These days the assumption is that you are talking about social media and “social networking” which, by the way, isn’t actually social… but I digress. Computer people instantly think of computer networks, cables, routers, switches and so on.
Occasionally it gets bundled in with “network marketing” and assumed to be the domain of your Amways and the like.
When I started my business I knew it had to grow from a foundation of personal contact and referrals. To do this people said I had to network. This scared the crap out of me. My wife, as a Public Relations professional, would often go out and network. She’s good at it, too. I asked her about it but I still didn’t know what it really was.
I thought networking was meeting people, lots of people, at business breakfasts and handing over and collecting as many business cards as possible. I hated the idea of it. It seemed so false and the wrong way to go about building an authentic business.
Despite being able to turn on a “stage persona”, I am the guy you see at parties sitting in the corner waiting for it to end. Especially when it is full of people I don’t know. If I’m not into it, I’m not budging.
I’m also not into small talk for the sake of it. I’m fairly sure my mother thinks I’m evil because I don’t call her when I have nothing to say. So how the hell was I going to network?
Elevator pitches, 60 seconders and all that just seemed so false.
Despite this, I forced myself to get out there and meet real people. You know, three dimensional, living, breathing, warm to the touch, minds of their own, etc. This started three-and-a-half years ago, before the GFC.
I tried quite a few groups and found the practicalities of attending them all and balancing that with actual work tricky. I also found, to my surprise, that networking could be fun. However, to make it fun I had to axe that word. For me it has bad connotations. So what I do isn’t networking – in my mind anyway.
I found the low pressure business groups more to my liking. I prefer to build relationships, make new friends and just be available rather than be forced, or force others, to provide referrals on a regular basis. I don’t like being pressured into working for someone else and I don’t like my friends feeling similarly pressured. I’ve also found that the forced referrals are of a lower quality and are generally bigger time/money wasters.
Without my groups my business would not have survived the recent/current financial crisis. Two of my groups, Northern Beaches Business Swap and Manly BRG, simply decided not to participate in the GFC.
When I was younger, and Australia went through financial crises, I was an employee and pretty much oblivious to what was going on. I had other priorities and it simply did not come up on my radar. I was too busy playing in bands and trying to form meaningful yet short-lived relationships with attractive young women. As a result I weathered them all – the crises, not the women – without a care. (There really was a DFC – David’s Female Crisis – going on that I couldn’t do anything about – hormones you know.) Anyway, ignorance was bliss from a financial perspective.
This time was different, though. This time I was in my own business and therefore very aware of what was going on. I knew businesses and people were going to start making decisions that affected me. So it made sense to me that actively, as opposed to passively, not participating would be a good idea.
It worked. Hanging out with people who chose not to be GFC’d meant I wasn’t GFC’d either.
What I’ve learnt is to show up consistently, form genuine friendships and persist, come hell, high-water or GFC. It is not too late. The GFC may be over but business goes on.
Do you really think you can do it all by yourself?
David Moore has 25 years experience in the computer industry and is now Principle PC Hater at ihatemypc.com.au.