Network development – Do’s and Don’ts

  • By: Doug Betts, Business/Education Committee Chairman

If you have been reading my articles, you know that our committee has been working diligently to ensure the success of the Mayor’s Youth Job Fair on April 4th.  While I would love to push this great event more, unfortunately the publishing deadline happens to come before the event, and the magazine will not come out until it’s over.  That means I’ll have to wait to share all the exciting details from the event until next month, including spotlighting the great businesses that helped give our youth the opportunity to get a jump start on their careers.

So, that left me with a bit of a quandary: What do I write about? Right on cue, I was informed that the cover article for this newsletter would be about networking.  So there you go, perfect – I had my topic!

Although this article is about our committee, I am going to start by sharing my own experience with networking.  I started my computer consulting business in 1992. I started marketing with a traditional approach, like sending out mass mailings which I followed up with phone calls.  After two days, I’d had enough!  Frankly, I would rather work double shifts at the counter of a fast food restaurant than continue with cold calls for 8 hours.

That’s when I picked up my copy of The Fresno Bee and started going through it for ideas of other ways to build my client list.  As I flipped through, I came across a list of free events I could attend, many of which were Chamber mixers and meetings.  I jumped on this opportunity to get exposure for my business by making valuable connections in person. The great experiences I had quickly led me to join the Chamber. Soon I found myself visiting all of their committees, some of which I enjoyed enough to join. From that point, I have had several roles at the Chamber, serving my community in a variety of capacities.

In the course of my own successful network development, I have observed others who haven’t accomplished the same goal, despite joining the Chamber primarily for the networking opportunities.  Here’s the little understood truth: “joining is not networking” and “working” is part of networking, but not all of it.

Here is a list of major networking “don’ts” I’ve seen many of those who are not successful networkers do:

  1. Join and never show up.
  2. Show up, but miss opportunities to tell others about what makes their products or services better than the competition.
  3. Only show up sometimes – inconsistent efforts in to make connections.
  4. Show up late and leave early.
  5. Show up with the sole focus of getting business for themselves without a willingness to help others.

Of course, I’ve got a lot more “don’ts” I could add to this list, but I think you get the idea.

Now, for some of the “do’s” of making network development work. If you want to increase your network, you must participate, be ready to seize opportunities, and be consistent as well as considerate of your peers.

One of the best ways to widen your circle is to step up and volunteer for committees or events. When participating in such endeavors, be prepared to bring value to the table with respect to the objective of whatever group you are participating in.  If you join a committee, be sure you get involved in their mission and give it your focus during meetings, it is essential that you set aside your prospecting purpose for the moment.  Also, I suggest avoiding thinking in terms of giving back, service or sacrifice, but rather consider the time an enjoyable respite from your normal workload, almost as a hobby.  Only occasionally and when appropriate should you share with others in the group why they would benefit by using your products and services.

If you can do this genuinely and not for the effect, you will find the experience fulfilling and enjoyable, adding to the quality of your life. The wonderful byproduct is often building real relationships with others as they see your commitment and character, something that makes people want to bring their business to you.  Getting involved is the best way to develop your network in a way that truly works.

Of course, in my opinion, the ideal committee to explore this kind of networking in is the Business / Education Committee of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.  I can’t deny my bias towards this exceptional committee, so you’ll have to get over it J.  We meet at 7:30 a.m. on the Second Tuesday of each month at the Chamber office and we hope you see you at our next meeting!

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