Five Myths About Flexible Work

Five Myths About Flexible Workstring(30) "Five Myths About Flexible Work"

This blog is from an article that Manar Morales and I co-authored. A variation of the article was originally published with the Harvard Business Review at this link.

“Flexibility might be great in theory, but it just doesn’t work for us.”

We have literally heard this statement hundreds of times over the years. It doesn’t matter what industry we’re talking about — whether it’s tech, government, finance, healthcare, or small business, we’ve heard it. There’s always someone who works from the premise that “there’s no way flexible work policies can work in our organization.”

In reality, flexible work policies can work in any industry. The last two years have proven this. A 2021 Harvard Business School Online study showed that most professionals excelled in their jobs while working from home, and 81% either don’t want to go back to the office or would choose a hybrid schedule post-pandemic. It’s important to recognize, however, that flexibility doesn’t always look the same — one size definitely does not fit all.

The Myth of the Five C’s

You may be wondering, “If you can recruit the best candidates, increase your retention rates, improve your profits, and advance innovation by incorporating a relatively simple and inexpensive initiative, then why haven’t more organizations developed flex policies?” This question will be even harder for organizations to ignore after we’ve experienced such a critical test case during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We believe fear has created stumbling blocks for many organizations when it comes to flexibility. Companies either become frozen by fear or they become focused by fear. It is focus that can help companies pivot during challenging times. In the years that we’ve been working with companies on flexibility, we’ve heard countless excuses and myths for why they have not implemented a flex policy. In fact, the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance (DFA) has boiled these myths down to the fear of losing the 5 C’s:

  1. Loss of control
  2. Loss of culture
  3. Loss of collaboration
  4. Loss of contribution
  5. Loss of connection

Addressing the Fears

Myth #1: Loss of Control

Executives are often worried that they’ll open Pandora’s box and set a dangerous precedent if they allow some employees to work flexibly. They worry that if they let a few employees work from home, then the office will always be empty and no one will be working. The answer to this is structure and clarity. We can virtually guarantee that any organization that correctly designs and implements their flexibility policy will not lose anything.

To maintain control and smooth operation of your organization, it’s imperative that you set standards and clearly communicate them. Organizations should provide clear guidelines on the types of flexibility offered (for example, remote work, reduced hours, asynchronous schedules, job sharing and/or compressed work weeks) and create a centralized approval process for flexibility to ensure that the system is equitable.

It is also helpful to have a calendar system for tracking when and where each team member is working. You must also commit to training everyone on these standards — from those working a flexible schedule, to those supervising them, to all other coworkers. Education and training will help your team avoid “flex stigma,” where employees are disadvantaged or viewed as less committed due to their flexibility. Training can also help organizations to ensure that successful systems and structures that support flexibility are maintained.

Myth #2: Loss of Culture

While you may not see every employee every day, and you may not be able to have lunch with people every day, culture does not have to suffer with a flexible work initiative. However, it is essential that teams meet either in person or via video conference on a regular basis. DFA recommends that companies and firms first define what culture means to their individual organization and then determine how they might maintain this culture in a hybrid or virtual environment.

Many organizations with whom we’ve worked reported that they found creative ways to maintain culture during months of remote working during the pandemic. Many DFA members organized social functions like virtual exercise classes, cooking classes, happy hours, and team-building exercises to maintain community. Additionally, it’s important to take advantage of the days when everyone is physically present to develop relationships, participate in events, and spend one-to-one time with colleagues.

Myth # 3: Loss of Collaboration

As long as teams that are working a flexible schedule commit to regular meetings and consistent communication, then collaboration will not be compromised. It’s important for all team members to maintain contact (even if it’s online), keep tabs on all projects, and be responsive to emails and phone calls. We always recommend that remote teams also meet in person occasionally to maintain personal contact and relationships. For collaboration to be successful, remote employees must not be held to a higher standard than those working in the office. Additionally, technology should be used to enhance collaboration. For example, when companies are bringing teams together for brainstorming sessions, virtual breakout rooms can facilitate small group collaboration and help to ensure that all voices are heard. Some organizational leaders have also incorporated regular virtual office hours for unscheduled feedback and informal collaboration.

Myth #4: Loss of Contribution

We have often heard leaders say: “If employees are not physically at their desks in the office, then how will we know that they’re actually working?” But with endless distractions available on computers these days (from online shopping, to Instagram, to Facebook, etc.) you really don’t know what your employees are doing at their desks, even if they are in the office. In fact, they could be searching for a new job (that offers flexibility!) right before your eyes. It’s important to clearly communicate what is expected of each individual and trust that they will complete the job within the expected timeframe. All employees should be evaluated on the quality of their work and their ability to meet clearly defined performance objectives, rather than on time spent in the office.

Myth #5: Loss of Connection

Technology now enables people to connect at any time of the day in almost any location. Meetings can be held through a myriad of video conferencing applications. Additionally, calendar-sharing apps can help to coordinate team schedules and assist with knowing the availability of team members. Even networking events can now be done virtually. For example, one of our team members created a system for scheduling informal virtual coffee chats between partners and associates to maintain opportunities for networking and mentoring during the pandemic.

It’s important to know what your employees and stakeholders prefer in terms of in-person, hybrid, or virtual-only connection. In a survey conducted by BNI of over 2,300 people from around the world, the networking organization asked the participants if they would like their meetings to be: 1) in-person only, 2) online only, or 3) a blend of online and in-person meetings. One third of the participants surveyed said that they wanted to go back completely to in-person meetings. However, 16% wanted to stick with online meetings only, and almost 51% of the survey respondents were in favor of a blend of meeting both in-person and online. This is a substantial transition from the organizational practice prior to the pandemic, with a full two-thirds of the organization saying that they would prefer some aspect of online meetings to be the norm in the future.

Perhaps a silver lining of the pandemic will be that corporate leaders have overcome their fears of the 5 C’s and will now understand how flexibility can benefit their recruitment and retention efforts — not to mention productivity and profitability.

The-Importance-of-Price-and-Profits

The Importance of Price and Profitsstring(35) "The Importance of Price and Profits"

This is a GUEST BLOG from Per Sjöfors who is a long-time business associate and friend of mine. He has done work for me and is a trusted expert in the field. Per is a Pricing Strategy Consultant, the Founder of Sjöfors & Partners, and a best-selling author.

Profits drive every company. I know that sounds very fundamental, but, in my experience, is something that many business owners and executives do not consider enough. Consequently, in this blog post, I will provide a few practical tips on how a company can use its pricing strategy to increase profitability.

I know we all know this, but it is worthwhile to be reminded that profits provide the resources for a company to grow. Yes, investors can provide growth capital, but this will not support a company forever. Eventually, the company needs to become profitable. And it is those profits that enable companies to spend more on product development, marketing, and sales and increase competitiveness. To grow the business.

Pricing Has the Highest Leverage on Profitability

Further, consider that profit only comes from three variables. It is the total cost of running the company, the sales volume of what the company sells, and the price of what is sold. And of these three, pricing has the highest leverage on profitability. So, let’s do a thought experiment – changing each of these three by only a single percent; how will that affect profitability? Well, for the average company, it turns out that if sales increase by 1%, profitability goes up 3½%, if costs are reduced by 1%, profitability goes up 5½%, but if the price is increased by 1% or discounting is decreased by 1% profitability goes up with 11.3%. Again, this is for the average company. But no company is average.

I have created something that I called the 1% challenge. It is straightforward. The challenge: did you ever fail to change anything a single percent? Of course not. 1% is tiny.

To find out how this works in your company, we developed a calculator you can access here (registration required).

Profit Calculation

This profit calculation is valid for Fortune 500 companies, but it’s also equally valid for a hair salon, an accountant, a personal trainer, etc. And any company in between. You only need the top-level revenue and the total cost, and the calculator will tell you how much a percent price increase will increase profits in your company. 

When you start to look at your company from a profitability and pricing point of view, a lot will change. You will start thinking, “Do I have to give a 20% discount to close the deal? Maybe I should try with only a 15%, or perhaps only a 10% discount?” Likewise, you will ask yourself, “Which of all my products or services can I increase prices on, even if it’s just a little bit? Which product or service has the lowest nearby competition? Which products or services are unique and not exactly like my competitor, so if I raise the price, I will not see a loss in sales volume?” If the company has a sales force, consider reducing the discounting they can give away!

Price Walls

But, as you consider price increases, I also have one word of caution. There is something called Price Walls. These are psychological price points where sales volume changes dramatically, should you cross them. Price walls are often, but not always, on “even” numbers. Such as 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 500, etc., and this means that if the price for a product or service already is, say, $87, it is very likely that the price can increase to $97 without any change in sales volume. Likewise, if the price of a product or service is $503, reducing the price to $497 is likely to generate an increase in sales volume that could be pretty substantial. I say “could” because it is impossible to know how severe, or not, a Price Wall is without doing the willingness-to-pay research we do in my company. But you try by changing price, if done carefully.

More on Pricing

We are all familiar with how grocery stores and other retailers many times price “on the 9,” such as $9.99 or $49.99. But there are a few things to consider. First, if the product or service you sell is unique, and the price is aimed to be a message of quality and benefit, pricing “on the 9” denigrates that value. Thus, pricing “on the 9” should only be used for commodities, i.e., products or services that are equal to those sold by the competition. Furthermore, ending on a 7 is more effective in driving sales volume than ending on a 9. Ending on a 6 or an 8 is even less effective.  

Finally, consider Price Anchoring. Whenever you expose your price to a customer, ensure they first see a high price, then a lower price. As humans, we cannot not compare numbers, and if a buyer first sees a high price, the lower-priced item will appear more affordable. Since we read from top to bottom and left to right, the high price should be in the top left corner of your price list, menu, or website. It will increase your growth rate by several percent.


There is much more on this topic in my book “The Price Whisperer – A Holistic Approach To Pricing Power.” Here is a link to the Kindle edition.

Creating Organizational Culturestring(31) "Creating Organizational Culture"

This is a question that I am often asked:
“How do you create a great culture in a business or in a networking group?”

It’s a fantastic question about a topic that I love to talk about.
Culture is a critical key to an organization’s long-term success. It is one of the most important things in a company or group, and it applies to all levels throughout the organization. There are many factors that go into building an organizational culture. The variety of contributing factors includes a blend of attitudes, beliefs, mission, and philosophy that help to create and sustain a successful brand.

Culture Takes Time

Creating culture is a journey, not a destination. You can’t get there overnight; you have to be patient. I believe that culture is created in three primary phases:
Organizational traditions lead to organizational core values which lead to organizational culture.

To me, the creation of culture is straightforward. First, understand the healthy traditions of an organization. Second, consistently implement and practice the organizational core values, then share them, discuss them, and write about them. When you do these two things well, you create an amazing culture.

Get All Levels of the Organization Involved

Collaboration encourages engagement. When everyone in the organization knows the core values and participates in the traditions, they help create a positive culture for the group. In BNI®, the worldwide referral network I founded more than 37 years ago, we have focused on getting a high level of engagement throughout the company. This includes a Franchise Advisory Board to address organizational challenges, a Founder’s Circle to provide feedback about issues concerning the organization, a Board of Advisors made up exclusively of clients to ensure engagement regarding policies that affect the organization globally, and several other entities to help ensure full participation at all levels. Engagement can sometimes be messy, but when done correctly, it encourages a collaborative culture.

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

Remember, if you are part of an organization with a great strategy and a marginal culture, you’ll struggle. If you are part of an organization with a marginal strategy but a great culture, you can do well. However, an organization with a great strategy AND a great culture will be an industry leader. Culture is the secret sauce for organizational success, and as I’ve said many times – Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Business schools often talk about Strategy and typically make it a primary focus. However, culture is much less understood, and it is even more important than strategy for success. Organizational culture affects the way people within an organization interact with one another and the people they serve.

I’d like to know your thoughts about culture – in a company, BNI Chapter, or in another business organization. Share in the comments below.

 

 

 

The Confidence Pointstring(20) "The Confidence Point"

For business networking success, it is important to understand that referrals take place over time. In BNI®, we use the educational concept called the Referral Confidence Curve. It takes time to receive referrals from networking partners. There is little-to-no chance that someone is going to refer you if they don’t know anything about you. You have to invest the time to build business relationships before you can expect to get referrals from your network.

In my book, “Work Your Network With The 4Cs,” my co-author Dr. Oudi Abouchacra and I share how each of The 4Cs affects the referral quality and quantity within your network. We discuss how Competence, Credibility, Clarity, and Connectivity impact the Referral Confidence Curve and I’ll share more about each of the Cs in future blogs.

Initially, referrals start to happen on a limited and gradual basis. However, everything begins to change when the threshold, called the Confidence Point, is met.
The Confidence Point is depicted as the red X on the graph above.

This point represents a threshold that, once it’s established, changes the curve thereafter. When your network has complete confidence in you, referrals will begin to flow your way with a greater magnitude, and as a result, the curve steepens after the confidence threshold is reached. The Referral Confidence Curve assumes that when people are not confident in you, or your business, or your service or product, you’re not going to get many referrals. And when the Confidence Point is reached, referrals increase more steeply. 

Quantity AND Quality

It’s interesting to note that not only do those referrals increase in quantity, they often increase in quality, too. When networking partners have confidence in you, they refer others to you with that confidence and begin passing higher quality referrals.
Whatever the type of your business, it will take time before people have enough confidence in your abilities to know that referring other people to you will not hurt their own reputation. Think about it – none of us want to give our best clients and our best customers as referrals until we know that the person is going to do a good job with them.

It’s common for networking group members to test you out, to see if you’re good at what you do. They may use your product or service occasionally to find out how well you do what you say you’re going to do. When a member uses you, that’s really important because they can then confidently refer you to their network. It helps you reach that confidence threshold much quicker.

Earning Confidence

Most professionals know that the results of the business interaction with a potential referral partner and/or their fellow networking member can lead to more referrals from them. They think: this is a friend of mine, I’m in a networking organization with them. I want to make sure and do a good job for them.

I learned this for myself years ago when I bought my house in Los Angeles, California.
I had a lot of work done on the house by a number of contractors, and almost all of them

were BNI members. However, there was one specialty contractor I hired because there was no BNI member for that category in my area. Afterward, I found out from one of the BNI contractors that the specialty contractor had asked the rest of them, ‘Why are you guys busting your butt so hard on this job? I mean, you guys are working really hard.”  And one of them replied, ‘Yeah, well, this is the Founder of BNI. You know, we want to do a good job because he’ll refer us to other people.”  And they were right, I did.

The key takeaways from the Confidence Point on the graph are that if you have not established confidence with your network, you should not expect many referrals. If you HAVE established confidence within your network, you should expect a steady stream of high-quality referrals over time. Remember, it is critical to your business that others have confidence in you.

Have you experienced more referrals after reaching the Confidence Point with your networking partners?

 

 

 

 

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Work Your Network With The 4Csstring(30) "Work Your Network With The 4Cs"

I am excited to tell you about my new book, co-authored with Dr. Oudi Abouchacra, called “Work Your Network with the 4Cs.” Our goal with this book is to empower businesspeople, BNI® members, and other professionals with the fundamentals to create a powerful personal network.

In the book, we refer to our four key fundamentals as The 4Cs. They are:
Credibility – trust or trustworthiness
Competence – knowledge and skill
Clarity – understandable communication
Connectivity – quantity and quality of connections

Consciously or subconsciously, we all assess the people we interact with in terms of their credibility, competence, clarity, and connectivity. And they, too, are evaluating us with respect to the 4Cs. In future blogs and podcasts, I’ll dive into the details for each of these four, exploring how they apply to the business world, and how you can build a greater network and work that network effectively. 

Business from Networking and Referrals

For anyone who has been in business, even for a limited time, you recognize that a percentage, and it’s often a large percentage, of business referrals that you receive comes from your professional network. In fact, for small business owners, regardless of the industry or sector, networking referrals are typically a very significant proportion of their business.

A few years ago, we did an online BNI survey, open to the public, that had almost 4000 participants worldwide. We found that 73% of businesses reported getting most of their business from networking and referrals. That is a compelling statistic!
The other ways they got business were advertising – about 12%; P.R. was less than 5%; cold calling was less than 10%. And 73% was from networking and referrals!

The irony in that statistic is that more than 87% of the people in the same survey said they had never taken a college course that covered networking or word-of-mouth marketing. Forget about an actual class on networking; we’re talking about a course that just even discussed the topic of networking. It’s ironic that most people get their business from networking, and most people have never been taught how to network.

This is disturbing on many levels. Business students are almost completely unaware of how crucial networking will be to their future success. Business professionals are not investing in a source of income – networking and referrals – that is potentially responsible for nearly three-quarters of their livelihood. Additionally, they are not investing the necessary time in growing their network. 

Many businesses are leaving opportunities on the table and those opportunities could be the ticket to taking their business to the next level. Dr. Oudi and I want this book to do what colleges and universities have failed at doing.

The 4Cs are designed to help you gain more referrals with every handshake and with everyone you meet. Each of our Cs – Competence, Credibility, Clarity, and Connectivity, has the potential to affect the referral quality, quantity, significance, and consistency within your personal network.


Special Offer

Right now, the Kindle version of “Work Your Network with the 4Cs” is on sale for only 99¢ USD. You can download your digital copy at amazon.com (you don’t need a Kindle device; you can get the free Kindle app).
This offer is at amazon.com only and may not be available in all areas.

This special offer ends on Sunday, August 21st, 2022, at 3:00 am EDT USA.

Transactional or Relational Networking?string(39) "Transactional or Relational Networking?"

When it comes to successful business networking, it is important to recognize the difference between a transactional approach and a relational approach.

My book, “Business Networking and Sex (not what you think),” is based on a survey of 12,000 people from which we found that women and men DO network differently. I share more about it in this short video.

This video is part of my Master Class from the BNI®  2021 Global Convention.

Which is Better?

As your heard in the video, the survey of 12,000 people found that men tend to focus more on transactions than relationships, and women tend to be more relational in the way they approach business networking.

However, it also showed that all people who focused first on building relationships and then on business scored higher in success. When you are focused only on making a sale and completing the transaction, you are never going to create the trust and build the relationship that is needed to generate the business referrals you seek. 

My Experience

My personal tendency is to just go for the facts, and that is not an effective networking practice. It has taken many years for me to learn how to ask questions to find out more about the other person and to be more relational in the conversation.

Successful business networking takes both a mindset – a mental attitude, AND a skillset – a collection of abilities. When you network in a relational way by building connections with other people, you are going to generate more business. Remember, if your network is a mile wide but only an inch deep, it will never be a powerful network. It needs to be both WIDE and, in some places, very DEEP.

What is your experience? Have you found success through the business relationships you’ve built?

 

 

 

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Hard Work and Good Choicesstring(26) "Hard Work and Good Choices"

I believe that everyone wants some degree of success. I’ve yet to meet somebody who doesn’t want to be successful at something important in their lives. I also believe that while everyone is entitled to pursue success, success itself is not an entitlement.

It is largely determined by our hard work and our choices. I have known many people who work hard but make bad choices, and most of them think they deserve to be more successful because they have worked so hard. On the other hand, I don’t know of very many successful people who have made good choices but didn’t work hard.

Working hard is only the first part of success. Making good choices is the second part. It truly takes both to achieve success at whatever you do.

Advice About Making Decisions

Years ago, when I was the CEO for BNI®, I knew the choices I made were important to the business. My decisions impacted hundreds of employees and franchise owners, as well as hundreds of thousands of BNI members around the world. I remember talking to a good friend and mentor about some tough decisions I had to make and my concerns about them. He said, “Not every decision you make has to be a good one. Just make sure that you make more good ones than bad ones and when you make a bad one – minimize the impact by fixing it quickly.”

Wow! That was great advice! It is advice that precisely hits the point about working hard and making good choices. Not every choice you make must be on the mark. However, enough of them do so that you can get the results you want. Some of my biggest lessons in business have come from my losses, not my successes. Generally, neither had much to do with luck but instead with the choices I made or the commitment I gave to the project. I think the harder you work, the luckier you get. And you want to work smarter, not just harder.

Plan the Work and Work the Plan

During my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with thousands of people who have experienced varying degrees of success in their lives. A recurring theme I see with these people is that they plan their work and work their plan. They think through their possible choices, make the best ones they can with the information they have, and then work hard to carry out the choices they’ve made.

I remember talking to someone I’d known for years about the growth of my business and some of the personal goals I had achieved, and he said, “Man you’re lucky. It must be nice.”
I responded by saying “Yeah, I’m “lucky”. Let me tell you the secret to my “luck.” First, I went to college for ten years. During that time, I started my own business and  worked really long hours for two decades. Along the way, I mortgaged my house a couple of times for the business, and I wrote five books. You too can have this kind of “luck.” All you need to do is apply this kind of effort to whatever you do, and you can be just as lucky.” He laughed and said, “Okay, okay, I get it!” 

Success is most often earned. It is not handed over because you are entitled.
If being successful was easy, everyone would have the success they think they deserve.  Working hard is only the first part of success. Making good choices is the second part. It’s important to remember that it truly takes BOTH to achieve success at whatever you do.

Class Reunions: Do’s and Don’tsstring(35) "Class Reunions: Do’s and Don’ts"

Many countries throughout the world have class reunions for high school and sometimes for college, too. During a recent radio interview, I was asked, “What do you do at a class reunion? How do you make it worthwhile for yourself?” I thought it might be of value to share the answers that I gave for each of the questions.

Elevator Pitch: What to say when you’re asked, “What have you been up to? What do you do?”

The idea with an elevator pitch is to tell people what you do in a very short period of time. And it’s important in that elevator pitch, or your weekly presentation at your networking group, to keep it simple. Don’t try to tell everything you do in a short amount of time. Avoid using industry jargon. Share your Unique Selling Proposition.  

You want to talk about what makes you different, and, more important than anything else, you want to be very clear about what things will look like after you do what you do. Don’t just say, “I’m an accountant.” or “I’m a lawyer.” Describe how the situation has changed for a client after they have used your services or products.

Body Language: Is there a way to stand that subliminally invites people to have a conversation with you?

I’ve written and talked about the importance of open groups, and about Open Twos and Open Threes in previous blogs and BNI Podcasts. You always want to be in a stance that is inviting

You want to make and maintain good eye contact throughout the conversation, too. I believe it is really important to stay focused on the person that you are talking with. I also think it’s important to use some hand gestures. Not where your hands are constantly moving, however, you can use gestures that are well matched to your message. Your facial expressions are something else to be aware of, remember that every facial expression tells a story. 

Should you keep the conversation light? How personal should you get?

My answer is that contextual intelligence is key here. How well you knew them in school should determine how deep you go in a conversation. If you knew each other well, it’s okay to talk about more personal topics than if you barely knew them. If you barely knew them in school, don’t try to go into a deep conversation.

What if you’re feeling nervous about going?

I think many people might feel nervous about something like a reunion. My advice is to reach out to a couple of your friends from school if you’re nervous about going. Contact some people that you’ve kept in touch with and see if they’re going to the event. If so, make sure to meet with them as soon as you get there. If you meet somebody that you were good friends with in high school or in college as you arrive, then you’re going to feel more comfortable walking into the reunion. 

How can you become an “opportunity magnet” at your class reunion?            

Remember that the reunion is an opportunity to reconnect with people. Master networkers keep their eyes and ears open for opportunities to help others. When a former classmate says they have a problem or are looking for someone in a certain industry, offer to connect them to someone you know who can help them. When you learn about their profession, ask how you can help them in their business. Being helpful can make you memorable after the reunion.

Should you try to sell your product or service?

My answer is brief. NO – absolutely don’t sell to them. Don’t make the mistake of using the class reunion as a face-to-face cold calling opportunity. Desperation is not referable, it’s not saleable. I’ve gone to class reunions where people have done that. It just doesn’t work. People really do want solutions for their problems, they just don’t want to be sold to – especially at a school reunion.

Update social media?

Should you update your LinkedIn page or your social media before you go to the event?
My answer is YES. You always want to keep your social media pages up to date because anyone who really wants to connect with successful people at the reunion is going to do a search on you to see how you’re doing and what you’re up to.

What about following up?

How do you follow up with revived contacts after the reunion? Do you reconnect on social media, ask for their phone number, or what?
You definitely want to reconnect and keep in touch with old friends. I recommend that you ask for their business card or ask for their social media moniker and then connect with them either via social media or by email after you see them at a class reunion. Reminder: don’t try to sell to them when you follow up!

I hope you find these tips useful when you attend YOUR class reunion so that you have an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.
Share your story about using these suggestions in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

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Set a Vision That Makes a Difference

Set a Vision That Makes a Differencestring(36) "Set a Vision That Makes a Difference"

I believe that anyone can do extraordinary things with the right mindset, a plan and effort. I believe that our vision controls our perception, and our perception becomes our reality.

Set a vision that makes a difference to the people around you – then hold the vision, NOT the obstacles. This is something that is so difficult for a lot of people; they continuously focus on the obstacles. The truth is if you want to be successful, hold the vision, not the obstacles. Forget about the noise and distractions all around you. There have always been distractions and there always will be distractions.  Set a vision that makes a difference to the people around you.

Our vision controls our perception, and our perception becomes our reality.
Don’t become so attached to a limiting belief that you can’t see what is possible. Move past limiting beliefs and move towards meaningful beliefs.
Remember to keep your focus on your vision.

Walking into a Networking Event – Where Do You Start?

Walking into a Networking Event – Where Do You Start?string(55) "Walking into a Networking Event – Where Do You Start?"

Many people walk into a business networking event, look at all the people standing around, and wonder, “Where do I start?” I think a lot of people feel that way. Sometimes I feel that way, too, when I walk into a room. I’ve learned some tips to help networkers get more comfortable meeting new people at these events.
This video is part of my Master Class from the BNI®  2021 Global Convention.

Look for Open Groups of People

When you walk into any networking event, you want to look for the open twos and open threes. You want to see people who are standing slightly askew, so that you can just walk on up and introduce yourself without feeling like you interrupted a private or closed conversation. This is a subtle and significant technique to determine where to go to begin networking  when you go to an event or mixer. 

It is also an effective practice for networking groups, such as BNI chapters. The leadership team can remind members to always stand in open stances because it’s very inclusive. It makes people feel welcome when they can easily step in and have a conversation with the members.

A Suggestion for Introverts

For those of you who are introverts, consider this. It is actually easier to join a larger open group of people at a networking event. I know it seems counterintuitive, however it’s true. If you can find an open four or open five or six, it’s easy to slip in unnoticed and then just slide into the conversation after a while. This is often easier than joining an open two or an open three.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful for your next business networking event or chapter meeting. I’d love to hear about your experience with finding and joining open groups of people at events.

Who Has Inspired You?string(21) "Who Has Inspired You?"

I’m often asked, “Who has been an inspiration to you during your life?”
My answer is that there are a handful of people who have influenced me in terms of business and personal development. I’d like to tell you about four who have impacted my life both professionally and personally.

Michael E. Gerber

The first is Michael Gerber. Michael is an icon in the field of management. He wrote the book “The E-Myth” (entrepreneurial myth). I did not know Michael when I read the book, which I first picked up when I started BNI®. One of the things that really resonated with me was that he talked about systems, systems, systems. You have to write everything down and create systems. Make it replicable and sustainable. AND you have to learn how to work on the business, not just in the business. There are so many things that Michael wrote that I applied to BNI. I truly believe that BNI, as an organization today, exists the way it does because of the influence that “The E-Myth” had on me.

What really amazed me is that going forward almost 20 years, I finally had the opportunity to meet Michael and spend a fair amount of time with him. He visited me at my home, which reinforced my attitude about his knowledge and business acumen. He is amazing. I highly recommend that you read his book. He absolutely makes a difference in people’s business lives.

Jack Canfield

Number two is for personal development as much as business development, and that is Jack Canfield. You may know Jack from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series which has sold over 500 million copies worldwide. I’ve gotten to know Jack really well and I think he is an amazing guy. He invited me into the Transformational Leadership Council (TLC), which I have been a member of now for a number of years, serving on their board and membership committee.

For somebody who has sold 500 million books and is as well-known as he is, oftentimes ego enters the room several minutes before they do. Not so with Jack. He is easy to talk to, very well-read, low ego, very intelligent, very personable, very driven, and very connectable.

Here is one of the things that I really love about him. He is highly engaged when he is at a seminar. He is up front, listening to everyone’s presentation and taking copious notes. I have learned a lot from Jack; he is a great guy. I urge people to read his books on success, such as “The Success Principles,” and read any of the Chicken Soup books – they are outstanding.

Stewart Emery

The third person is someone who may not have the name recognition as the first two, however he has really influenced me personally and has influenced BNI. It is Stewart Emery. Stewart has written a number of books including, “Success Built to Last.” I highly recommend that book. He has also written the book, “Do You Matter?” It’s about branding and design of a business, which is really good. I think Stewart is one of the great minds of our time. He has come up with some ideas that are really powerful, two of which I talk about often.

The first is culture eats strategy for breakfast. I love that concept. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. If you are part of an organization that has marginal culture and great strategy, you’re not going to do well as an organization. If you are part of an organization with great culture and a marginal strategy, you will probably do pretty well. If you are an organization that has great culture and a great strategy, you are going to beat the competition every day of the week.

The second thing that I learned from Stewart is the concept that became the basis for the book we co-authored together, “Who’s In Your Room?” The idea is that, assuming you let somebody into a metaphorical room that you create and you can’t ever let them out, would you think twice about who you let in? It’s a great concept and it is particularly relevant for BNI chapters and networking groups because if you bring people in, you realize that you are going to be with these people for a long time and can never get rid of them if you let them in. I appreciate Stewart for sharing this brilliant concept with me, and with all of us.

Sir Richard Branson

I got a chance to meet Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, several times through my visits to Necker Island. I’ve spent time with him there and got to know him reasonably well. He is gracious, kind and patient with people. He can connect to anyone at any level of an organization and make them feel empowered and good about themselves. He knows how to relax and have fun, and he’s a great host. I love that he has absolute laser focus on anyone he meets; he gives his undivided attention to them. He talks with that person as if they are the only one in the room, maintaining eye contact with them the whole time. I have gone to school on Richard and his ability to network effectively with all people at all levels of an organization, and I’ve learned a lot from him.

So those are people who have influenced me both personally and professionally.
Who has inspired you? I invite you to think about two or three people who have made a difference in your life and share why & how in the comments section.

I believe gratitude is a good thing. I suggest that if you know these people personally, or if you can connect with them somehow, let them know that they have influenced your life.

 

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Give Valuable Information to Get More Business

Give Valuable Information to Get More Businessstring(46) "Give Valuable Information to Get More Business"

We all want to do business with people we know and trust. So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at business networking events? One way is to offer value-added advice – solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

For instance, a real estate agent may be talking with someone at a networking event who is not ready to buy a home today, however they are considering it soon. The agent could say something like this:
“Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now. When you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town. Many of my clients have seen their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another high school in that area.”

This example shows that it is possible to offer relevant information that has something of value without being too salesy. A statement like this acknowledges that the person is not currently in the market, and yet it still demonstrates the real estate agent’s expertise, making them memorable when it’s time for the new contact to begin house hunting.

This model can be effective for consultants, accountants, financial planners, coaches, and for most professionals in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. 

Give a Little Test Drive

Some people are concerned about giving away their intellectual capital for free. I say look at it this way: very few people are going choose to work with you if they’re not sure you can do the job and provide what they need.

If your business does not have a tangible product, you only have your technical expertise to demonstrate your capability to help them solve their problem. Think about it – when you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to sign on the dotted line until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospective customers. Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you are a marketing consultant, give them a few ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business. Don’t go overboard; simply offer a technique you read about or tried with one of your clients. Just give them something they can try to see if it works for them.

This way of offering advice lead to a positive conversation with new contacts while you’re networking, and it also increases the likelihood of them contacting you when they have a future need for your type of service.  

Prospective Referral Sources

Remember that your networking group members are also your prospective referral sources. Consider the ways that you can give them valuable advice related to your specialty or profession. Perhaps you can tell them about an upcoming change in procedures that will affect them, give tips on how to initiate the changes they will need to make, or provide other pertinent information that can help your chapter members achieve success.

One of the goals of a master connector is to help your networking partners feel that you are a link to privileged and helpful information. The advice you give may lead prospective referral sources to seek you out for answers to their own questions, which is a great way to remind them of what you can do for others.  

Here are some tips to help you decide what to share with your network and how to share it with them:

  • Make a list of the topics that you feel comfortable and confident giving advice on.
  • Decide whether you will share information formally, such as in a newsletter or a presentation at your networking group, or informally, such as a personal note.
  • Determine how frequently you will provide updates on the topics.
  • Ask your sources to think of others who might benefit from your advice.
  • Periodically ask your network members if they find your information useful. You can ask them if they have other questions or topics that you can share, too.
  • Be sure that your network members know that they can tell you if they no longer wish to receive your updates.

Offering valuable information to your network will not only help them, it will also keep you on their minds and encourage them to refer you and speak highly of your professional knowledge to people they know.

A Giving Approach

I learned about the power of giving when I was in my first management position working for private industry. I went to each member of my team and asked, “How can I help you?” By offering to help people with this simple question, I built strong relationships with them and learned what it was that they needed most from me.

I later discovered that this approach worked very well in promoting my consulting services in my own business. I would find ways to help people – even if it meant not selling them my services. The attitude of helping with a ‘giving’ approach was a way to build my credibility and it brought people back to me later when they had a need.

When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, offering value-added advice is one of the best ways to do so. Everyone can benefit when you give valuable information to your business networking group and networking partners.

Have you found it beneficial to share some of your expertise with potential customers? I’d like to read about your experience in the Comment section.

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