Business Networking is a Marathon, Not a Sprintstring(47) "Business Networking is a Marathon, Not a Sprint"

In the world of professional relationships and business growth, networking plays a pivotal role. As the founder of BNI®, an organization built on the foundation of networking, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power it holds. Networking is not merely a sprint to collect business cards and make quick connections; rather, it is a marathon that requires patience, perseverance, and the cultivation of genuine relationships. Today, we will explore why networking is more of a marathon than a sprint, embodying the principles and philosophy I have advocated throughout my career.

Building Authentic Relationships

Networking is about building authentic relationships, not just accumulating contacts. It is essential to invest time and effort in getting to know others on a deeper level. Building rapport, trust, and a genuine connection requires a commitment to long-term relationship building. Like a marathon runner training to endure the miles, networking calls for consistent engagement and follow-up with others, nurturing connections that go beyond the surface level.

Establishing Credibility and Trust

A successful networker understands the significance of establishing credibility and trust within their professional community. This is not something that can be achieved overnight; it requires consistent effort and demonstrating reliability over time. By consistently showing up, delivering on promises, and providing value to others, one can establish themselves as a trusted resource and expert in their field. This reputation cannot be built hastily; it is cultivated over the course of a marathon networking journey.

The Power of Referrals

Referrals are the lifeblood of successful business networking. However, they are not instant gratification. Similar to the stamina required to complete a marathon, it takes time and a solid network foundation to earn referrals. As connections grow stronger and trust deepens, individuals become more willing to recommend your services or products to people they know. Referrals flow naturally when relationships have been nurtured and when others are confident in your abilities. This process cannot be rushed; it evolves steadily as your network expands and your reputation spreads.

The Depth of Connection

While a sprint may be a quick burst of energy, networking thrives on the depth of connection. It is not about the number of connections one can acquire in a short period; it is about the quality and depth of those relationships. By taking the time to truly understand others, their needs, and aspirations, one can offer genuine support and be a valuable resource to them. This depth of connection allows for collaboration, partnerships, and long-term business opportunities that are often missed in a sprint.

Patience and Long-Term Vision

Networking is a journey that requires patience and a long-term vision. It takes time to develop a network of trusted individuals who believe in your mission and are willing to support you. Like a marathon runner, there will be times when progress seems slow, and the finish line feels distant. However, by staying committed, consistent, and focused, networking will yield invaluable rewards that a sprint can never provide.

 

Business networking is undeniably more of a marathon than a sprint. It necessitates dedication, perseverance, and the cultivation of authentic relationships built on trust and credibility. By understanding that networking is a long-term endeavor, we can appreciate the true power it holds in creating opportunities, fostering collaborations, and ultimately achieving professional success. So, let us lace up our networking shoes, embrace the marathon, and forge lasting connections that will propel us forward on our journey to success.

 

 

 

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Business Networking and Friendsstring(31) "Business Networking and Friends"

I have found that one of the strengths of a good networking group is that most of the members become friends. Ironically, one of the weaknesses in networking groups is that most of the members become friends. Yes, it’s both a strength and a weakness. Accountability is crucial in running a good network because friends don’t like to hold friends accountable. I have also found that people who truly understand business networking recognize the need to have a system and structure to get results.

It can be dangerously easy for a networking group that meets regularly to become a talk session over coffee with little or no networking taking place. That is what happens when the group loses sight of their purpose, their focus, system, and structure – or it happens if they never had any of those things to begin with.

Often, people begin to make up their own agendas and they lose their focus on networking. When you lose focus, the meetings become social. Networking should be about business. Of course, there will be a social aspect, but it’s mainly about business, commitment, and accountability.

Leadership and Teaching

People can be like water – taking the path of least resistance. Without the proper framework in which to operate, the agenda might become the current topic of the day’s news, or it ends up being whatever the person running the group thinks the meeting should be from their own personal perspective. Inconsistency like that, over time, is a problem for a networking group.

Even if the group has a good, strong leader, that person’s life will change at some point or maybe they will simply get burned out. The problem starts if there is nobody else to teach. Teaching is a leaky-bucket process. You begin with a full bucket of information. When that information is taught to someone else, some of it leaks out of the bucket and the people being taught get a limited version of the information. Then, when that person teaches someone else, the material continues to get watered down based on their personal understanding and their ability to articulate the material.

By the time you are in the third or fourth generation of people passing along the information, you only have about half a bucket remaining. When the bucket of information gets low, people start putting in their own content. The problem is that it might not be good content. I’ve seen this time and time again. By the way, very rarely does the material improve over time with the leaky bucket process.

I learned early on that the best solution is to write everything down to develop “train the trainer” material so there is consistency in the system and the way the training is conducted. Making the leadership training part of a replicable system is the best way to fill the leaks and have good leaders for the organization.

I think it is a beautiful thing when people in a networking group become close friends. The key is to make sure it doesn’t detract from the group’s goal of building each other’s business through networking and referrals.

It is important for ALL networking groups to ensure that there is a strong sense of purpose with a solid structure, and that each member is committed to carrying out the systems for networking which are already in place. This will ensure that members agree to be accountable with their business networking friends.

How does your networking group maintain its focus and commitment to systematic networking practices? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below.  

Business Networking and the Solar Systemstring(40) "Business Networking and the Solar System"

During a hike on my recent trip to Necker Island, my friend, Mike Macedonio, and I had a great conversation about comparing the hiking trail to the solar system.
I invite you to watch this short video to learn more.

 

It reminded me that business networking is a journey and it’s all about relationships. Remember, networking is a marathon, not a sprint.

Business Networking is a Marathonstring(33) "Business Networking is a Marathon"

Business networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor – it is most definitely NOT a sprint.  I have met many people who practice ‘hyperactive networking’ who approach their networking efforts at the speed of an all-out sprint. They want to be everywhere, meet everyone, and go, go, go at such a pace that they inevitably ‘collapse’ due to burn-out and have nothing to show for their efforts.

Activity is Not an Accomplishment

Years ago, I met a woman who was known as the consummate networker. She had hundreds, perhaps thousands of contacts, giving her a broad network made up of people from all different walks of life. She was very well known in her community as the go-to person for anything that anybody needed.

One day, she pulled me aside and dropped a bombshell…. she said that her networking efforts weren’t really paying off for her. She went on to tell me about all the groups that she went to, all the people she met, how she had made so many good contacts and was continuing to make more all the time, but she wasn’t getting any solid business from all her efforts. I asked her how many networking events she went to each week, and she said she was going to at least five, and sometimes she went to more!

Why wasn’t she seeing real results? Because despite her amazing talent for making contacts and gaining visibility, she never really got to the heart of what networking is all about – building relationships.  She was so busy running around and making appearances that she wasn’t ever learning how to actually “work” the business networks she had created to build deep relationships with people and develop credibility with them.

It’s true that she was visible in the community; she was very visible. The problem was that she viewed “activity” as an “accomplishment” when it came to her networking efforts. Her network was, in fact, a mile wide, but only an inch deep. She had not taken the next, and most important, step with the many people in her wide-reaching network. She never devoted the time to develop the kind of rapport with any of them that would allow them to really get to know her, like her, trust her, and want to pass referrals to her.

Networking is About Building Relationships

I recently saw the same thing with someone I’ve known for a few years. He made a consistent habit of going to every single networking meeting and event that he could go to, and he was incredibly visible. Not only was he always at networking meetings, he was always full of energy and enthusiasm from the time he arrived, to the time he left. Again, the problem was in no way due to the lack of activity, effort, or enthusiasm regarding putting himself out there and meeting new people.

The problem was that he was running around so much that he never stopped long enough to spend the time necessary to establish the kind of long-term roots that lead to an ongoing, reciprocal referral relationship. The end result was that he got a severe case of networking burnout! He went from going everywhere and meeting everyone possible, to going nowhere and meeting almost no one. A year later his business went under.

Networking is More About Farming Than It Is About Hunting

If your goal is to significantly grow your business by simply making as many contacts as possible, you will never build a powerful personal network. If you are networking with the ‘sprint’ approach, you’re almost guaranteed to get burned out. Constantly bouncing around from event to event is exhausting and ineffective. There needs to be a balance between the visibility-creating aspect of your networking efforts, and the credibility-creating aspects of your networking efforts.

One way to accomplish this is to schedule regular one-to-ones with people you’ve met, in order to go deeper in understanding the services that they offer, and how you might be able to refer them. Most importantly, it’s a way for them to do the same for you.

Case in point is another woman who was a real estate agent in California who shared with me that her business grew dramatically during a major recession in the past, because she decided to develop a network that was both wide and deep in some places.

She took my advice and did at least four one-to-ones a month with people in her network. She focused on building relationships. And once she was convinced that she had found a good business opportunity for some of her contacts, she would actually phone the contact on the spot and put them together with the person that she was meeting with. This created powerful introductions that led to business.

From this activity, she ended up giving twice as many referrals to other people as she had in the past. More importantly, she received twice as many referrals as she had from people in the past. She was treating the process more like a marathon than a sprint. This is a great example of how networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is all about building relationships with key people.

What is amazing about this story is that it happened at a time when businesses were dealing with a massive recession and the fallout from that recession. More importantly, the businesswoman was in a profession that was hit as hard or harder than the overall majority. Despite the conditions around her, she used her relationship building skills to create long-term referral relationships.

At its core, business networking is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships. Yes, visibility is important, however, without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run. It is about treating networking like a marathon, not a sprint.

When it comes to networking, sometimes you have to slow down to go fast.

Business Networking Diversity

Business Networking Diversitystring(29) "Business Networking Diversity"

I believe that it is important to build a diverse network of professional contacts that include people with different interests and backgrounds.  The only thing that they should have in common with you is that they should be really good at what they do.  Create a personal network like that, and you’ll have a network that can help you succeed at anything.

It is human nature to build friendships with people that are like us.  The problem with surrounding ourselves with similar people is that they also tend to have similar contacts and know the same people as us.  When networking, it may be difficult to make connections with new people or companies with whom we desire to do business. In running a large business networking organization for over the past three decades, I often speak to people who tell me they want to network exclusively business professionals who have similar clients.  Although it is good to include these people in your personal network, networking with them exclusively would be a tremendous mistake. When it comes to business networking diversity, you never know who people know.  One of the important keys to being successful at building a powerful personal network is diversity.

A diverse personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors or “linchpins” in your network.  Linchpins are people who in some way cross over between two or more clusters or groups of individuals; this allows them to link groups of people together easily.  The best way to increase the number of possible connections in your network is to develop a diverse network. The strongest networking groups I have seen over the years are generally the groups that are diverse.  I believe that one of the problems in understanding this concept is a somewhat built-in bias that many people have about networking with individuals that are outside their normal frame of reference.  Let me share a story:

An incredible voice, an incredible connection from networking diversity.

Patti, a BNI Director, arrived a little early to a BNI meeting that met in a private meeting room and noticed an older gentleman setting up coffee mugs in preparation for the meeting.  She struck up a conversation with the man while waiting for the BNI members to arrive.  In talking to him, she was really taken by the amazing tenor of his voice.  She mentioned to him that he had an incredible voice and asked what he did before this.  The gentleman informed her that he used to be a commentator for CNN!  He went on to share with Patti that in his later years, he wanted to work in a less hectic job as well as live closer to his daughter.  He decided to take on the job of managing these private meeting rooms because it gave him an opportunity to be close to his family while having a less hectic career later in life.

Later during the meeting, one of the BNI members, Don, mentioned in his featured presentation that his goal is to host a radio talk show someday. He was looking for some contacts that could help him pursue this dream.  After the meeting, Patti asked Don… “Do you see that guy over there (pointing to the ex-CNN commentator)?  Have you seen him before?”  “Yea,” said Don, “he’s the guy who sets up the coffee for our meeting.”  Patti said to Don, “Did you know that he used to be a broadcaster for CNN?”  Don said, “I had no idea!!!”  Patti suggested that Don introduce himself. Don had seen the man on many occasions but had not struck up a conversation with him because he felt that they had little, if anything, in common.  The truth is when it comes to networking – not having a lot in common with someone may mean that they can be a connector for you to a whole world of people that you might not otherwise be able to meet. This resulted in creating an incredible connection for Don in the broadcasting industry. Don now hosts a local radio talk show.

Diversity in your network is the smart thing and the right thing to do.

Business Networking Organizations

The Five Types of Business Networking Organizationsstring(51) "The Five Types of Business Networking Organizations"

Networking is the perfect way to help take your business to the next level. However, putting your eggs in one basket and depending on one networking group to satisfy all your needs won’t work. So, which business networking organizations should you join?

We all select different people in our lives that satisfy various needs that contribute to our well being; our parents provide comfort and guidance, our close friends provide support and cheer, our business relationships provide trust and honesty. While these satisfactions may overlap from group to group, it’s important to have more than one person you’re leaning on for all your emotional needs.

It’s the same with your networking groups! While you may find cheer and honesty in more than one group, it’s important to spread your interests to gain a varied support system. Business professionals who don’t have a lot of spare time often ask us which networking groups provide the biggest bang for their buck. There are five main types, and what works best depends on the business they’re in and the prospects they want to meet. Therefore, when selecting your business networking organizations, you need to understand which types are available so you can make an informed decision.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most familiar types.

The Five Types of Business Networking Organizations:

1. Casual Contact: A gathering of people from many different professions, usually in a mixer environment

2. Strong Contact: Usually only allows one person per profession, get together very regularly

3. Community Service Clubs: An opportunity to rub elbows with other very successful people

4. Professional Associations: Trade organizations that are very specific in purpose

5. Online: Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, where networking is constant

To better understand which business networking organizations fits you best, watch the video below.

 

The Top 7 Things I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Heading the World’s Largest Business Networking Organizationstring(119) "The Top 7 Things I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Heading the World’s Largest Business Networking Organization"

30 years ago this past Thursday, I put together about 20 people in a small coffee shop in Arcadia, California for the very first meeting of BNI® (Business Network International).  The organization was run from a small bedroom which was converted into an office inside my house in La Verne, California.

The House Where BNI® Began

The House Where BNI® Began

I am humbled by the fact that today the organization has over 7,000 chapters in 60 countries with over 170,000 members world-wide.  In addition, we have over 30 BNI staff at HQ and more than 3,000 BNI Directors and Director Consultants working for the organization!

I don’t believe any of the two dozen or so people who were present at that first meeting fully realized that this was the beginning of something amazing. 

That realization came to me almost a year later between Christmas and New Years as I looked back in amazement at having opened up 20 groups during the year.  At this point I recognized I had struck a chord within the business community.  We don’t teach networking in colleges and universities anywhere in the world, and business people are hungry for referrals. They simply had no viable way to generate them regularly back in 1985.  It was during that week that I sat down and put together the outline for a plan that has evolved into what BNI is today.

I was recently asked by a BNI Director what the secret to this growth was.  I’ve taken some time to write down some of the key factors I think contributed to our success as my answer to his question.  These are factors you won’t find in most business books, and they weren’t taught to me in graduate school.  But I think they were critical to our success in this organization and they may be relevant factors to you, too.

BNI's Current Headquarters Building in Southern California

BNI’s Current Headquarters Building in Southern California

Lessons I Learned in Developing BNI:

  1. Set Goals. I know – everyone says “set goals,” but let me give you a slight variation to this concept.  I recommend you set three levels of goals.  By setting goals in this manner, you give yourself some flexibility in where you want to go over the next year (or years).
    1. High – set a goal that is a stretch. This is one that will be very difficult to reach, but it is definitely possible.
    2. Target – set a goal that you are confident you can reach. It won’t be easy, but it is definitely possible.
    3. Low – set a goal that if everything goes wrong, you are still confident you can reach this.
  2. Reverse engineer your goals. At each level above – where do you want to be at the end of twelve months from now?  That number would be 100% of your annual goal.  Now reverse that.  At nine months you should be at 75% of that goal.  At six months, you should be at 50% of that goal.  At three months, you should be at 25% of that goal.  Check your progress every month.  Stay on track.
  3. Do six things a thousand times, not a thousand things six times! I think one of the big mistakes businesses make is that they jump from one bright shiny object to another. For me, success has come by being like a “dog with a bone!”  I have taken techniques that I’ve seen work, and then I’ve done them over and over and over and over.  Six things, a thousand times.
  4. Create a larger vision. It’s never too early or too late to create a larger vision.  Create something that is a unifying concept for you, your employees, and possibly even your clients – something that resonates with people and creates a long-term vision for the company.  For BNI this began with our philosophy of “Givers Gain.”  It has been inculcated throughout the organization and has been the guiding force of our referral-marketing program.  It led to our vision statement of “Changing the Way the World Does Business” which is all about businesses collaborating and cooperating through our philosophy.
  5. Maintain personal engagement. As a company grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to be personally engaged in every aspect of the business.  That means you must make choices.  However, you must continue to be personally engaged as much as possible.  Technology has enabled me to stay engaged with members and directors (through my visitations, video messages, this newsletter, my blog, the BNI Podcast, our social media, and BNI Connect, to name a few). Nothing replaces personal engagement.  The more you remain engaged, the more your vision can thrive.
  6. Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice. One thing I’ve learned over the last 30 years is that I can teach people “how” to do something (including network).  I can’t teach them to have a good attitude, and I don’t have time to send them back to Mom to get retrained.  The only thing better than “ignorance on fire” is “knowledge on fire.”  If I can take someone who is on fire and teach that person how to succeed, our organization becomes unstoppable.
  7. Do what you love, and you’ll love what you do. As a business person, you are either working in your flame or working in your wax.  When you are in your flame, you are on fire.  You are excited and energized.  When you are working in your wax, you are drained and fatigued.   As a company grows, it is easy to get caught up doing more and more in your wax.  Find out what your flame is, and then do your best to work more in that flame.  Find people whose flame is your wax and put them in the roles you no longer love doing.  This will free you up to work in your flame.

I’d love to hear any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or observations that you might have about the BNI organization whether you’re a member of the organization or not and I’d also really like to hear any key lessons or tips for success which you’ve learned through your own experience in the world of business.  Please share your thoughts, etc. in the comment forum below–thanks!  

 

 

 

 

 

Business Networking & Volunteering–Is There a Connection?string(68) "Business Networking & Volunteering–Is There a Connection?"

BusinessNetworking.com blog readers across the globe are invited to participate in a current survey being conducted on business networking and volunteering.

As a member of the Board of Trustees at the University of La Verne, I have been given the opportunity to invite you to take part in this study on business networking and volunteering which is being conducted by the University of La Verne’s Darla Drendel for a doctoral dissertation.

The results will be shared here on BusinessNetworking.com upon completion of the doctoral dissertation and they may also be incorporated into some of my upcoming material, likely in one of my books or articles.

CLICK HERE or on the graphic below to take the survey now.

This survey is extremely brief, taking only a few minutes to complete, and it will be an important tool in understanding the relationship between business networking and civic engagement.  As a BusinessNetworking.com reader, your input is of great value as you, by nature, likely have plenty of experience participating in both of these arenas.

If you have questions about the survey, please contact Darla Drendel (DarlaDrendel@Yahoo.com) or Marcia Godwin, Ph.D., Director of the University of La Verne’s Institutional Review Board (MGodwin@LaVerne.Edu).

Thank you so much to all of you who take a few minutes to complete this survey–I consider your support a personal favor and I am very appreciative.

Does Business Networking Have a Place in Formal Education?string(58) "Does Business Networking Have a Place in Formal Education?"

In this short video, presented by Applied Transformation, Inc., Roger Green asks me about my view on the idea that high cost education doesn’t necessarily prepare students for the real world.

In answering him, I talk about my feelings on where business networking fits into the world of formal education and I share some statistics about the true effectiveness of networking which, to me, are mind boggling; I also tell a personal story about having lunch with the Dean of Business at a prominent university and how his words to me speak volumes about the current position business networking holds in the world of higher learning.

What are your personal feelings on where business networking currently fits into, or currently should fit into, the world of formal education?  Did you study business at the university level?  If so, what was your experience?–Did you receive any education about networking while you were working on your degree(s)?  Please share your thoughts/experiences in the comments section.

Survey Says: Summarized Conclusions about Business Networking & Genderstring(75) "Survey Says: Summarized Conclusions about Business Networking & Gender"

What have my co-authors and I concluded after 12,000 individual surveys, almost 1,000 comments and stories, numerous interviews, months of research, and years of experience?  Below is a recap of the facts we uncovered.

Study Findings, Summarized

  • 91.4% of the respondents said that “networking has played a role in their success.”
  • Men and women were closer together than we expected in most areas.
  • However, the perception of the difference is very dramatic.  Remember: The exception becomes the perception.
  • Women feel that networking has played a slightly larger role in their success than men.
  • Women use a much wider variety of techniques to learn their networking skills than men do.
  • Men are more likely to focus on business first than women are.  Women are a little more likely to focus on building the relationship first–then the business.
  • The time of day for networking was not a big issue for either gender.  This was a surprise to us.
  • Family obligations were more of a problem for women.
  • Women definitely did not feel as safe as men in attending evening events.
  • Men preferred either a structured or unstructured networking event.  Women felt okay with either.
  • Both men and women felt that other people were more uncomfortable networking than they felt about it themselves.
  • Men felt stronger about transactional aspects of networking.  Women felt stronger about relational aspects of networking.
  • Men spent a little more time networking.
  • Women received a higher percentage of their business from networking than men.
  • The more time either men or women spent in their networking efforts, the higher the percentage of business they generated.
  • The more often people used systems to track their business from networking, the more likely they were to feel that networking played a role in their success.

Men and women are not so different in the success they desire in business and networking.  However, the process, the mindset, and the way of making the results happen are very different.  The reason is that we have different ways of viewing the world.  Some of this comes from nature and some from nurture.  What it means is that if we want to be more effective, we must learn how to respect, appreciate, and embrace one another’s differences.  We must understand that we can work more effectively together as a team in business and in our networks.  We just need to learn to be adaptable, empathetic, sensitive, and understanding that THEY are not you.

You can and will beat the odds.  The exception doesn’t have to become the perception.  It can be you! 

Come back next week for some advice from the whole team of Business Networking and Sex co-authors–these tips will help you achieve your highest potential when it comes to networking and guide you into your brightest future in referral marketing.

My ‘Business Networking and Sex’ Epiphanystring(53) "My ‘Business Networking and Sex’ Epiphany"

In this video, Hazel Walker, one of my Business Networking and Sex co-authors, asks me what I learned from the research we conducted for the book and, specifically, what my biggest epiphany was.

I explain the answer that really blew me away and caused me to come to a major realization when I was interviewing someone prior to writing the book.  I’m telling you, no matter how much you may learn about networking, there’s always more to learn!

Business Networking & Sex: Survey Says . . . Time Spent Networkingstring(71) "Business Networking & Sex: Survey Says . . . Time Spent Networking"

In this short video, I share a portion of the results from the survey of 12,000 businesspeople on which my most recent book, Business Networking and Sex: Not What You Think, is based.   The results I discuss here indicate that there is a very powerful, direct linear correlation between the time spent networking and business success.

You’ll also hear some colorful comments in the video relating to the book and my co-authors (e.g., “Frank, you’re a bad, bad boy . . .” ;-)).

After watching the video, please leave a comment explaining whether you feel the indication of the statistics is true or lacking based on your personal networking experience.