Business Archives - Page 4 of 34 - Dr. Ivan Misner®

Does Your Business Card Take Care of Business?

Earlier this week, Danealle Marshall of a BNI chapter out of Orlando, Florida, BNI Gold Partners, reached out to me via Twitter to ask a great question that a lot of business professionals will face during their career.

I love this question. Why? As I often say, giving out and receiving business cards is an extremely powerful part of connecting with new contacts. That being said, sometimes your business card can be what sparks someone’s memory of you. Why wouldn’t you want yours to stand out?

In 2003, I released a book with Candace Bailly and Dan Georgevich titled “It’s In the Cards!” In this book, we discuss the powerful tool that is your business card, and how so many people may be under-utilizing this networking tactic.

ID-100275566To answer Danealle’s question, and to build off of some of the ideas we published over a decade ago in the aforementioned book, here are four things that I have seen in my years in business that have really elevated some business cards.

  1. Mix up the orientation. It is such a small change, but making your business card vertical instead of the more traditional horizontal orientation can really help it stand out. People receive and look at innumerable horizontal business cards on average, but you are likely able to remember the last time you saw a vertical card.
  2. Utilize graphics. And no, I don’t just mean your company’s logo. If you include your Twitter handle, consider using the Twitter bird logo instead of using the word “Twitter” on your card. Another option, though use with caution, is including your picture. This can work, but only if the rest of your card is completely spot on and has more of a creative feel. I recommend this more for marketing agencies, or those more right-branded ventures.
  3. Color your card accordingly. Have you ever heard that fast food companies frequently use red and yellow in their logos because these colors subconsciously promote hunger? Think about your product, and about your brand, and if you choose to use color on your cards (which I recommend to at least do minimally), use a color that conveys what you want contacts and consumers alike to associate with your brand.
  4. Consider your company and alter your card accordingly. I’ve seen some very cool cards that really cater to what services or goods a company provides, but I will warn that these can get costly. I’ve seen a video company with cards shaped like a clapboard, and a software engineer whose cards looked like HTML coding. Where this gets ineffective is where you take it too far – bakeries should steer away from an edible business card, despite the appeal.

Have a question you want me to answer in a future blog post or podcast? Write me at AskIvan@bni.com to submit your questions.

Three Essentials for Women in Business

femalesIn my decades as a professional networker, I’ve seen the professional atmosphere change dramatically. The internet, of course, has been a huge influence on this change. However, outstandingly, more and more women have begun to take the plunge and start their own business. Earlier this year, the U.S. Census Bureau released a study that said that women were starting businesses at 1 and a half times the national average.

Despite this though, not all recommendations for starting a business will succeed equally for men and women, and some are more true for women. Here are three quick tips especially helpful for a female entrepreneur.

Don’t be afraid to be wrong

Sometimes, we worry that being wrong or having a problem is a sign of a character flaw. Women, particularly, can be susceptible to feeling this way due to societal pressures. When you allow yourself to ignore a problem, or try endlessly to stop a problem from existing (despite the fact that it is very much present), you allow the issue time to manifest. Instead of letting something spiral out of control to save possibly your ego or pride, identify your problem and quickly do something to correct it.

Create a brand that you would want to use

It seems like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how passion can play into the success of your business. If you ensure that you are creating a brand that not only are you passionate about, but you would want to use, then the chance for burn out diminishes exponentially.

Ask for help when you need it

Research has shown that women frequently feel more hesitant to ask for help if they need it than men do. Why? This ties in with the fear of being wrong. Struggling to handle everything on your own will just ultimately lead you to downward sloping. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap.

If you are a female entrepreneur, what tips to do have for others who may be aspiring to follow that path? Leave your thoughts in the comment field below!

Networking is a Contact Sport

Networking is a Contact SportMany entrepreneurs belong to networking organizations, but they simply don’t know how to effectively get a return on that investment of time.  Thoughtful engagement is the answer.  Engagement is an absolutely critical step in the networking process.  It involves a promise and an action.  In order to achieve success with your networking partners, you must promise to support one another, and then you must take the action necessary to fulfill that promise.  The only way to do that effectively is to connect on a deeper level than you do with most of your business contacts.

There are several ways that you can become more engaged with your networking partners:

  1. Have you taken the time to regularly meet with the people in your network on a one-to-one basis?  This means setting up times outside the context of any normal meetings and getting to know them on a deeper, professional level.
  2. Have you taken the time to educate them regularly on the key elements of your business, so that your products or services will be top of mind in the event they meet someone with a need for what you do?
  3. Have you taken the time to become educated on the key elements of your networking partners’ businesses, so that you can do the same for them?
  4. Have you visited their offices to get first-hand understanding of their services?
  5. If possible, have you used their products or services to get first-hand knowledge of the quality their products or the services they provide?

Networking truly is a “contact sport.”  It involves full engagement in order to get solid results. In fact, research has shown that reciprocal engagement in a business relationship results in higher productivity.  According to Psychology Today, people who are “actively engaged” in a business environment are “43% more productive” than those who are not.  Furthermore, they say that engagement includes “regular dialogue, quality of working relationships, perceptions of ethos and values… and recognition.”   Effective networking is all about building meaningful relationships that include most, if not all of these characteristics.

Every time I hear someone talk about how networking didn’t work for them – I discover it’s because they have never done a deep-dive on the relationship building process relating to their networking.  Most of their networking activities were very superficial.  Or worse yet – it mostly involved an attempt at direct selling.  Networking is not a face-to-face, cold-calling opportunity!  When it’s done right, it’s about building long-term meaningful relationships.  In fact, networking is more about “farming” than it is about “hunting.”  It’s about the slow process of cultivating long-term, professional relationships.  Over time, this long-term process gives you the opportunity harvest a substantial amount of business, but it only happens with full engagement in the relationship process.

Spend some time thinking about new ways you can support your networking partners.  This will help you promote engagement with them in the various networking groups to which you belong.  You will find it is time most well spent.

Three Things Your Business Degree Didn’t Teach You

graduatingOne common misconception among business people, especially those new to the field, is that a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business will provide all the necessary skills to own, operate, or work in a business of any size.

Time and again I’ve seen men and women struggle in business, flabbergasted because they followed the steps taught to them as undergraduates. It isn’t until they get involved in post-degree programs specifically geared toward advanced business techniques, or professional organizations like BNI or the Referral Institute, that they pick up these three concepts that are truly paramount in business.

 

Social Capital

Relationships, and their potential value, are vital in business. These relationships can be in our personal or professional networks, but both can lead to business opportunities, quality referrals, new and innovative ideas, someone to bounce ideas off of, and ultimately, increased business success.

As you build relationships, identify their strengths and weaknesses and focus on fostering the weaknesses. While it can be counter-intuitive to focus on anything other than your business when trying to help it grow, putting effort into your relationships will ultimately lead to greater business success.

 

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to identify, assess and control one’s own emotions, as well as an astute awareness of the emotions of others improves communication in all facets of life and can up one’s connection game. In fact, studies show that a higher emotional quotient (EQ) can help develop more social capital.

When you can learn how individuals around you respond to you, and cater your interactions to the individual person, you will see the positive response received hit the roof. While not rocket science, it can be challenging, so as you work to develop your EQ don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately.

 

Networking

You knew it was going here. This critically important business skill is grossly under-represented in higher education. This proficiency combines the elements of emotional intelligence and social capital, and is an important tool to have in your wheelhouse.

The vast majority of businesspeople say that in some form or fashion, they have gained some success through networking, and this isn’t a coincidence. Those who haven’t found networking success likely haven’t built a strong foundation of social capital and emotional intelligence, as networking is simply the mechanism used to combine word-of-mouth techniques and social capital.

 

In the same way businesses who refuse to adopt cutting-edge technology begin to fall to the wayside and face difficulties, business school graduates (and the schools they hail from) who do not adopt these lessons into their curriculum in some ways will quickly find themselves outdated and outpaced.

Are there other vital business skills you feel aren’t taught in general business education? How did you pick up those skills? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave your comment in the forum below! Thanks!

The Secret to Success

I do a countless amount of interviews each year, and one of the questions I get asked most often is: “What is your secret to success?”  In this video, I tell my personal story about my journey on the road to success and, if you are thinking the road was a quick and easy one–think again.  

I often tell people who are striving to achieve success in a snap that I am a twenty-year ‘overnight’ success.  In other words, there is no such thing as overnight success.  It took me twenty years of working diligently and consistently, day in and day out, doing the same things over and over in order to achieve some degree of success.  I firmly believe that the secret to success without hard work is still a secret.  However, there is a key idea which I talk about in this video that I learned through doing research for my book Masters of Success, and it can really help when it comes to attaining success.

What’s your take on the secret to success?  Are your ideas on how success is achieved different than the ideas I discuss within this video?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

How to Create a Spectacular Life

Last week, I posted a video where my friends and partners in the Referral Institute® and I offered our individual thoughts on how to create a truly amazing business.  Today, I’m following up that video with this one where the four of us talk about what it takes to create a spectacular life.

Watch the video now to learn about what each one of us views as an essential key in establishing the ultimate, ideal life which you have always envisioned for yourself.  We also offer specific, actionable steps you can take toward achieving your unique version of a spectacular life, so make sure to watch the video the whole way through.

After watching the video, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the ideas we shared, and we’d also love for you to share your own ideas on this topic within the comment forum below.  Thanks so much for watching–we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

How to Create a Truly Amazing Business

I recently had the opportunity to get together with my partners in the Referral Institute® (Eddie Esposito, Mike Macedonio, and Dawn Lyons) to discuss a really interesting concept: What exactly does it take to have an amazing business and a spectacular life?

So, we decided to do a couple of quick videos to share our individual ideas surrounding this concept.  In today’s video, each one of us shares both a key idea and a surefire action step (to implement that idea) which we believe are crucial in developing an amazing business.

What I really appreciate about our discussion here is that each of us contributes our own unique and specific piece of insight, so the gamut of advice shared within this brief video is actually pretty comprehensive being that there’s such an element of diversity within our individual comments.

After watching the video, please share with us in the comment forum below your own thoughts on what it takes to create an amazing business.  And, be sure to check back next week to watch the subsequent video we filmed which will address what it takes to create a spectacular life. 

The Book of Doing and Being

In this video, filmed during a recent TLC (Transformational Leadership Council) Conference, I talk to my good friend, award-winning motion picture producer and writer Barnet Bain, about his newly-released book, The Book of Doing and Being.

In the video, Barnet talks about how creativity has a significant place in our businesses and our relationships, but that the ‘really big game’ is in innovation.  He says, “Innovation is to creativity what e-mail is to snail mail.”  Watch the video now to find out how innovative thinking is available to absolutely all of us, despite the fact that very few of us are trained to see the world in terms of innovative responses as opposed to creative responses.

Barnet has devoted his life and career to manifesting his creativity in a way that not only gives his life purpose but brings meaning and hope to the lives of others.  With this book, he reveals to us how we can do the very same thing.  Put simply, if you want your life to count in ways you’ve previously only dreamed of, you owe it to yourself to read The Book of Doing and Being.

So what do you think of Barnet’s ideas in the video?  If you’ve already read the book, what are your thoughts on it?  Please leave your comments in the forum below.  Thanks!

 

Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The fact is, networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor–it’s most definitely not a sprint.  I have met so many people who practice what I call ‘hyperactive networking’ and they mistakenly approach networking at the speed of an all-out sprint–they want to be absolutely everywhere and meet absolutely everyone and they go, go, go ALL of the time until they soon inevitably burn out, ‘collapse,’ and give up.

It’s a real shame because if these people would, from the beginning, just slow down and take the time to develop a networking strategy and understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance, they would be reaping great rewards from their networking efforts instead of exhausting themselves with nothing to show for it in the end.

Networking at its core is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Sure, visibility is important, but without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run.  You can run around all day long going to networking events and shaking people’s hands, but if you’re not spending time following up and developing trust with the people you meet, then you haven’t really achieved much of anything that will actually give you results from your networking efforts–do not confuse activity with accomplishment. 

So, what are your tactics for pacing yourself in the marathon of networking?  What actions do you take to strategically build relationships?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

Being Your Own Chief Networking Officer


CNOIf you work in an organization, you might be familiar with the increasingly popular position of chief networking officer (CNO).  The CNO is the person who handles many corporations’ business networking and community-related activities.

The role or position of CNO has changed over the years.  In the past, the CNO could have been the person responsible for such things as running the computer or IT department, or for computer-related functions in general, because networking was thought of as a matter of electronic connection.  CNOs are still tech related, but these days we’re seeing many executives with that title in charge of completely different functions, handling business networking activities such as these:

  • Community Involvement
  • Internal & External Communication
  • Public Relations
  • Corporate Culture
  • Social Capital
  • Human Resources
  • Diversity
  • Client/Customer Relationships
  • Developing a Referral Marketing Campaign
  • Departmental Collaboration
  • Relationship Advertising & Marketing
  • Improving Vendor Relationships
  • Referral Generation Strategies

As you can see, a CNOs responsibilities can be broad and complex.  However, I believe the two key responsibilities to be: 1) relationship-marketing campaigns and 2) referral generation strategies.  These roles should be top of mind if you’re going to network like a pro.  They should be the principal job focus of a CNO.

First, however, let’s address the thought that’s probably just popped into your head: “Hey, I only have a ten-person (four-person/one-person) organization; how can I afford to hire a CNO to do my networking?

As business professionals ourselves, we remember what it was like trying to get a company off the ground.  And, quite frankly, there never seemed to be enough resources to take care of all the things the business needed, let alone hire an executive-level person.

What I suggest is to create a CNO position in your company and then fill it yourself, at least in the beginning.  In other words, don’t hire a CNO; just take on a CNO mindset.  How do you create a CNO mindset?  Start off by adopting a Givers Gain® attitude.  This gets you in the spirit of finding ways to help others while simultaneously overcoming the scarcity mentality that can creep into your thinking.  Lay out a clear set of guidelines and action items that you’d like the CNO to take, and then fill that position yourself for two or three hours a week.

 

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

Don’t Know What You Want to Be?–Stick Your Tongue Out and Wave It Around . . .

In this video, I talk about the often difficult question of what it is we truly want to do in order to make a living and contribute to the world.

When my kids were young, I often took them to get ice cream as a treat. When they had trouble making a decision about which flavor they wanted, I told them that if they stuck out their tongue and waved it around, the answer would come to them.

As they got older and had difficulty deciding what they wanted to be when they grew up, I reminded them of their tactic for finding an answer to the ice cream flavor conundrum. In reality, I was simply telling them to experiment and feel things out, so to speak, in order to figure out what they were passionate about and what they would truly be happy doing.

The fact is, if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do.  I think it’s so important and it’s an important message for us as business people if we want to have a balanced life–a harmony, as I call it. 

So, what helpful things have you done when talking to kids or others in regard to what they want to be “when they grow up”?  Please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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