Networking Secrets a Father Taught His Son

The following is a guest post is contributed by Maria Rainier, who regularly writes on the topic of online college education.

My brother is a wildly successful person. He literally has thousands of business cards in this gigantic blue 3 ring binder he keeps with him at all times. Ask my brother do you know a good handyman, he says “I know several”; ask him if he knows a good Cardiologist he replies “of course, I know the best in the city”. Ask him if knows anybody to do anything, he always says yes. It seems his binder is almost like a magician’s magic hat. You ask it to produce something and presto, it appears. A few weeks ago when we got together for Mothers Day at moms I decided to inquire. I asked him, how did you have time to meet and talk to all these people? How do you know them? He said. “I met 99% of them through networking”. I have to admit I was shocked.

Not to worry. I learned networkers are made, not born.

Growing up, my brother kept to himself. In high school he was not what I would call outgoing. He was not very talkative for a boy and he was not by any means a natural born salesman. So I asked him, “How did you get so good at networking?” He didn’t hesitate and replied “Practice”. I was puzzled. I always thought you can either network or you can’t. You are either a networker or you’re not. So I asked him, “what do you mean, you where never really a people person, you have always kept to yourself, why this new networking you?” He said “dad taught me how to network, go ask him” and then he laughed. So I pressed on and asked my brother “what do you mean dad taught you?” He said dad taught him the 3 cardinal rules of networking when he was in college taking a business course. Now I thought this is getting ridiculous, the 3 cardinal rules and a business course, he has to be pulling my leg. Maybe this goes deeper and I better not dig further. But of course, I had to. My dad never taught me to network. I needed answers.

I asked my brother if he would mind sharing with me how a quiet shy kid can turn into a networking expert. He quickly snapped, “I am no expert, but I can hold my own” “I told you sis, practice” I said “I know all that, but tell me exactly how you do it”. He said it would take him an hour and a half to teach me the 3 cardinal rules of networking dad taught to him and I should call him one night this week. I reluctantly agreed.

Get it from the source.

The next evening I called him and I said “OK so what are the 3 cardinal rules to networking?” he replied, “Do you have a pen?” I said, “Yes” and like it had been rehearsed and practiced dozens of times, he recited these cardinal rules to me: “Practice, Practice, Practice”. I said “c’mon now, I really want to know”. He said “OK”. He went on to tell me for over an hour that knowing people from all walks of life was essential to being successful. He told me that you did not have to make friends or even have anything in common, just that you were to create real business relationships. He said “this is the first cardinal rule, build solid relationships”. He further explained that he was taught by our dad to let the other person talk about their business and magically, in some metaphysical way, they would remember you and what you do through your silence. This was rule two. He then went on to tell me that common sense, when a networking opportunity presents itself, was the 3rd and final rule. He explained that carefully presenting your services when appropriate and only when appropriate, was key crucial to networking.  He told me that sometimes it took him two or three meetings to form a working relationship or even say a word about what he did. He was careful to point out not to pressure or rush a contact into a relationship, and better to stay low key and not seem desperate. He said that part of the common sense in cardinal rule three was to act like you don’t need the contact, but that you want it. He said this was a fine line and it took practice. He finished by telling me that no one wants to buy from, or do business with a desperate person. People want to buy from and do business with a successful person, so act like a successful person and you will never have a problem networking.

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My First Triathlon

I knew very little about triathlons this past November when I added the words “complete a triathlon” to my list of goals for the 2010. I knew that triathlons are considered an “individual” sport and that they push your personal limits as you compete in three sports back to back. What I didn’t know was that to reach my goal of completing a tri I would need a great group of friends.

I never have enjoyed running since a knee injury in junior high, so the idea of training for the run portion of the tri seemed next to impossible. It had been over a decade since I had even run a mile when this past December when I received a call from someone I barely knew inviting me to join him and another friend running on Tuesday and Friday mornings. (My loving wife tipped him off that I needed to get running in order to reach my goal) The next day I ran a painful 2.6 miles. Since that day in December we have been running together twice a week and surprisingly, while it has been hard, I have enjoyed it more than I ever thought possible.

A triathlon will always teach you something

I have been told by many triathletes that a Triathlon will always teach you something. It taught me about the unique paradox of life: that in order to succeed as an individual you must first succeed as a friend. In life you need true friends, the type that will call and give you a hard time if you didn’t run just because it was raining and cold.

Business is no different, if you are simply inward focused you may do fine for awhile. You might even make it for a couple of years as you push (or pull) yourself up with your own strength, but eventually you will burn out and find a loneliness where relationships should have been all along, helping you along the path of life.

If I am convinced of anything it is this: that we were designed for relationships. It is not simply a want, it is a need. How are you doing, are you focused on helping others succeed and in doing so allowing them to help you as well, or are you taking on life all by yourself?

To those that dragged me along

I simply can’t say thanks enough to my running friends Matthew Hatley and Jason Vandorsten, to my biking friends Ron Klabunde, Ken White, Brian James, and Marty Smith, and to my loving wife Mary who encouraged me every step of the way. It is because of all of you that I was able to reach my goal for the year. Thank you all, it is truly great to have you as friends.