The Networking Secret

So how do you network? Does it happen on its own or does it require some thought and planning? The answer is both. The fact is, talking with and listening to many people, helps you to formulate ideas, solutions, and the start of relationship building.
But, like the Boy Scout motto says, Be Prepared! Preparation makes it easier to get the most out of any networking experience.

The best way to prepare, especially if attending an event within your industry, is to think about what you want to accomplish. That often starts by knowing who is also attending the event. If there is an attendee list available beforehand, use it to make a list of those people you’d like to meet and chat with.

When you meet with them, establish rapport by finding out about them and their passions, both on a personal and professional level. For me, these are the easiest conversations to have. Sometimes it requires a bit of homework to get some preliminary talking points down to make the conversation go a bit easier.

See the chart, right, for 10 general tips to help you get the most from the time you spend at events or even in one-on-one meetings.

Don’t Be Intimidated

According to Mike Greany, the key is to not be intimidated to ask questions and for help from a peer.

‘Without asking questions, you might not make a connection. During live events, such as NCI’s annual Summit meeting, I might not reach out to that contractor who I know can help me because of his or her experience.

‘Why? Because I wouldn’t know him. I don’t like to share weaknesses with people I don’t know. But if you have a face and eye-to-eye contact, it’s easier and opens the door to where you get invited to ask questions.’

The Virtual Network

Having said that, let’s not forget about the importance of your social media network. In the 21st Century, this is the way of the world and you need to have skills for developing, maintaining, and growing a strong online network as well.

Make the most of social media to stay abreast of trends in the industry. Keep track of influencers who you may want to build a relationship with. Stay in touch with people already in your network including business acquaintances, school alumni, supply chain executives, trainers, and so on.

Also, don’t forget about the various trade associations and their websites. They have many discussion threads you can participate in.

‘One of the biggest benefits I get out networking is process improvement,’ says Updike. ‘In the past our processes were weak. Sometimes I reach out to see how others are doing things and sometimes I try to reverse engineer them the way I want them to work. Then I run it past the guys to see if they can pick it apart or add to it to make it better.’

‘Networking has had a definite impact on my business and my personal life,’ Greany adds.

‘On the business side, having this group of peers I can rely on when I need help has made me and my team better craftsmen. It’s helped us to manage better and increase profits. I can honestly say the advice I get from networking has helped me to more than triple the size of the company’s HVAC division in just five years!

He adds that on a personal level, networking is an antidote to his stress.

‘I have made invaluable friendships with people I can vent with and share with and they can do the same with me. It has helped make all of us better contractors, business people, and leaders.’

So are you involved with a network of your peers? Are you taking advantage of the power of networking? If not, what’s stopping you?