There’s the old show business saying, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” Networking is not about handing out business cards and stalking people at happy hour events.
Networking is about meeting new people, getting to know them, finding out who they are, what they like, what these people are passionate about – and then – forming a genuine relationship with that person by checking in occasionally, finding out how these people are or what they need. Sometimes just a simple hello can be extremely powerful.
I’m not talking about dating or hamburgers in the backyard on the weekends with everyone you meet. But I am talking about forming real connections that you then nurture through time.
You do this in your personal life, but do you do it in your business life? You should. It goes a long way towards your success in ways you could never have imagined.
A real, albeit frustrating, example of how relationships work is this: the bank clients who had contacts and connections with their bankers most likely got the first small business loans up for grabs in the last few weeks. Fair or not, it is how human nature works. We want to take care of the people we know and like that, in turn, take care of us.
Have you checked in with clients in the last few weeks? Called some of your best customers to see how they are doing? Have you called your vendors, big and small, to see how they are? No calls to ask for favors but real “how are you” and “is there anything I can be doing for you” calls.
I was on my way home after dropping off my two young sons at school when the first plane hit the first tower in New York City. I turned around, went back, picked up my kids and then headed to The Space Store warehouse to shut down all operations and orders until we knew what was going on.
My general manager and I called every vendor and each customer with an outstanding order to let them know there would be a delay – and to make sure they were okay.
For the next several weeks, my general manager tracked down every single customer with a New York City or surrounding area order to make sure they and theirs were okay. She also asked if they needed anything or if we could ship their order to another address once delivery started again.
It costs us more than usual to reship items, reroute things and get orders into the hands of displaced customers. But the return was priceless. That human connection created relationships and, in some instances friendships, that have lasted since.
A real connection is networking at its best. Keep that business card in your pocket until future notice. For now, be human. Start calling and emailing today – customers, clients, vendors, employees, managers, bankers, whoever you do business with – check-in and say “thinking of you” without asking for a thing.
Then, in good times, continue to do all of this moving forward.