based business is all about building a powerful, personal network. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you will never get the kind of referrals that will make a difference for your business. When you follow these simple tactics and focus on developing strong relationships that are built on trust and mutual support, you are on your way to getting referrals.

 The journey to receiving referrals from your network is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. The best way to speed up the process is to spend time in the process of developing relationships with the people you are networking with. By following the steps outlined, you can accelerate the timeline for receiving referrals. Remember, networking is about farming, not hunting. It’s about nurturing relationships and friendships with other professionals. So, be patient, be persistent, and in due time, your network will become a valuable source of referrals that can transform your business.




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Surrounding yourself with quality business professionals

Surround Yourself with Quality Business Professionalsstring(53) "Surround Yourself with Quality Business Professionals"

One of the biggest networking mistakes you can make is to dismiss someone too early, to assume that they have nothing to offer you because of their profession, their background, or some other reason, and you don’t pursue the relationship because of that assumption. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen a lot.

Well, the truth is you simply never know where your next great referral is going to come from. Which is why successful networkers make it a point to consistently connect with high-quality professionals from all fields, from any, and every, background.

Many times, I hear BNI members say, “I want to network with the CEO.” or “I want to network with the vice president.” Forget about trying to contact the VPs and high-level executives – they don’t want to hear another sales pitch.

You Don’t Know Who They Know

An important thing for all of us to remember about business networking is that any professional who is good at what he or she does will be well-connected to other highly successful businesspeople.

When I lived in southern California, I had a painting contractor whose services we used regularly. Through his work he came to know A-list Hollywood celebrities, among many other affluent people. He was one of the most connected people I knew at the time.

I have a favorite story, which I think illustrates this point perfectly. In this case, a multimillion-dollar referral (one of the biggest I had seen in BNI up to that point) was given by a dentist in Malaysia. She briefly shut down her practice to attend a networking conference in her area. There were opportunities for people to talk and exchange business, to make new friends and immerse themselves in an intense learning experience. She met one of the sponsors of the event, a BNI member from the United Kingdom, who was in the cargo transportation industry.

When she reopened her office a few days later, one of her clients asked her about the conference. This client was in a company that had a $1.5 billion USD shipping budget, and they were looking to streamline their operations, and he shared that he was ready to talk to other companies. The dentist said, “I have just the person for you.” She referred him to the conference sponsor she had recently met and the next day that sponsor in the UK got a phone call to set up an appointment with this gentleman, her client in Malaysia.

The result is that a dentist in a networking organization attended a networking conference, and participated in the conference, meeting new people and learning about their businesses. As a result, she was able to connect her client with someone she’d met at that conference–which led to the multimillion-dollar referral.

To me, it’s a classic example showing that it is really about the quality of business professionals that you’re networking with. They meet people who are decision makers. They get to know people who know people who are decision makers. And sometimes, they have them in the dental chair of their office. You don’t know who they know. And without investing your time to build business relationships with them, you won’t ever know.

The key element with effective networking groups is that it’s not just the businesses of your fellow members in the group. It is also about the people that those members know and are connected to. You just never know who you are going to meet and who your referral partners will have in their office, or whose home they are in, or who is sitting in the chair at their business.

You create opportunities for some great referrals when you surround yourself with quality business professionals. Do you have a story about a referral that came from an unusual source? I’d love to hear about it.

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