Something about all of us

business-relationshipsToday the Design and Construction Network will break 1,800 members, our expansion into Philadelphia for the next networking event is already exceeding expectations, and to date over 500 people that have attended our networking events in Washington DC. It leaves me wondering how it is that the network has experienced such incredible growth.

Something about all of us

I am not alone when I say that, when it comes down to it, I just want to be myself. I want to laugh with friends, experience the ups and downs of life, and leave the world a better place than I left it. I have found more value in relationships than in money, and more monetary profit in building friendships than in making a sale.

Actually, not only do I think I am not alone in these thoughts, I believe that I am in the majority. Yet somehow in business many of us seem to have gotten off track; we have traded relationships for things of lesser value.  We often know that the best results are found in the long-term, but find it difficult when we see the immediate results of others that are focused on short-term success.

Back to the network, back to you.

The Design and Construction Network isn’t a success because of me, it is a success because of great people like Mark Buckshon, Matt Handal, Melissa Allen, Deborah Hayward, Kevin Smith, (the list truly goes on and on) that believe in building long-term relationships, not just creating value for themselves (note that I did not exclude it being of value for them also, I personally believe and hope that each of these people receive a ten fold return from the network). They are great people that simply want to be themselves, to help others, and to laugh with friends. Success is being born simply by bringing these types of people together and building positive momentum towards a shared goal of building relationships.

Your turn

This week it is your turn, to be yourself. To get back to the passions that brought you to where you are at today, to laugh with friends this week, to experience the ups and downs of life, and leave the world a better place than you left it. I hope this week that you experience the long-term gain of helping your friends and building some new relationships.

Return the Favor

Has someone ever helped you to the point that you sat at your desk and tried to think up ways to return the favor?

One such time happened for me in 2006 when a friend worked to get me on a team for a major project that resulted in an $800,000 contract from my company.  What took her 15 minutes (time spent selling someone else on using my firms services) would have cost me 40 hours of phone calls, multiple lunches, and numerous meetings, and even still I wouldn’t have been guaranteed a spot on the team.  Needless to say, I was not only thankful to my friend for her work, but I literally sat at my desk working up ways to return the favor.

 The key to this story wasn’t how she helped to get me on the team; it is how your actions can motivate other people to help you.  Those 15 minutes of work have resulted in dozens of referrals and project leads as I have worked to return the favor.  As my friend focused on helping me, she was developing a mutually beneficial relationship that resulted in me working hard to help her.

If you are looking to increase your effectiveness, start by helping other people in your network.  What can you do today that will leave someone else pondering what they can do to return the favor?

Twitter’s Fundamental Flaw

twitter_birdsThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the Design and Construction Report, a publication for members of the Design and Construction Network.

A recent Sprint Nextel commercial included a brief glimpse into the world of Twitter. It depicted hundreds of little blue “Twitter birds” with small cell phone shaped text boxes above their heads. Looking at the group you could see that each bird was speaking a message towards their fellow blue friends. As the birds chirped they were creating a flurry of messages, yet each message was the same: “Me!”

This funny and quick snippet speaks volumes about the fundamental issue most people face when trying to leverage Twitter for business. That is the Twitter culture to focus on sharing about oneself.

How businesses fail with Twitter

To properly see the Twitter flaw we must first start with the basics of Web 2.0. At first the internet was primarily about online shopping sites and providing information. Even today you can see this in many corporate websites that are set-up as online brochures. Within a couple of years, however, things began to change. People began to realize that the fastest way to succeed online was to provide value, drawing a crowd from people that were looking for information and resources. This new interactive online environment became known as Web 2.0 and included web forms, blogs, social networking communities, and information resources. 

In the midst of these changes Twitter was started as a platform for individuals to share short updates of 140 characters or less to anyone that was interested in reading them. As Twitter became successful in strengthening relationships companies began to look for ways to leverage the growing platform to expand their businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the companies and individuals that have set out to leverage Twitter have failed. Most have missed the fundamental requirement of the new web, that in order to succeed you must provide value. Today many individuals and companies that try to use Twitter for business are “Me!” users rather than focusing on others. Those that have failed to embrace helping others in the community are ignored and filtered from Twitter updates by users.

How to succeed with Twitter

With the knowledge that providing value is the key to success on the web, it is easy to begin to see how you can become successful at turning Twitter into a true business tool. Instead of thinking about what you can gain from Twitter you must first start by thinking about how you can help people that follow you. Take these two questions: 

  1. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they informed you when they were stuck in traffic, what they had for dinner, and what they were doing this weekend?
  2. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they regularly contained leads for new work, great articles regarding your industry, links to requests for proposals, and information on local networking events they were attending?

The interesting thing about the second person is that not only would most people follow an individual that was providing those resources; they would also probably try to meet them at an upcoming event. Notably, they would be interested in building a relationship outside of the online environment. This new relationship development then becomes the basis for success through Twitter.

Building success online

Remember that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, and other Web 2.0 sites are only tools that can help build a foundation for mutually beneficial relationships. You must personally evaluate what tools are best to help you reach your personal objectives, noting that some of these tools take much more time than others. Personally, I have chosen not to focus on Twitter but rather on providing value to others through blogging (cofebuz.com), LinkedIn, and the Design and Construction Network (mydcn.com).

Your turn

As you look at your goals for your online presence, evaluate what tools will work best for you. It will most probably be any number of online tools of which one might be Twitter. Regardless of the tools you choose, remember that success is found online when you provide value to others.

Set your Facebook username now!

logo_facebookIt’s official, Facebook just enabled users to set a permanent username. Until now URSs (Uniform Resource Locators) were just a series of random numbers and letters. Now users can have a custom URL. Here is the information from Facebook:

Starting at 12:01 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday, June 13, 2009, you will be able to select a username. You can personalize your Facebook URL (web address) by selecting a unique username. It will appear in the location bar of your browser after “http://www.facebook.com/” when you view your profile.

Do it now!

Here is the link to set yours now: http://www.facebook.com/username/. If you have a common name yours may already be taken, so seriously, do it now! (It takes all of 15 seconds)

A couple of Hints:

If you use Twitter to automatically update your to Facebook status consider using the same username.

Think long-term as the username is permanent. A joke today might not be as funny tomorrow.

Reality

Let’s face it, we have no idea where social networking is going, but clearly LinkedIn (professional) and Facebook (personal) are two of the leading platforms at least for the next couple of years. So taking a moment to make certain you can be easy to find in the future (if you decide you want to be) never hurts.

Why Help Other People

holdingbulbsmallI believe that the best way to succeed in life, and business, is to help other people.  A life built around helping others will yield not just the joys of relationships, but also the sweet success of achieving your own goals.  Here are just four of the reasons I choose to live my life by focusing on helping other people:

  1. The Principle of Give and Take – The best way to motivate someone to help you has always been to help them first. Help someone 20 times and they will have a healthy desire to return the favor. This basic principal allows us to understand the power of living a life centered on helping others.
  2. The Power of Friendship and a Strong Network – Most people recognize that it is people (both personal and professional) that lead to the greatest successes in life. Helping others builds a foundation for new relationships and opens the door of communication that can lead to mutually beneficial relationships.
  3. A Historic Perspective – Without question an individual that has left one of the greatest impacts on the world was a carpenter’s son from 2000+ years ago who lived his life to help other people. While many people differ on who Jesus was, everyone agrees that his life has had unprecedented impact. He spoke about this philosophy by stating that you should “love your neighbor as yourself.”
  4. A Life Worth Living – Finally, even if I am wrong I note that I will have lived a life worth living, with a legacy that I will be proud of. We will all know when I turn 80 how successful this approach is, but till then I figure I am living a life that has purpose, meaning, and one that my three children will be proud of when I am gone.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.  Please feel free to send me an e-mail or to contact me though the ‘About the Author’ Tab.

Tim Klabunde

Online Networking and Real Relationships

dcdcn

Back in November, 2008 the Design and Construction Network (DCN) started with a single goal of turning online networking into real relationships. Since that time I have shared with you this ongoing case study through Cofebuz in hopes that we all might learn how to better leverage online networking sites to achieve the goal of fostering real business relationships.

Needless to say, the past seven weeks have beyond exceeded my expectations for the DCN. Here are just some of the highlights:

  1. The network has grown from 480 members to over 1100 members nationally
  2. For our second Happy Hour we had to close down a restaurant in Arlington Virginia to the general public as 323 members converged to attend, representing over 200+ design and construction firms.
  3. Members of the network have found new ways to connect in person, including the creation of a Design and Construction Network team that will be competing at the 2009 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Real Estate Games! (www.realestategames.org)
  4. In the last several days members have proactively initiated the establishment of a Twitter group for anyone in the industry that is looking to connect via Twitter. (http://twittgroups.com/group/designconstructi)

The question people always ask is “where do you go from here?” The answer is simple and exciting: we are going to continue to focus on helping others develop relationships in the industry. To achieve this goal we are working to roll out some incredible changes. I am personally most excited about a new partnership that is unfolding which will help everyone in the network, not just those that are local to one of our Happy Hour locations.

In the next several weeks I will be making this new partnership public, but until then let me encourage you to think about the time you spend networking online. Are you truly building relationships, or just collecting links?

Tim Klabunde

If you would like to join the Design and Construction Network just use this link and click “Join Now.” http://www.linkedin.com/groupInvitation?gid=926787

Stop associating Networking with Sales

tree-in-desertI believe that introverts and extroverts alike have the ability to network. I also believe that many people have never learned how to be successful at networking because they have been taught to incorrectly associate networking with sales. More than ever, the articles and seminars on networking are full of information regarding elevator pitches, how to work a room, and closing the sale. The problem is that all of these items miss the mark on the primary focus of networking: relationship development.

I was honored to reconnect with Rob Comet and Ambur Willis of BCWH Architects over the past several weeks in preparation for a private webinar on Networking that I presented to their firm on Friday. During our many conversations I was impressed with BCWH’s dedication to the relationships that their employees have with each other, clients, and others in the industry. Preparing his company for the road ahead, Ron clearly told his staff prior to the start of the program that BCWH was more interested in people than immediate sales, a philosophy that I wholly agree with.

Not everyone can sell, but everyone can Network

Over your career you have probably met dozens of people that can really sell. They are generally extroverts that have learned the art of understanding the only two things that people buy: Solutions to Problems and Good Feelings. While these people are amazing at what they do, I would argue that the vast majority of corporate revenue in the world comes from something far more powerful, relationships. This is especially true in the services industry where our primary product is the knowledge and capability of people.

Your Relationships

What about you, are you focusing on the sale or the relationships? If you are focusing on the former let me encourage you to evaluate relationships as a better approach to long-term success.

The Five Habits of Highly-Effective Online Networkers

rainmakerThe following article by Tim Klabunde was published in the April edition of A/E Rainmaker, a PSMJ Resources publication.

Let’s be real, online networking is not real networking. I am not saying that it can’t be a useful tool; I am simply stating that real networking is about a lot more than just ‘linking’ to other people. Let’s forget the discussion on which online site is better for the moment, and focus on how we can leverage these online sites as an effective tool for expanding our networks. If we can’t do this, then online networking is no better than collecting a stack of business cards.

You would probably agree that networking is much more than contacts; it is what you do with those contacts that differentiate rain makers from everyone else. In his book Rain Making, Ford Harding identifies networking as ‘helping people.’ It is about providing others with assistance knowing that others in your network will do the same for you. If you were to check out many professionals’ contact lists you would find that they are full of hundreds of contacts, but very few networking relationships. This is because, as Harding indicates, most people fail to understand that networking is about what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. Online networks are no different. Success is not intrinsic in simply making contact, success is found by what you make of every contact. Here are the five concepts that successful online networkers live by.

1. Networking is more than contacts. What this means is that online networking is not a successful tool unless you can use it to achieve the overarching objective of helping other people. The good news is that online networking can be a great asset to you in doing just this. Most sites are set up so that you can leverage your online network to provide others with referrals, connect others in your network, and keep your network contact information up to date.

2. Online referrals. Probably the most underutilized aspect of online networking is the ability to refer work and clients to others in your network. The area where we have seen the most success so far is the use of online networks to pass along job openings. If you are already linked in to an online network, I would recommend trying out this feature to see how you can leverage it. Also, most sites give you the ability to block your contacts from others in your network. Carefully weigh this in light of helping other people. I have found it beneficial to allow others to see my contacts so that we can more effectively work together.

3. Link others in your network. How many times since you started using an online networking site have you used your network to connect your friends? Online networking creates an environment where passing along a relationship is easy and mutually appreciated. If you are already part of an online networking site, try connecting your friends to help them be more successful.

4. Keeping your contacts up to date. Online networking sites provide a great way to keep your contacts up to date. Since online networks are linked to individuals and not to their respective companies, you can effectively ‘never lose touch’ through job changes, promotions, and layoffs. 

5. Getting the most out of online networking. Whether or not you use online networking tools such as LinkedIn.com or Facebook.com you need to consider your networking plan. Develop your objective and then determine the tools that work best for achieving your personal goals. For me, I find that using Microsoft Outlook linked to my Palm Treo is ideal; for others, there is nothing better than a full CRM. Whatever your method, remember to establish a follow-up plan that will ensure you are helping other people on a regular basis.

Establishing your plan for networking is essential to determining how you will use the online networking sites. Next time you get or send the e-mail “I’d like to add you to my professional network…” determine if you are simply doing it as an effort to stack business cards, or as a tool to strengthen your network.

The $15,000 Question

I am convinced that some people have a knack for memorizing people’s names, and that I am not one of them. As a result of this belief, I used to be terrible at remembering people’s names. Then, several years ago I commented as much to a good friend who told me about the $15,000 question:

“It is not that you can’t memorize people’s names, it is that you don’t think peoples names are worth memorizing. If I introduced you to someone and offered you $15,000 if you could remember their name a week from now you would not only remember their name, but also their mothers name, middle name, correct spelling, and several interesting facts about the person.”

I was quickly put in my place… he was right! I am still not the best at memorizing names, but I have been shocked over the past several years at how I have improved. I just needed to realize that memorizing a name is not just important to the people I meet, it is also important to me.

Why Network

Social NetworkI am often asked “Why should I network” during training sessions on Networking.  It is a simple question with an answer that can change the way you interact with others and the way you live your life.  Below is a summary of my answer, the powerful truth of why you should network…

“Networking is about you, not about a company.  If you are a project manger, the projects you work on will stay here when you leave. If you are an engineer, the designs you work on will stay here when you leave. If you are an accountant, the money you work with better stay here when you leave.  However, one of the few things that you will take with you (and that your company will loose) is your relationships, also known as your network.  Due to this, your network will be and is one of your most powerful tools.  Let’s look at two extremes as an example of how networking plays a role in everyone’s career:

Last Laid-off

Time and time again strong networkers are spared during layoffs, not because they are top performers, but because they have something many top performers don’t have.  Take this example:

An executive in the midst of an economic downturn was faced with a problem: he had to lay off one of two people:  The first was an incredible performer with a knack for completing projects on time and without errors.  The second was a good performer with a network of relationships that was bringing in over $1 million dollars of work into the company.  Who was laid-off?  Time and time again we see that most executives will protect the welfare of the company by keeping a good performer that can bring work in the door over an incredible performer that isn’t bringing in work. 

Think about it, who would you lay-off?

First Promoted

Your network not only protects you, it also reminds management who they want to keep around.  Because of this top networkers are also regularly the first promoted.  Take my story:

I have been in the construction industry for less than a decade.  I am honored to work with great friends (that’s right, most everyone in my network I consider a true friend) that I am blessed to be able to help.  Because I help them to be successful my friends take my calls and regularly work to help me in return.  As a result, my network of friends have helped me win hundreds of large projects for my company (Thank you very much!) and opportunities have opened that resulted in several major lateral moves during my career.

If you want to advance your career, do everything in your power to bring work, solutions, and answers into your company.  The most effective way to do this is through Networking: Continually helping others and building a close group of friends to whom you purposefully focus your help.  I know that my company would survive without me, but I have the satisfaction that I am doing everything in my power to make our company succeed.  When you try to live your life to help others and your company, you are learning how to build a successful life!”