About two years into launching our agency, we ended up on the floor of a med device trade show. We had acquired our tickets through a friend and were now in a space filled with companies leading in innovation, automation, and technology. We walked from booth to booth and had conversations with many leaders we viewed as prospects and potential clients. The most important conversation we had all morning, though, was with someone who didn’t need anything from us. We needed them – or to put it better, we needed to hear what they had to say…
After about three hours of walking through the trade show, we started a conversation with an older gentleman, probably seventy or even eighty years old. Within just a few moments, our conversation shifted from what we could do for him to what advice he might have for us. He had been in business for forty-plus years, and so our question for him was simple. “What do you wish you had known when you were just getting started, back when you were in our shoes?” His response was profound.
“Here’s the deal, gentlemen. When you launch your business, no one knows who you are. It will take you your first couple of years to build some awareness that you exist. Then, as you start working with some clients and delivering some results, people will start to trust that you can do what you say you can do. They’ll begin to tell their friends and share you in their networks.
After three or four years, something amazing will happen. Your phone will start to ring, and you’ll start getting emails from people you don’t know. They will have heard about you through their networks, and it will get a little harder to connect all the dots back to who made the introductions.
Your business’s real value is in your relationships, your connections, your network, and their networks. Build that, give as much as you can give, and deliver the best work possible every time you have an opportunity, and the rest will come.”
Hindsight being twenty-twenty, he was right. The real lesson in all of this is the power of our networks – those people we are building relationships with everyday in our businesses and organizations. Our networks are pure gold and likely the most important thing we can be working to develop if we want to reach any of our goals. Here are a couple of quotes that speak to this…
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want” – Zig Ziglar
“Everyone should build their network before they need it.” – Dave Delaney
“Networking is an investment in your business. It takes time and when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.” – Diane Helbig
“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” -Keith Ferrazzi
“Networking is simply the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win-win relationships. It works best, however, when emphasizing the “give” part.” – Bob Burg
Some common threads that link all of those quotes? First and foremost, networking requires giving and helping others. It’s not about you and what you’re going to get – it’s all about them. There’s no other way. Second, networks are built. It takes work, being intentional, and exerting some effort. And third, creating a solid gold network is an investment in your business and organization. It can’t be something you get to when you have time. It needs to be something you commit to and make an absolute priority.
Get focused on building your network. Meet people and look for ways you can help them. Make introductions for them. Spend time brainstorming with them. Build circles of people who are connected and focused on helping each other reach their goals. If you do this and focus your energy here, the rest will come.
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