Say No to Networking?

I recently read a Forbes article by a successful businesswoman who proposed that “saying no should be your top resolution in 2013.” A few years ago, Stephanie Chandler was feeling so overwhelmed, she decided to trim her schedule, drastically. The first thing to go: “all those darn networking meetings.” For her, it worked. But it’s not the answer for everyone, especially not for me at this point in my company’s growth.

In my daily tweets (@InfusionStudio1), I share a specific article I find inspiring or thought-provoking in some way. On Monday I picked a FOXBusiness column by Ivan Misneron what he calls the “networking disconnect.” (Simply put, if everyone at a networking event is there to sell themselves, who are the buyers in the room?)

Though I’ve been one of the (apparently rare) people fortunate enough to “stumble” onto business at a networking event, I do agree with Misner’s assessment that “effective networking is about developing relationships.”

I try to stay focused on following the four tips he discusses in the article. For me, they are intertwined.

I know how important relationships are. It is crucial that I connect with people I meet, and I do that by showing an interest in what they do. I ask questions, I listen, and I ask more questions. Occasionally, I interject so they know I’m listening and that I understand what their business is all about.

I, too, like to set up one-to-one time with them later. (Tip #4)

Which is why I find it so interesting that Stephanie Chandler writes that she put “coffee dates, especially the ones generated by all the networking” on the “chopping block.” Those are precisely the kinds of one-on-one meetings I’ve been working to get into my own schedule! Am I doing something wrong? Or, is it a question of where one is in the growth of your company?

I always go with the mindset that I want to learn more about what that other person is doing and ways that I might be able to help. At one networking group I attend, we each put our business card into a basket when we first get there. At the end of the meeting, we each take a business card out – with everyone agreeing to set up a personal meeting with whoever’s card you pick.

Last week, a gentleman from a major financial planning group pulled my card. I figured there wasn’t really an opportunity for him to use my services because I know the company he works for has their own national advertising agency they use, and they don’t use freelancers. But in sitting down to chat with him, I put on my Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge hat towards the end of the conversation. I asked if he could put me in touch with his company’s regional marketing director so that I could submit a proposal to him or her. So, I wasn’t expecting any design work from the meeting, but I found another way to get my foot in a potentially profitable door.

You know, it would be nice to free up more time for family and daily life, but as a small-business owner, my dilemma is that building my company now is essential to affording more such freedom down the line. At least, that’s the goal. So, I network, I meet for coffee, and when luck smiles on me, I may even score a new client. Through it all, I keep my eye on the relationships.