Would you agree with me if I said that the success of your business is dependent on the success of other companies you have relationships with?
My wife and I own a vertical gardening system where we are growing cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce off our back patio. The other day while picking some of the cucumbers I noticed that the vine had begun digging into our home’s siding. Another vine had wrapped itself around the power cord to the pump that supplies regular watering.
These vines were seeking support and willingly entwining themselves with whatever resources they could find.
It should be no different in business. Your business relationships should be so strong and interlocking that the success of your companies move in kind. Your vines should be able to support one another.
Many entrepreneurs go into business for themselves. What they don’t realize is that, while working for themselves, they are not in business by themselves.
Familiarity can breed laziness when it comes to relationships. Whether at home or in the business world. While it is natural to “let down your guard” the more you are around a certain group of people, it can also be dangerous to your career. Complacency is a thief in the night.
While I have little doubt you understand the value that networking with other professionals can bring to your career, I wonder if you see the goldmine that is sitting right under your nose. Or desk for that matter.
How often are you using your networking skills inside your company?
One thing I have learned is that regardless of the size of an organization, there is always some level of political climate to navigate. You should be building deepened relationships with your subordinates, peers, and superiors for a variety of reasons. Establishing political capital with the right people enables you to “get things down” in a more timely and efficient manner.
Let’s be clear though. I am not talking about “brown nosing” your way to the top. I am suggesting that you further relationships by being genuinely interested in others and finding ways you can make their lives easier.
You’ll be surprised how much more enjoyable the work environment becomes, and the things you can accomplish.
Meeting with other professionals is just the beginning of the relationship. Knowing what steps to follow after your appointment can help speed the rate at which your business relationship grows, and therefore the faster you will see benefit.
Connect on social media
If you enjoyed the connection offline, why not take it online. Take the time to friend, follow, or connect through sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn so that you can stay in touch between in person meetings.
Set a commitment for the next meeting
There is no better time than right after your meeting to set a commitment of when to meet in person again, than while your meeting is fresh on each parties mind. Follow-up meetings are a great way to reconnect and discuss the expectations you set in your first meeting.
Follow-up on your introductions
Given someone a name to call on and permission to “use my name” is not a good referral. Nor is giving a referral and considering the matter closed. Good referrals are ones where the giver is willing to follow-up with both sides of the introduction and ensure that they have connected. This is also a good time to make sure that the introduction was handled professionally.
Members have been using our site for over a year now to connect and build relationships with other professionals. The members that get the best results from their meetings have some common “best practices”.
1. Be professional
This includes being on time to your appointment (in fact I’d arrive a few minutes early), dressing professionally, and being actively engaged with your appointment partner. Keep small talk to just enough to break the ice (you are here for business, not to discuss the weather) and leave distractions like phones in the car.
2. Research the other party
We recommend that you us a variety of resources to learn a little about (not stalk) your appointment partner prior to your scheduled meeting. Social media is a great way to learn about their interests and influence. It is also a great way to see a picture ahead of time so you can be on the lookout for them when you arrive.
You should also take a look at their company’s website to better understand them, and browse other sites to learn about trends in their given industry.
3. Have introductions ready
If you have done your research then you should have an idea of what contacts you have that the other person could benefit from. Already knowing the names of some people you are willing to connect them with shows your willingness and ability to be a great business partner.
4. Be specific
Similar to #3, know what connections the other party may have that you would be interested in making. Being specific about the people and industries where you would like to meet other professionals makes you more referable.
5. Recap and set expectations
A great way to end your meeting is to recap the things of importance that you have discussed and set expectations. If you have offered to make some introductions for the other professional, set a firm timeline for how and when you will accomplish that.
I was first introduced to John through a recruiter in my area. It seems John was looking to connect with other entrepreneurs and our mutual contact thought I was a great place to start. Apparently, I know a few people. After a few back and forth emails, we decided to connect in person.
John’s background is impressive. He holds an MBA from Harvard and has worked with numerous startups in a variety of C level positions. The most recent company is Perfect Serve, where John was instrumental in helping the company raise capital and achieving a high level of success. A great person to get to know in the professional arena. I only hoped he would feel the same way.
Shortly after greeting one another at our appointed time, John gave me one of my favorite compliments. “You’ve made a business out of networking”, he said. You bet I have.
After learning more about each other’s background (both of us are finance professionals, and are involved in the startup scene) I asked how I could help. It seems that John is now looking for a new venture to get involved with, and in his words “after years of being a back office guy I knew I needed to get out in front of people”. I was happy to oblige and suggested about five individuals I would be happy to connect him to.
What did I ask for in return? Nothing. I didn’t have to. John, in turn, is going to introduce me to some of his fellow Harvard MBA grads. I’d say it was a good meeting to take wouldn’t you?
That’s how networking works.