When my daughter Cassie was only 8 years old, she made a little stick man, which she named “Bob,” from a small piece of red pipe cleaner and gave him to me. That’s Bob and me to the right by the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, last year.
Why is Bob in a picture with me, halfway across the world from my home, eight years after Cassie originally gave him to me?
Well, it all started when one of my business trips prevented me from attending a Girl Scout event that Cassie was participating in. I felt bad that I couldn’t make the event, so I took a photo of Bob and myself in the mirror at the hotel and sent it to Cassie, telling her Bob and I were thinking about her and congratulating her on her achievement. She liked it so much that I started sending photos of Bob whenever I could.
Throughout the years of travel, I have always stowed Bob safely in my briefcase and, whenever possible, I have someone take a picture of the two of us to send back to Cassie. More often than not, I can immediately see what the heck is this guy’s deal? written across people’s faces when I ask if they’d mind taking a picture. Once I explain what the photo is for, however, it’s amazing how people’s responses change.
You see, one of the great things about running a successful international business is that you get to travel a lot. Yet one of the really bad things about running a successful international business is that you have to travel a lot . . . when you have small children, that can be a real challenge. People, especially those with children of their own, understand that. So when I explain the purpose of taking a picture with a goofy little man made out of pipe cleaner, people realize I’m not actually nuts after all and that Bob is really a family tradition that keeps me connected to my daughter.
The thing is, we can all take a lesson or two from Bob.
First off, Bob is a great example of how the smallest gestures can forge powerful connections between people.
I may not be able to be with my daughter at times when I want to be, but the simple gesture of sending her a picture of Bob and me keeps us connected. This same concept applies to keeping you connected with your networking contacts. You may not be able to attend every event you’re invited to or have lunch with every one of your contacts on a weekly basis, but you can find simple strategies to stay connected, such as giving them a quick call to check in or sending them a card.
Second, Bob is a terrific representation of why it is so important to explain the value you (and your business) bring to the table, and not to assume that people understand.
Think about it. When my unsuspecting “Bob photographers” initially respond to my request for a picture with my tiny red traveling companion, they see a man who probably belongs in a room with padded white walls, holding a contorted piece of pipe cleaner and smiling like it’s his best friend. Why do they react this way? Because they don’t understand the value Bob brings to the table as a powerful connector.
Once Bob’s specific purpose and role are explained in a way people can understand, his value is undeniable and people want to help me and applaud my dedication to my family. This is the same with explaining the value you and your business present to your networking partners–assuming people know the value you bring to the table is simply to leave money on the table every day.
Bob’s looking a little worn with his travels (and I guess I am, too), but as long as I’m on the road, Bob will continue to be my traveling companion, Cassie will see evidence of our adventures, and she will always know we’re thinking of her as we travel the globe.
For more photos of Bob and me, go to: Facebook Photos of Bob.