Cancer in the Corner Officestring(27) "Cancer in the Corner Office"

This piece is based on an article I wrote for in 2015.  It might be of value to any business person who is thinking about making their health challenge public:

I’ll never forget the day that I was first diagnosed with cancer ten years ago.

It was the perfect springtime day and I had a weekend getaway planned with the family. All I had to do before heading to the resort was drop into the doctor’s office to get the results of a recent biopsy. I was told that the test was mostly just a precaution so I wasn’t particularly worried about it. I should have been. The biopsy came back positive for Prostate Cancer. 

After the initial shock and resulting conversations with my close family, I started to think about how I was going to handle this within my company. As the Founder and senior executive of an international referral marketing organization, BNI, I have a fair amount of public recognition and I am the public figure for the company. Thinking about how my diagnosis would affect my company, many questions ran through my mind:

  • Should I try to keep the diagnosis secret?
  • Do I only tell key people?
  • Would I still be able to run the company during treatment?
  • Or do I need to hire someone to take on my role?
  • Seeing this as a potential weakness, would our competition try and take advantage of us during this time?
  • And at the end of the day, will my illness hurt the bottom line of the organization?

To me, the answer to the first question would help determine the direction I would take with the others.

So, I started with the question of keeping it secret.  Let me first say that this is a very personal decision. Everyone’s experience is different and I can completely respect if someone chooses to tell virtually no one. I however, did not choose that direction. BNI is a business networking, “word-of-mouth” organization. The idea of keeping that kind of secret in an organization like ours seemed impossible to me. So rather than try to keep it private, I chose to “go public”. I thought this strategy would help me guide the messaging. Note that I didn’t say “control the message” because I can tell you from first-hand experience – you cannot control it. However, I do believe you can guide and influence the message greatly by coming out in front of it.


Having decided to go public, I did it with a communication plan in place. After I decided what I was going to do for my treatment and why, I created a communication hierarchy of who I was going to tell and when. Below is the communication hierarchy I used for the dissemination of information. All of these were done within a three day period:

  1. Extended family
  2. Close personal friends
  3. Key management of the company
  4. Employees at the Headquarters office
  5. Franchisees world-wide
  6. Global employees and independent contractors
  7. Our clients
  8. The public through my blog and social media

Since I opted for transparency in regards to my diagnosis and treatment, I chose to not hire someone to take on my responsibilities. Instead, I asked for help from those people who worked for me directly and indirectly. I asked if my close team would step up and fill in for me as needed and if my extended team (such as franchisees) would allow me more flexibility with project due dates and serious matters that would normally require my personal attention such as contract issues. They did so without hesitation.  

As for competition, that was easy. I have always believed that we shouldn’t worry about what our competition is doing (know what they are doing but don’t obsess over it) and instead, focus on improving our business every day. If we continued to do that with the team that was in place, we would not have to obsess over the competition and we didn’t.

That left the question of our bottom line. Before I answer that, let me discuss my mindset a little further. I chose transparency as the approach to my diagnosis. Transparency to the point that I posted multiple blogs on my website talking very specifically about what treatment approach I was pursuing and how I was doing every few months. I knew that if I didn’t update people, they would fill in the blanks themselves and it may or may not be accurate. I wanted to put the message out there myself – whether it was good or whether it was bad. I set sail for that approach not knowing how it would end. 

My organization was able to follow my journey first-hand. They did not have to guess or wonder what I was doing. I put it all out there publicly and rumors did not flourish.

So, how did the company do during this period? Well, since my diagnosis the company has grown by triple digits. I think that happened because I had good people in place who were willing to step up when the boss was down. If I had to do it all over again – I’d do it exactly the same way.

A Personal Updatestring(17) "A Personal Update"

I greatly appreciate the support, positive energy, and encouragement I have received over the past ten years. As you may know, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 and I chose transparency as the approach to my diagnosis (I’ll share the full story in my next blog). Over the years I have shared my journey on my website and through social media posts. I feel that this has served me well and I plan to continue to do so.

Back in March 2012, I was told that I had six months to have surgery. After extensive research about all of the options available at that time, I chose a holistic route for myself and was able to go ten years without surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. 

Now the time has come for me to employ a Western Medicine option. With my medical team’s advice and expertise, I am moving forward with a procedure called CyberKnife proton therapy. It is outpatient, non-surgical, and will take place over two weeks. The success rate of this procedure is extremely high.

Before the two-week procedure begins, there are preparations to be made and those appointments start this week. I will share updates over the next 6-7 weeks through my social media.

I am very grateful for the continued support that many have shown me while I have been on this long journey. Thank you.

The “What’s In It For Me?” Attitudestring(45) "The “What’s In It For Me?” Attitude"

A few years back, I received an email from someone who read an article I wrote about collaboration and working together. They said, “The type of networking you talk about describes the way things should work, but in the real world most people seem to have an attitude of what’s in it for me.” Then they asked, “How can I prevent wasting my time and efforts on people, only to find that they have this kind of attitude?” 

I thought it was a great question and I gave a short answer – stop hanging out with the wrong kind of people and start actively seeking out the right kind of people. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that when it comes to getting stuck with the wrong people.

To move beyond that and build a network that wants to help YOU (knowing that you also want to help them) you have to recognize that it is a journey, not a destination. Building a strong network for business success is more like a marathon than a sprint. It takes an investment of time to find and get to know those professionals with a Givers Gain® attitude with whom you can build long-term referral relationships.

How to Find Networking Partners

It starts with finding people who have a giving attitude. These are some of the traits of good networking partners:

  • People who sincerely ask how they can help you or what they can offer you before they ask anything from you.
  • Individuals who show that they are willing to create a professional relationship over a period of time, because they understand that they must develop credibility with you before asking for your business or your referrals.
  • People who make the time to go beyond normal business interactions with those whom they want to be able to ask for support in the future.
  • Professionals who understand that networking is more about farming than hunting and show it in their actions. They make the effort to get to know you outside of the business environment whenever possible, knowing that the more of a friendship there is between you, the more expectations you can both have from each other’s networking efforts.
  • People who do what they can to bring business and contacts to you and to their other networking partners. They share pertinent, helpful information with you, and invite you to business meetings that will favorably position you with others you want to meet.
  •  Individuals who give of their time and knowledge to help their referral sources succeed. They gladly celebrate the successes of their networking partners and tell others about them.

You want to find people who understand that it takes time and who are willing to GIVE business in order to get business.

Building Relationships

At its core, business networking is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships. Simply meeting someone and being visible is not enough. Having visibility without building trust won’t get you very far in the long run.

Remember, a network that is a mile wide and an inch deep is not a strong network. You want to create a personal network that is both wide and deep. Building meaningful relationships is the key to making it happen. Meet with people regularly and participate in networking groups where you see the same quality of professionals on a consistent basis. This will help you develop mutually beneficial relationships and screen out the “what’s in it for me?” types.

I think it is also important to have an abundance mind-set in business networking and referral marketing. This happens with an awareness that there is more than enough business to go around. People can sense desperation, and it is NOT referable. Successful networkers choose an abundance mind-set over a scarcity mentality.

As you read these suggestions and look for good networking partners, look at yourself. Do YOU have these traits? Are YOU willing to help others get more business before seeking business for yourself?
Instead of asking, “What’s in it for me?” ask others what you can do for them.

What are your thoughts? I’d like to hear them in the comment section.

Understanding Cultural Differencesstring(34) "Understanding Cultural Differences"

Today’s global society provides many opportunities for businesspeople. To make the most of those opportunities, it is important to understand cultural differences when doing business around the world.

Keep in mind that many business and networking basics are universal across all cultures. When we concentrate on similarities with each other, the differences are much less important. When we focus on the perceived differences between each other in business, that focus can become a stumbling block to developing strong relationships, which is the foundation of business networking success.

Be Prepared 

If you are traveling to another country, begin your preparation long before you are ready to catch your flight. Research your destination. Look at the general layout of the area plus the local culture, lifestyle, and customs. Read the local news and be informed regarding any current events and holidays that are occurring while you are there.

I suggest that you talk to someone that lives where you are going. You probably already have a good contact with someone who invited you to travel to their country. Talk with them prior to your arrival to review what to expect and ask them to share some of the cultural differences. I have done this consistently over the years that I have traveled as the Founder of BNI® and found it makes a huge difference in my ability to connect in an appropriate way throughout the many countries I have visited.

You may also find this website helpful. It provides cultural etiquette information for 44 countries and can be a good reference.

Top Five Tips

  1. Learn a few key phrases in the native language of the country you are visiting. Business associates will typically appreciate any honest attempt you make at communicating with them in their native language.
  2. Be conscious of your body language. Things that you do all the time may have completely different connotations in other cultures. Even handshakes might mean something different in other countries; for some it is customary to bow instead.
  3. Consideration of Personal Space. It is very important to respect the cultural boundaries relating to personal space. Some cultural dynamics are fine with close personal interaction, while more space is customary with others. Do the research and be sensitive to cultural differences in this area.
  4. Use of slang and gestures. When using slang words and gestures in a business environment, keep in mind that what means one thing to you might have no meaning, or a very different meaning, in another culture. For example, certain hand gestures, such as pounding your fist in your palm, are considered extremely rude in some cultures.
  5. Business card etiquette. Exchanging business cards is an essential part of most cultures. The business card is considered an extension of the individual in many places and is treated with great respect. It may be customary to spend time reading someone’s business card when it is handed to you. Taking it and immediately putting in your pocket, or writing on it, can be considered impolite and may be regarded as an insult.

Giving a Presentation

If you are invited to give a presentation in another country, I have some additional tips for you. First, read everything prior to this section and do your homework in those areas.

Second, if there is a translator for your presentation, talk with them well before going on stage; the day before is preferable. Show them ALL material you have, including your notes. They can review your slides or videos to recognize anything that may be offensive to the audience. They may need your help with acronyms or with slang that is used. Tell them about any hand gestures or physical moves you make during a particular part of the presentation so they can be prepared and advise about cultural sensitivity.

Here’s a particularly effective tip. Ask the translator to have someone wave at you from the booth if you are going too fast. If they say that won’t be a problem – they are a good translator, and you can speak at normal speed (but not too fast). If they say yes, they will have someone wave at you if you’re going too fast – they are likely not a world-class translator, which means you definitely need to go slow. 

Discuss any humor you may have in your presentation with the translator to make sure the story and the humor is okay. AND… pause for one to two counts after any humor because there will be two waves of laughter. First, it will be those who know the language you are speaking, followed a few seconds later by those who are listening to the translator.

(These recommendations are applicable for both in-person and virtual presentations.)

If you are presenting an in-person keynote at an event, be prepared to have your photo taken a lot. While traveling to other countries, I have found that most people are very respectful and are often very animated in their appreciation of having you attend their event.

When traveling internationally, remember that you are an invited guest in another country. Always act professionally. It is very important to consider, understand, and respect cultural differences when networking and doing business in different places across the globe. May your travel opportunities be enjoyable, memorable, and successful!

Networking – the TRUE Definitionstring(34) "Networking – the TRUE Definition"

A recent Google search for “what is networking” provided almost six billion results! We should note that those results include computer networking. However, there are still numerous definitions for non-computer networking; the people-to-people type that so many of us want to do and for which most of us have had no formal training.

As the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI® I have seen the definition of business networking evolve over the past 37 years. And yet, the essence of what networking truly is has never changed. I share my definition in this video.

My Definition

This is my definition of networking:
Networking is the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, and expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.

The Key Word

The key word here is relationships. Successful networking of any kind always begins with a genuine desire to build relationships for the purpose of giving and receiving business. When someone is networking only to gain and not to give, they will never be successful.

Remember – networking is more about FARMING than it is about HUNTING. It’s about cultivating relationships and taking the time and energy to help them grow and flourish. Think of it like this: a good farmer knows when to tend to his crop and when to harvest it. If you over pick, you’ll be left with nothing. But if you continue to care for and maintain your crop, it will grow abundantly and provide bountiful results.

Business professionals who are the farming type of networker go to networking events because of the opportunities to meet new people, not to use it as face-to-face cold calling. They know the importance of meeting someone and then building a relationship with them. They go well beyond the ‘hunting’ style of meeting people simply to be able to add another name to their contact list.

Building Relationships

At networking events, set your goal to make solid connections with people so that when you follow up with them, they remember who you are when you invite them out to coffee or lunch. Practice being interested, rather than interesting. Ask about them – their business and their current projects, instead of talking about yourself. This is how you begin building mutually beneficial relationships.

Then you can schedule additional times to connect and build credibility with them. Continue to find ways to help them, perhaps introducing them to a potential referral source or inviting them to visit your business networking group. As I said earlier, there must be a genuine desire to give, not just gain, when you are building deep relationships.

Whether personal and professional, all relationships evolve through three phases: Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. The VCP Process® is useful for determining where you are in your relationship with others. Master networkers know that networking events are about moving through the process and NOT about making a sale or closing a deal. Skipping through the phases and asking for business without establishing a relationship will almost always result in a NO answer.

My definition of networking is congruent with my style of networking. I know it sounds simple; however, as with most things in life, it may be simple and yet not easy. Effective business networking takes time AND money. The best way to network is to connect with people. Get to know them. Build a relationship and learn about their business so you can help them get more business. Successful networking is about taking the time to cultivate relationships, always with an attitude of giving.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share them in the comment section below.

The New World of Work

The New World of Workstring(21) "The New World of Work"

I recently talked with my friend Kian Gohar about how daily life has changed over the past few years and, for many of us, we are now working and meeting virtually as much, or more, as we are in-person.

Kian is co-author of the bestselling Harvard Business Review book, “Competing in the New World of Work,” with Keith Ferrazzi, who is also a friend of mine. Our conversation resonated with me because of BNI®. For 35 years, BNI Members around the world met weekly during in-person meetings. In early 2020, all 10,000+ chapters of BNI changed to online weekly meetings and the organization has continued to grow every year. BNI Members have generated over $18.9 Billion USD in closed business for each other in the rolling last 12 months. We now have chapters meeting virtually, in-person, and hybrid, which is a combination of online and in-person.

Create Emotional Connectivity

Kian and I talked about the importance of creating emotional connectivity with colleagues when working in a hybrid environment. He recommends using breakout sessions during a virtual meeting. By having smaller groups of three to four people, you create a place of psychological safety to share opinions and reduce self-censoring that may happen in larger meetings.

As soon as people are in the small groups during the virtual meeting, ask them to each answer a very simple question: “What is sweet and sour in your life?” Sweet is something that’s going really well in life, whether personally or professionally. Sour is something that isn’t going as hoped. The point of this is to allow people to get to know each other so that they understand the context of what’s going on in their lives.

Maximize Collaboration

Over the past two years, most people have reassessed their assumptions about how we live and socialize and work. However, our assumptions about how we collaborate may not have been reassessed. There is a myth that we collaborate by first calling a meeting to get everybody into a room and then decide how to innovate and collaborate.

Consider this idea to maximize collaboration – don’t start with a meeting first. Create an asynchronous meeting instead. Begin with a document on the cloud. The team leader, or the problem owner, writes down what the problem is, some potential solutions, and who should be involved in the conversation to bring more ideas to the table. The cloud document is then shared with the team. They have a week to ideate individually on this document and add all their thoughts to it. This allows the team leader to see the whole universe of what the various problem sets are that they’re trying to solve. They can identify one and say, “Okay, let’s call a meeting around this particular problem that I hadn’t thought of.”

To maximize innovation and collaboration, start first with an asynchronous meeting, identify all the various problems sets with your team, and then go beyond your team, perhaps include potential partners and vendors, to get more ideas into this particular concept. And then call a meeting, whether virtual or hybrid or in-person, to continue working together toward a solution.

Maximize Resilience

How can we make sure our team is fully resilient to adapting to the future? First, recognize that everyone comes to work with different energy levels. And as a team leader or a business owner, it’s your responsibility to identify the team’s overall energy level.

To establish a baseline of your team’s resilience level, you can do a simple survey every two or three weeks through whatever format is most convenient. Ask your team to rate from 1 to 10, (1 being low, 10 being high), what their level of personal resilience is. And you’ll see a baseline over the course of the next few months. Let’s say everybody’s a five or six. And then one person says, “Hey, I’m a two.” Now you know there’s something going on in that person’s life so you can try to figure out how you can help them.

Additionally, in a leadership role, you want to model the behaviors that are important for the well-being of the team and the organization. Sometimes that means enforcing breaks and creating a space for individual resilience to recharge energy levels. Then, when you are trying to solve the problem as a team, you’re able to support each other and cross the finish line together, even though everyone has different levels of energy on an individual basis.

We are fortunate to have an opportunity to take all the lessons from the past few years and look at how we can make the future better. The status quo is gone, we are not going back to the way things were. We can create a new world of possibilities by reconsidering the assumptions that helped us succeed in the past, and continue to reassess them to help us navigate the constant change the future will bring.

People Love to Buy. Don’t Sell.

People Love to Buy. Don’t Sell.string(33) "People Love to Buy. Don’t Sell."

People love to buy but they HATE to be sold to. It seems that the general public has a fairly negative attitude about sales, and salespeople. I recommend that, as a business professional, you reframe any beliefs you may have about selling and look at it as building relationships. I learned to do this a long time ago.

My history with selling began when I was 10-years old. I had lemonade stands in my neighborhood and sold old comic books, too. When I was 12, I sold chocolate bars for school fundraisers. I was selling reflective house numbers when I was 15-years old, and I worked in retail stores when I was 17. Then, in my mid-20’s, I started a consulting business. Guess what? I spent about a third of my time doing sales. Ironically, one of my early clients hired me to train his sales force on cold calling. Yep, I trained all of their salespeople how to do effective cold calls. By the way, this was long before I started BNI®.

Building Relationships

Prior to starting my consulting business, I was in my first management position working for private industry and that is where I got my first inkling about the power of building relationships. One day my boss wasn’t there to talk about the day’s assignments, so I went around to people and asked, “How can I help you?” This simple question was received quite favorably. I was able to build relationships with the people on my team by offering to help them and learning what it was that they needed most from me.

Later, I discovered that this approach worked incredibly well in “selling my consulting services”.  I looked to find ways to help people – even if it meant NOT selling them my services. The attitude of helping with a ‘giving’ approach, rather than selling, was a way to build my credibility as a caring businessperson and it brought people back to me later when they had a need. I became a connector, someone who connected them to the person or company who could help them solve their problems.

Personal Connections

As the late Jay Conrad Levinson said, nothing develops personal relationships better than personal connection. The best way to connect with someone is to show a genuine interest in them, ask questions, and LISTEN.
Remember, S-I-L-E-N-T is an anagram for listen.
Asking questions helps you uncover people’s problems.
Attentive listening helps you identify their needs and concerns.

As sales communication expert Andy Bounds says, “The prospect really only cares about his or her own present and future, whereas most presentations focus on the seller’s past and product features.” He reminds us that “Customers don’t care what you do; they care about what they’re left with AFTER you’ve done it.” Andy uses the word “after” to maintain the focus on the client’s needs, keeping it personal by asking questions such as “What are you looking to achieve after our work together?”

Building Trust

The personal connections we make help build trust. The one thing that customers have always rated highest in the sales world is trust. When you build relationships with prospective clients that are focused on the buyer’s perspective, they trust that you genuinely care about them. Remember that the buyer is looking for the best solution, delivered in an effective and pleasurable manner.

In my book, Masters of Sales, Susan RoAne shares the story about a bank that engaged her to speak with its managers about how to “work a room.” She interviewed the top salesperson who had won the award for the previous four years. She was surprised when they told her, “Yes, I won the award. But I don’t ‘sell’ anything.”

They went on to explain, “I chat with my customers at bank-sponsored events and when they come into the bank. When I see them in the community, we always take a moment to talk and catch up. I get to know them, and I let them get to know me, so they know I am a real person and not just a bank employee selling them a service. When I call with a new product, they take my conversation seriously, knowing that I don’t waste their time on something they don’t need.”

That story is an excellent example of building trusted relationships through personal connections. The top salesperson earned the title without ‘selling.’

People prefer to do business with people that they know, like, and trust. They really do want a solution for their problem, they just don’t want to be sold to. Make the potential customer feel valued and comfortable. Provide them with a great experience. Focus on building relationships, rather than  just making a sale. It is so simple, but not easy.

How do YOU build relationships with your customers and clients?

The Importance of Leadership in Business Networking

The Importance of Leadership in Business Networkingstring(51) "The Importance of Leadership in Business Networking"

In all aspects of life, leaders set the tone for how the people in the group or on the team will act. We’ve all seen it happen professionally, personally, and in business networking.

I was once at a networking event when a woman approached me and told me that she had heard of BNI® and was interested in joining a chapter. But she was hesitant based on a recent experience she had when she attended a meeting of a different networking group.

She had been very put off by the attitude and comments of that group’s leader. Being new to networking, the meeting was the first of its kind that this woman, an esthetician, had ever attended. She said that she had expected something very different.

She had been told that the group was filled with positive, welcoming people who would be as interested in learning how to help her promote her business as she was in learning to help them promote theirs. However, when she arrived, she found that very few people even noticed her because they were busy socializing in clusters that were reminiscent of high school cliques. Then, to start the meeting, the group’s leader stood up and announced that he was in a crabby mood and told everyone to find their seats quickly. As soon as she sat down, a member of the group informed her that she needed to move because she was sitting in “his seat.” She got up and, instead of finding another seat, headed out the door.

Unfortunately, it was not the first time I had heard of an occurrence like this. When a networking group doesn’t have strong, positive leadership to set a good example and enforce the structure, the group runs the risk of turning into nothing more than a coffee klatch or a social club.

I encouraged the esthetician to seek out her local BNI chapter despite her bad experience with the other group. I assured her that she would have a much better experience simply based on the difference in leadership. Groups follow the example of their leaders and in the situation of the networking group this woman visited, the leadership set a very bad example and the group members followed suit.

Quality Leadership

People will follow the example of those who are in leadership roles, which means it is imperative for leaders to be positive and solutions focused. One of the most important aspects of a good business networking group is the leadership team that runs the meeting. These individuals should be selected based on their ability to size up any situation, identify the direction that is best for the group overall, and then lead the group toward the most positive path.

Quality leadership is about connecting with people. It is about inspiring others to take action and about coaching people effectively by guiding and helping them. Leadership is about having a positive attitude while maintaining accountability. As I’ve said before, hockey without rules would be boxing on ice. BNI without rules would be a coffee klatch of socializing around a table. You have to have rules. Good leaders apply the policies like Mandela, not Atilla and they maintain accountability with diplomacy.

 Four Keys to Being a Great Leader

I offer these suggestions based on my experience and observations of leadership skills.

  1. Focus on solutions, not problems.
    Some people become obsessed with the problem and become an expert on problems.
  2. Collaborate with your team.
    Effective collaboration is a force multiplier.
  3. Be a culture champion.
    Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
  4. Sincerely care about the success of others.
    People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

I encourage everyone reading this to remember that whether or not you are in a recognized leadership role, people are always observing you.

If the leaders in your life aren’t setting a good example, why not step up and act as a leader yourself?  YOU can set a good example. If one or two members of the “high school clique” networking group mentioned above had done this, other members of that group might have followed their lead and the esthetician might not have walked out with such a negative view of all of them.

The leadership in a business networking group is extremely important for the success of the group and for the experience of the members and their visitors. Remember, leadership is about accomplishing more than people thought possible. It is about using experience and wisdom to guide others in a positive direction. Leadership is about empowering others by serving as an example.

The View From Your Windshield Represents Life Itselfstring(52) "The View From Your Windshield Represents Life Itself"

Everyone who has driven a car or truck is well aware that the windshield is much larger than the rearview mirror. Why is it larger? Because it is important that we look ahead to have the clearest view possible of where we are going and where we want to go in life.
I share more in this video.



Connected to the Past While Looking to the Future

The windshield is a very good metaphor for our lives, both personal and professional.
I believe that it is important for us to know what is behind us and to learn from where we have been. However, if someone is ONLY looking at their rearview mirror, it is because they are going backward. When we do that in our lives, we are not living in the present and we will probably miss out on many opportunities that are happening in front of us.

As my co-authors and I talk about in the book Who’s In Your Room? remember to Be Here Now. Wherever you are, be there. If you are at work, don’t be thinking about the time you didn’t spend with your family last night. If you are at home, don’t be thinking about yesterday’s due dates and customer calls. They are all in the past. Wherever you are, be there fully and completely. That includes being in the driver’s seat of your car.

Successful businesspeople will continue to focus on the view ahead. They know that even the best laid plans along established routes may encounter detours. They know that change is inevitable and that they will need to pivot in order to keep up with, and adapt to, the changes so they can keep their forward momentum.

I believe in being connected to the past while looking to the future. Remember, your rearview mirror is smaller than your windshield for a very good reason.

What are your thoughts on this? You are welcome to leave your comments below.

Get Specific About What You Dostring(30) "Get Specific About What You Do"

We all know the most frequently asked question that is heard at networking events, business mixers, and seminars. In fact, we have probably asked it ourselves AND have had numerous others ask us: “What do you do?”

We’re so accustomed to the question that we hardly give a thought to how we answer it. It’s not enough simply to tell your contacts your job description: “I own and operate a sporting goods store.”

Remember, effective business networking is about building relationships. To deepen those relationships, you must talk about what you do in a way that, as author Lou Cassara says, “communicates the magic of your vision expressed through your words.”
You have to get specific when you talk about what you do.

To get referrals from your networking efforts, people must know about your business. They need to understand it in a way that helps them identify potential referrals for you when they are going about their daily lives, talking with other people that you don’t yet know.

Many new networkers make a common mistake of thinking that word-of-mouth marketing is about telling everyone they meet everything they do, and that getting more referrals is simply a matter of talking to more people. The opposite is true. In getting your message across, less is more. You want to be specific with the people you build relationships with.

Your Message

Your message should be specific without using industry jargon. You want to state it in terms of benefits to the client, not features. Remember, customers choose a product or service based on its benefits, not its features. The features are simply the facts – the elements or significant parts that make up the product or service. The benefits are its value to the potential customer – how it will solve their problems and make their life better. I know it may seem odd, but the more specific you are, the more receptive the listener will be and the better your results will be.

Keep this in mind as you create your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your USP is a brief description of the purpose of your business, stated in the most concise and compelling way possible, in order to help others understand the unique value of what you do.

Let’s look at a way to go beyond the previously mentioned job description of “I own and operate a sporting goods store.” 

One could say, “I deal in sporting goods, and I specialize in team sports. I have outfitted most of the high school football teams in the district, and I can order custom-fitted shoulder pads and helmets for all players at a substantial discount and have it delivered within five days. I also sponsor the local Youth Football teams.”

Now THAT is specific. It also passes what my friend, author and speaker Sam Horn, calls the “eyebrow test.” She says that when you give your USP to someone, listen to what they have to say and, most importantly, watch for the reaction they have. Sam says, “if their eyebrows don’t move, it means they’re unmoved.” If their eyebrows scrunch down and furrow together, you’ve confused them. However, if their eyebrows go up, Sam says your USP has succeeded. “They’re engaged, curious, and want to know more.”

Specific Gets Results

Too many business professionals and companies try to be all things to all people. Without being specific and telling ALL they that they do, their message is diluted and easily dismissed or ignored.

I recommend that you focus on the things you do well and document those things and your vision in a way that you can communicate to others. This will help teach your networking partners whom they can refer to you.

Ultimately, that is what effective business networking is all about – building trusted, mutually beneficial relationships that result in business opportunities for referral partners.
Have you found that being specific helps your networking results?


Becoming a Master Connectorstring(27) "Becoming a Master Connector"

Master Connectors are the individuals within every community that other people go to when they have a problem and need to find a solution. Master Connectors naturally attract people to them, both customers and the people who need someone to help with finding solutions. Becoming a Master Connector makes business easier because people are coming to you rather than you always having to go find them; it is a way to generate more referrals and more revenue for your business.

It’s no secret that some people do better than others in life. Is it because they are lucky? No, I think it’s because of two things. One, the harder you work, the luckier you get. And two, it’s about working smarter, not just harder. Becoming a Master Connector is about working harder and, more importantly, working smarter. Master Connectors exemplify the philosophy of Givers Gain® by helping others with the attitude: If I help you and you help me, we will all do better as a result.

It Starts with Attitude

The good news is that becoming a Master Connector doesn’t require years of experience. It only requires a positive attitude, a “give-first” state of mind, and a willingness to commit to learning how to become a Master Connector. 

Master Connectors do more one-to-one meetings with fellow members of their networking group. They give more referrals, and they’re the first to step forward to mentor someone when help is needed. They bring more visitors to their networking meetings, and they help interested visitors to become members. It is not surprising that they build strong, long-lasting relationships and receive more referrals than most people.

The Connector Effect

In my book, The Connector Effect, co-authored with Graham Weihmiller and Robert Skrob, we talk about the “Connector Effect” as your ability to attract people to you. It grows in proportion to your referral network and your ability to solve problems for your friends, family, and your best customers by referring those people to the members in your business network. The more members that you have within your network, the more problems you’re able to help solve for people you know outside of your networking group. You connect people who have a need to the trusted members of your network who can help them. And because your referral partners also trust you and your expertise in your field, they pass referrals of their friends, family, and clients to you.

My Path to Master Connector

When I started BNI® in 1985, I really wanted to be a connector. That was my focus, I wanted to connect people. So, every two or three months I would mail a two-page paper letter to hundreds of people that were in my database, which, at the time, consisted of my Rolodex. The cover letter said, “One of the things I like to do is to build relationships and connect people. Attached is a single sheet of paper with the names of professions that you might have a need for. If you do, just call me and I’ll put you in touch with somebody who handles that.” The second page of the letter had a list of trusted business professionals that I knew and did business with. It did not have their names, it did not have their phone numbers – it only had their type of business profession.

It took about six months to a year, but people started calling me and asking, “Hey, do you know this person? Do you know that person?” I didn’t give the phone numbers in my letter because I wanted to make the connection personally. And that is how I started my path to becoming a Master Connector and ended up building BNI.

Master Connectors love to help people. They practice lifelong learning and continuously hone their skills by doing six things a thousand times rather than doing a thousand things six times.
They know that business networking is more about farming than it is about hunting, and they know how to reap the harvest related to the connections that they make.

The Power of the VCP Process®string(30) "The Power of the VCP Process®"

The VCP Process is the foundation of everything I teach about business networking.
It is why we go to networking events. We don’t go to networking events to “sell,” we go to those events to work our way through the VCP Process.

What is VCP?

The key concept in referral marketing is relationships – mutually beneficial relationships.
However, these relationships don’t just spring up full grown; they must be cultivated and nurtured. As they grow and develop, they evolve through three phases: Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability. The VCP Process describes the creation, growth, and strengthening of all relationships. It is useful for assessing the status of a business relationship to determine where that relationship is in the process of getting referrals. 

Visibility is the phase where people know who you are and what you do.

This happens when two professionals become aware of each other and their respective businesses. It could be because of advertising efforts, or through a civic or business association, or through someone you both know. You may become personally acquainted and work on a first-name basis, however, you know very little about each other. 

The visibility phase is important because it creates recognition and awareness.  The greater your visibility, the more widely known you will be, the more opportunities you will be exposed to, and the greater your chances of being accepted by other individuals or groups as someone to whom they can refer business. 

Visibility must be actively developed and maintained. Without it, you cannot move on to the next phase.

Credibility is the phase where people know who you are, what you do, AND they know you’re good at it.

It is the quality of being reliable and worthy of confidence – appointments are kept, promises are acted upon, services are rendered. When you and your new acquaintance begin to form expectations of each other, and those expectations are fulfilled, the relationship enters the credibility phase of the process.

The old saying that “results speak louder than words” is true and very important for building your credibility in the business relationships you are developing within your networks. You cannot buy credibility, you can only EARN it. Therefore, getting to credibility takes time. When you get to credibility, then you can get to the next phase.

Profitability is the phase where people know who you are and what you do. They know you’re good at it, AND they are willing to refer business to you on an ongoing, reciprocal basis.

The relationship that has developed and matured, whether business or personal, can be defined in terms of its “profitability.” If the relationship is mutually rewarding by providing benefits to each party, and both partners gain satisfaction from it, it will endure. Profitability is not found by bargain hunting or by rushing the relationship. It must be cultivated, and similar to farming, it takes patience.

We can look at every relationship we have and determine where we are in the VCP Process with that person. Remember that everything we do, every action we take, will affect our credibility – either positively or negatively, which affects the time it takes to reach the profitability phase.

Time AND Confidence

Getting to the point of profitability in a business relationship takes both time and confidence. The Time-Confidence Curve shows that whatever type of business you are in, it will take time before people have enough confidence in your ability to provide a quality product or service to know that referring other people to you will not hurt their own reputation.

In the video, you’ll see the Time-Confidence Curve by Profession where I talk about the time difference that it takes from profession to profession to reach the critical confidence level. Some professions may take less time to reach the necessary confidence, for instance – a florist may get referrals quickly. While for other professions, such as a financial planner who invests someone’s retirement money, it will take longer for people to have the required confidence to refer their friends and family to them and their services.

It IS a Process

VCP stands for Visibility, Credibility, Profitability. It is NOT a formula. It is not V + C = P. 
It is a process. You go from visibility to credibility, and from credibility to profitability.

It is important to understand the VCP Process to network effectively. It is a mindset that involves the concept of business networking being more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about developing and growing relationships with like-minded people and knowing where you are in the process, V or C or P, with each of your referral partners.

I invite you to share your thoughts about the VCP Process in the comments section.

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