Informal Networking Generates Big Business

When you hear the word “networking,” several organized activities might come to mind:
-talking with lunch partners at your civic club’s weekly meeting
-circulating among the crowd at a Chamber’s “Business After Hours” reception
-introducing yourself to headhunters at a job fair
-chairing a fund raising drive for a prestigious charity

These interactions will generate visibility and respect for you, so they deserve your regular participation. Yet while you are giving your time and talents to highly public events, make room in your schedule for smaller, less formal networking opportunities.

DOUG TAKES TO THE LINKS

Consider how Doug Magnus (appearing with me in the bottom photo above) used informal networking to launch and then keep expanding his heating and air conditioning company. After ten years of working for the best known provider in his locale, Doug established his own company–Conditioned Air Systems in Gainesville, Georgia–starting with a true skeleton crew. He followed the standard procedures for getting known in the community. He served on committees and boards, and as his profits grew he became a leading contributor to charitable causes.

Soon Doug recognized that many of the community’s business leaders were avid golfers. He noticed that relationships that started as informal buddy time on the links often blossomed into business affiliations. So he went to the Chattahoochee Golf Club and told the pro, Rodger Hogan, “I want to play golf.”

“Oh, you want a tee time now?” Rodger responded.

“No,” Doug answered, “I’m not ready for that. I want to schedule some lessons with you, so that when I do play out here I won’t slow down the good golfers or embarrass myself with bad play.”

“So,” Roger asked, “you want five or six lessons?”

Doug responded, “Let’s don’t set a number. I want to take as many lessons as I need to be able to play at an advanced skill level.”

The lessons lasted a year. When Doug started playing, he moved comfortably into the circle of more established golfers. Not only that, he expanded his friendship circle by playing with strangers. “I’d just go to the practice area, start talking to some people I didn’t know, and when they had a vacant slot they’d ask me to join their group.”

Eventually, Doug started playing amateur golf tournaments—and he had no hesitancy teeing up with two former PGA Tour professionals from his hometown. With his low key, non threatening friendly manner, it was natural for golf pals to ask, “What’s your line of work, Doug?” When he described his company, the conversation led quite often to residential or commercial contracts.

Doug’s company is celebrating its thirtieth year, all of them profitable. Without question, his willingness to learn a highly sociable sport played a significant role in connecting him with people who would hire him and refer him later.

His corporate Web site: http://conditionedairsystems.com/

I have the privilege of serving as a business communication consultant for Doug’s company this year, as we implement the “Coaching for Champions” program.

BEAU MAKES A COFFEE SHOP HIS HEADQUARTERS

Now consider Beau Henderson (pictured with me in the top photo above), a financial adviser, who launched his company–RichLife Advisors–also based in Gainesville, Georgia. Recognizing that his professional title might create the image of an austere, impersonal numbers-cruncher, Beau established a new perception by meeting with prospects and clients in a rather ordinary looking coffee shop. In fact, he became such a regular customer that the manager let him “run a tab,” which he would pay monthly.

Yes, he did establish a conventional office just around the corner for those occasions when his conversational partner would welcome more privacy. Yet his slogan remains, “Let’s talk about that over a cup of coffee.”

What has Beau’s informal networking strategy accomplished? Just ask his 3,000 clients.

Beau enlisted my services as his Speech Coach at the start of his career, and now he hosts a popular radio show every Saturday on WGAU.

His Web site: http://www.richlifeadvisors.com

FOLLOW THEIR EXAMPLE OF CREATIVITY

As you consider how Doug and Beau built their businesses in more casual but still highly respectable ways, start thinking about how you can do the same. When you implement your refreshingly different approach, not only will you boost your profits, you will put some much-needed fun into your work day.

RESPOND WITH YOUR COMMENTS
Doug and Beau will welcome your response. Go to the end of the blog entry in the section below and click NO COMMENTS if none have been made, or if comments have been made click 1 comment, 2 comments, or whatever the comments button says. The comments section will appear.

BOOST YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS ANOTHER WAY–VISIT AND “LIKE” MY FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE
http://bit.ly/iRv6EA

I help companies identify their communication problems, and then find solutions to them. Also, I help leaders develop their speaking skills, so they will speak with “poise, power, and persuasion.”

On my Facebook page, you’ll find beneficial articles, podcasts, and videos–all designed to “Help You Finish in First Place.” When you visit the page,click “Like” to stay connected for updates.

Here’s that link again:
http://bit.ly/iRv6EA

Talking with Katie Highsmith About Media Relations

Katie Highsmith, Host of "The Local Hour"

Katie Highsmith hosts “The Local Hour” on WDUN, AM 550 in Gainesville, Georgia–one of the most popular radio programs in Northeast Georgia. After the BP public relations catastrophe, Katie interviewed me about what an organization should do before, during, and after a media crisis. Listen to our brief interview that includes:
*Why you should never say “No comment,” and what to say instead
*Why every organization needs a written Crisis Communication plan, and what should be in it
*The harm that “little white lies” can do to credibility
*Statements by the BP CEO that enraged the public, such as “I’d like to get my life back”
*Steps an organization should take to cultivate the media before a crisis happens
*Damaging phrases to avoid. Example: “We estimate the damage to be around $450,000”

*Appropriate steps after a highly publicized crisis, to restore public trust

Now, to hear my interview with Katie, click the arrow below in the Podcast section of this blog page, located just above the Audio MP3 lettering.

CALL ME TO SCHEDULE MY CRISIS COMMUNICATION SEMINAR
Columbine High School didn’t know when a tragedy was about to happen. Nor did New York City on September 11, 2001. And officials at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City had never heard of Timothy McVeigh.

So what about your company? Well, it’s possible that you could be spotlighted on CNN News tonight. Are your leaders and employees ready with an action plan? You can get ready for sure. . . by contacting me to arrange a Crisis Communication seminar, which I have directed for other organizations. My phone: 678-316-4300

ADD YOUR COMMENT
We welcome your comments. Just go to the end of the blog entry in the section below and click NO COMMENTS if none have been made, or if comments have been made click 1 comment, 2 comments, or whatever the comments button says. The comments section will appear.