Geographic Expansion Lessons Learned

CharlotteSkylineBelow is a summary I wrote after interviewing multiple partners at design firms related to their thoughts on what makes a branch office (geographic expansion) successful.  No rocket science here, just the summary of conversations with firm owners about what the keys are to a successful branch office.  What would you add to the list?  Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Geographic Expansion Lessons Learned

Based on interviews with partners at design firms pertaining to office expansions.

Lessons Learned:

  1. The right person leading the charge is the most important factor in the success of a new branch office.
  2. Two key people are needed for a geographic expansion, a Rainmaker (someone that can bring new work in the door) and a Principal Designer.
  3. An expansion needs to be viewed in a positive light both from the new office, as well as the existing offices.  A geographic expansion should provide multiple people with opportunity for growth throughout the company.
  4. The right combination of people is the key ingredient to a successful geographic expansion.
  5. When a new office opens it is not “business as usual,” individuals opening a new office must be prepared to work 2-3 nights per week becoming involved in the local community and in the industry.
  6. Responsibility and autonomy for the new office must be given.  The individuals in that office need to feel as if it is their actions that will result in the success or failure of the office.
  7. Support staff is not critical for the establishment of a new office.
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Conversation Killer

Wondering why your conversations don’t last long when networking? Perhaps you are talking about the wrong topic for just a bit too long.

I have been asked several times recently when I planned on creating another YouTube video after having a couple of thousand hits on the “I don’t know anyone survival basics” video. So at long last I am pulling audio from a recent seminar I gave on networking as a basis for a handful of new videos. This first one is a quick one-minute story about some in-person research I did on inadvertently ending a conversation. I hope you enjoy it!


Video link: “Conversation Killer

 

Great Networkers tell Great Stories

When you meet someone for the first time, you have about 45 seconds to identify an area of mutual interest in order to avoid an awkward end to your conversation. Most people start by looking to their titles and companies: “I’m Tim Klabunde with Gordon, what is your name…” They then expand the circle looking for a connection “John Adams from my office used to work for your company, do you know him?” Great networkers know and use a better approach. Instead of following a linear path to identify connections, they tell stories.

1,000 possible points of connection
Everyone knows that a story paints a picture, and that a picture is worth 1,000 words. What most people have not discovered is that the 1,000 words painted by a story, become just as many possible points of connection for a conversation.

What it looks like
A good story should be about 15 to 25 seconds and it should be current. For me, I often talk about my boy’s recent escapades, current events, or my day at the office. For example, if I tell you a story about my boys stuffing washcloths down an open drain, I have instantly opened dozens of possible points of conversation:

  • My/your family
  • My/your children
  • Plumbing repairs
  • The things you did when you were little (So you ended up in the ER after swallowing coins?)
  • Stage of life conversations
  • Other funny kid stories (Your kids flushed your jewelry down the toilet?)
  • Questions about my story

The point is that the more possible points of intersection we can develop the easier it becomes for us to engage in conversation and thus a new relationship.

Keep it simple
To be effective stories should be simple. In my example above I painted an entire picture for you in 8 words: “My boys stuffing washcloths down an open drain.” Yes, I left a lot up to your imagination, but that only opens the door to conversation, which is a foundation for networking.

Come prepared
Next time you are in the car on the way to a meeting take a moment to think up three stories: one about work, one about family, and one about current events. If you need, practice consolidating them into 15 second sound bits. Then, sit back and enjoy hours of great conversation. Just watch out, you might find that you actually enjoy networking!

 Special thanks to a great networker, Joanna Hoffschneider of Structure Tone, for inspiring today’s blog.

Be selfless

elephantsBack in my college days I was living in a small town south of Rochester, NY. Winters in New York have a way of rapidly rusting mufflers, so I found myself dragging a muffler into a repair shop (literally) in the middle of January to get a quote for a new muffler. When the owner learned that I couldn’t truly afford to get the muffler fixed he did the unthinkable: he took out some sheet metal and welded my old muffler back together to get me through the semester. Why? He understood the power of being selfless.

The power in helping

There is an innate power in helping other people just because you want to and not because you want something. John F. Kennedy’s speech that included the words “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” was so powerful because it represented the idea that collectively and individually we are better when our focus is outward rather than inward. 

So What?

We agree, it sounds great, but what do you get out of being selfless? Nothing and Everything. The moment you are selfless you receive nothing but a feeling that makes you remember what it is like to be appreciated (Perhaps that is more than nothing). However, in business when you are regularly selfless you also get everything: a network of clients, friends, and relationships that want to help you and want you to succeed.

Your turn

If you are under the weight of achieving your own success, perhaps it is time that you consider that the easiest way to achieve that success is to be selfless.

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SMPS VA – Rainmakers

smps-virginia-logoOn February 16th and 17th I will be Keynote speaker at the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Virginia Annual conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. I will be speaking on the topic Creating a Culture of Rainmakers and will be joined in the afternoon of the 17th by a panel of Rainmakers from the Virginia market. If you want to find out more about what others have said about Creating a Culture of Rainmakers click here or check out the SMPS VA website for more information.

Defining Success

tree-in-palmAs a marketing professional I would have previously defined success as my ability to bring work in the door. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that success did not come down to winning projects, but rather, it came down to relationships (through which you can also greatly increase your ability to win work). However, as I grow, I continue to learn and dig deeper into this idea of success.

Success for me
A light came on a couple of years ago when I was reading the networking chapter in Ford Harding’s book Rain Making. In that chapter he reminds us that networking is really just about helping other people. From this simple concept I have developed an approach to networking and life that I believe yields success. I summarized these thoughts in the post, Why Help Other People, when I wrote that “I 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.”

Your turn
My real question here is for you; how do you define success? I am working to refine my own thoughts on this topic and would appreciate your insights. At the top of this post is a link to the “comments” section. Please use it to let me know how you define success, so that I and hundreds of others can learn from you.

Thank You SMPS CT!

It is truly a great group of people that make up the SMPS Connecticut chapter. I greatly enjoyed connecting with them this past Wednesday morning as I spoke on the topic of “Building a Culture of Rainmakers.” It seems that every time I meet new people at the regional SMPS chapters I am amazed at the caliber of people that make up this incredible organization.

SMPS CT, thank you to the numerous follow-up e-mails that I received after the meeting this past Wednesday, I was humbled by your kind words. Special thanks to Wayne Cobleigh of GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc.who originally contacted me after my presentation at SMPS Build Business this year and who spearheaded the event. I hope to have the opportunity to speak with all of you again in the future.
Tim Klabunde

“Thank you so much for bringing “Building a Culture of Rainmakers” to Hartford, and thank you too to William H. Gordon Associates, Inc. for sharing you with us. It was a great program and you are an engaging presenter. The response has been wonderful. By generously sharing your valuable step-by-step approach, you are extending the value of the program and giving marketers a great tool for training within their own companies. I highly recommend that other SMPS’ invite you to present to their chapters.”
Geryl Rose
President, SMPS Connecticut Chapter

“I was so impressed with the clarity of your ideas that I had already gone to cofebuz and started downloading!  … You are an extraordinary person!  The myth of “networking is for extroverts” was the best.  …  your rules and tips were far better than some of the material I’ve read and seminars I’ve attended.  It is my job to coach my team into building relationships, and your material will be the basis of my new training program over the next month.”
Holly DeYoung
Tai Soo Kim Partners, Architects

“Thanks for the follow up and the assets Tim. We just had a Friday pizza/”Building a Culture of Rainmakers” lunch where I did my best impersonation of you with the aid of the presentation (I got it at cofebuz) for our staff of six. We’re a brand design consultancy in the Hartford area and your presentation was my first event with SMPS CT. I was taken with the folks at my table, the presentation and the SMPS board members. I felt quite welcome. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I believe you’ve achieve your goal with me — you’ve helped…”
John Gibson
Bertz Design Group

“Your presentation was really great.  I am very excited to look through your links and materials and share with my colleagues.  Thanks so much!”
Vicki Pancoast
PinnacleOne an ARCADIS Company