I have long advocated for courses to be taught on networking and relationship building. It should be mandatory for future business leaders, especially in the age of social medial. Social media can take the human factor out of getting to know a person long term. I have started three very different business without any experience in either field by networking with others to learn the ropes of each industry. For me, networking has always been about building relationships and relationship can not exist without getting to know people.
At this stage in my life, I have learned the value of my time. I try to focus on quality vs. quantity in every area of my life. I take meeting people seriously and have developed a few ways to eliminate time wasters and energy drainers. Meeting people is an art form that must be cherished.
Dependency on the Internet has diluted the value of meeting with individuals. In 2012, I spent most of the year growing Living Your Best Life Radio's audience. It was very different from working in the fashion industry, pest control, or writing for media outlets. As odd as those combinations of careers are for one person, I know them fairly well. Expertish even. But in the world of broadcasting, I was a newbie, a babe with a mic. While focusing on developing content for the show and learning the industry, I could not meet with my breakfast clubs.
Breakfast club meetings had become a steady diet of referrals for Holmes Pest Control. Business breakfast clubs are groups of small business owners who have gotten to know each other well and refer customers regularly. Meeting with individuals who were like minded two to three times a week had become my main source of new business for nearly two decades. I have learned over the years if I wanted to build an exclusive list of pest control customers, small clubs were a gold mine for building relationships with other business owners who only referred if they knew you well. No yellow page shopper types were allowed in this network of relationships-first-then-business individuals.
In 2013, I will start back meeting with my Brentwood breakfast clubs. But I also decided I needed to meet new people. Before taking the plunge, I called a friend, Dawn Rutledge, in December to ask her about a few recommendations that would make the most of my multiple networking needs. I told Dawn I had three requirements: small, no crazies, and no drama. I put emphasis on crazies and drama. Laughingly, she understood my emphasis. She gave me the names of several organizations to look into.
After researching the groups and their membership rosters I was given, I settled on two groups to visit. One of her recommendations, IABC Nashville, peaked my curiosity because of it's January speaker, Kate Herman, President and Publisher of the Nashville Business Journal. I have long wanted to have a one on one conversation with her. Listening to someone speak and observing them with others is a great way to learn their world view. I made my reservation and jotted down a few notes on signs to look for if the group would be a mutual fit.
Arriving late from a volunteer outing, I entered the room as everyone was introducing themselves. The room was packed so I stood in the back waiting for an opportunity to find a seat. When asked to introduce myself, I hastily said "Genma Holmes of Holmes Pest Control." Ms. Herman, not knowing she was the hook to my being there, offered me her seat. Hmm. Good sign, I thought quietly.
Shortly after giving me her seat, Ms. Herman began her presentation titled, The Changing Face of the Media and What PR Pros Need to know. Upon hearing the title, I nearly fell out my chair. This topic is one of my hot buttons. Not the PR PRO part but the Changing Face of the Media. I thought immediately, "Lord, when you deliver, you deliver!" Good sign. .
The presentation was chock full of stats, information on the business community, partnerships and events galore. She emphasized over and over the importance of relationships. I was in heaven. Heaven! I took pages of notes as if I was studying to become a new PMP (pest management professional). That's big for you non-bug industry people.
After her presentation, I could not stop myself from going up to her to add my unsolicited two cents about some of the statistics she gave. Instead of bristling, she agreed. The more we talked, the more I wanted to follow up. Kate Herman was engaging, informative, confident ("We really do not have competition."), and was not afraid to ask the lunch crowd for email addresses to stay in touch. I asked her about a future appointment and she said, "Yes." Then she turned to make sure I had her business card. Good sign. Wait...great sign!
IABC Nashville's first meeting of the year was a good way to start my networking through relationship building in 2013. I called Dawn to thank her for her recommendations. I shared with her how impressed I was with Kate Herman, the presentation, and the group. We discussed the presentation and Nashville's business community, the printed and unprinted. We chatted about a few other things and promised to talk later.
The very next day, I got a call from someone who attended the meeting. She knew of Holmes Pest Control and wanted extermination service for her home and business. Yes ma'am, I will kill your bugs! An appointment was set. This was more than a good sign, this was a new customer in a New Year from a new group! I immediately thought, "I attended a meeting for communication professionals for lunch and managed to nab a pest control customer out of the deal." Manna. Networking, when done right, will net results. Excellent signs for 2013. Now that's what I am talking about!
Photos: Genma Holmes