I don’t like networking events

I don’t really like networking events. To be honest, I have been struggling with this over the past several months because no matter what I do it seems that networking has become, and is becoming, a bigger part of my life. I write about networking, speak about networking, coach others on networking, I founded a massively successful commercial network, I have even been a conference keynote speaker presenting on the topic of networking! So how is it then do I not like networking events?

I’m normal. That’s right; most people do not like attending networking events. According to Susan RoAne (Author of Face to Face) 93% of people self identify themselves as “shy,” and networking events are not a happy place for a shy person to be. I have finally come to the conclusion that the reason I have been successful speaking, writing, and building networks is that so many people struggle with the same things I struggled with. I had to work hard to figure out how to succeed at networking by building great friendships (something that anyone can do even without attending networking events). As a result it is really easy for me to explain to other people how to succeed at networking, because I have struggled with the same things.

You are an expert

One amazing thing about life is that our successes are the greatest in areas where we struggle the most. I have read a lot about networking and have come to realize that many of the “experts” are wrong. When I hear someone using “elevator pitch” and “networking” in the same sentence I run (if you are in sales you don’t need to run, these are great sales tools, they are just NOT networking tools). If networking hadn’t been so hard for me, I never would have understood why these things don’t make sense.

Your Turn

What are the areas of your life that you struggled with for years? Did you have to learn management, leadership, or graphics through the school of hard knocks? If so you are probably more of an expert than you ever imagined. If you are open to sharing, there millions of people that need to hear and learn from you, not from someone that was a “natural.” You many never be able to (or desire to) connect with millions, but can you start this week by sharing some of what you have learned with at least one person.

Sled Hill Champions

I have been sledding more in the past three weeks than in the past three years. My excuse: two boys ages six and five and three feet of snow around Washington DC.

It was just in the past year that my boys graduated from our neighborhood sled hill to the ‘big kids’ sled hill just a couple of miles from our home. With the new sled hill comes more speed, more risk, and the ultimate goal of making it down the hill with enough momentum to make it up a small dirt mound to sled down a second hill for another drop off into a frozen creek bed.

After one of the recent snow storms I found myself standing at the top of the big kids’ hill with 40 or so other parents as Evan (my six year old) worked to maintain his momentum and make it down the second hill. It truly is amazing to see the persistence of a little boy who is focused on reaching a goal. It was exciting to see him try new things, shifting his weight, looking for the perfect line, and learning to steer. After what seemed like forever it all started to come together… the perfect run. After giving him pointers and watching him for so long I was beyond excited as he started up the dirt mound, I just started yelling “GO EVAN! GO EVAN!” As he crested the second half of the hill I raised my arms as if our team was somehow the newly crowned sled hill champions. I was letting out a final “YES!” just in time to see the top of a tree at the bottom of the hill shake from the impact of Evan running into it.

Been there

I’ve been there before. More than once I have been so focused on a goal that I have lost sight of what happens next. I somehow think that if I just reach this one goal everything else will just come together. Instead as I have grown up I have begun to realize that life is the goal. Sometimes to achieve true success we have to look outside of this day’s, week’s, or even year’s goals and remember what is really important. For me I have come to realize that my personal successes pale in comparison to relationships, laughter and friendship. It isn’t that our goals are bad; rather it is that we need to look at them in light of true success. When we do this we will find that the journey to reaching our goals is much more enjoyable, and the success once we are there will be that much sweeter.

Building Relationships that Build Business

Relationships are the foundation of business. Whether it is relationships inside your company or outside of your company, relationships allow your business to either thrive or fail. Because of this, focusing on relationships is one of the most effective ways to improve your company and simultaneously build personal success.

Identify key relationships
Think about the relationships that you need in order to succeed. These relationships may include others in your company, your industry, or your circle of influence. Now take a moment to write down the top 10 people you need to succeed and rate the strength of those relationships. How you are doing? Are these relationships weak or are they strong? Most people will find a mixed bag: some relationships that are incredibly strong, and others at the breaking point. In order to succeed you need these relationships, so what can you do to ensure that these relationships are strong?

Do something about it
The best way to build a relationship is simply to help other people; not to return a favor, but simply because you want to build the relationship. Business relationships are often weakened by years of taking with very little giving in return. To strengthen a relationship all you need to do is help the other person without seeking personal gain. Some examples of this include: providing a contract lead to a client, turning your timesheets in on-time (for an overextended accountant), and providing timely information to others in the industry. The goal is to proactively work to make their life easier.

Why it Works
If someone helps you once you would appreciate it; if they helped you 10 times, you would develop a healthy desire to return the favor; if they helped you 30 times you would do every you could to help them in return. This is the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship, a relationship where two people are consistently looking for ways to help one another.

Building a relationship that builds business starts when you selflessly help others.  Who on your list do you need to help today?

Learning from someone that hasn’t been there

Kirsten 1st birthdayToday we celebrated our daughter’s 1st birthday. I was again amazed by the difference in her personality compared to that of her brothers. Her cake was not demolished by her little hands but rather she used them to carefully remove each of the icing flowers on top, enjoying each one independently. Her little crocodile tears told me that she REALLY wanted the sparkly dress shoes and not the sneakers I had placed on her feet (I promptly changed them after realizing my mistake). And she was perfectly content to let others unwrap her presents, and gratefully shared her new toys with her eager brothers.

In just one year Kirsten has taught me so much. I so easily get caught up in life that I often miss what is really happening around me. I push hard to finish things that I am interested in, often shortchanging their enjoyment, yet Kirsten carefully eats her icing flowers reminding me to savor the experience. I often do things to make others happy, yet Kirsten wears shoes because she likes that they are sparkly. I take ownership of new things, yet Kirsten shares them with others and in doing so reminds me that sharing isn’t just something we teach our children in elementary school, it is something that gives us greater joy in life.

Today I am amazed at the marvelous wonders that a person with zero experience in life can teach. I hope you and I both embrace a fresh perspective this week and learn everything that we can from the people in our lives that haven’t been there.

A Final Note

This next week Cofebuz will be taking part in a dialogue about Client Relationship Management (CRM). The discussion will be held in the industries top six blogs written by an esteemed group of authors. I hope you will take a moment on Monday September 21st to check out not only my thoughts on this important topic, but also that of this great group of people. Just be forewarned that any comments you add on Cofebuz may be included in a upcoming article on the topic in Marketer magazine.

The experts include:

Join us on September 21, 2009 by reading each author’s post at the sites listed and contributing by commenting with your own thoughts and experiences.

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?