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
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