11 Mar 2017

Business Networking is Powerful and Essential

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Business Networking is Power

Business Networking is the process of creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with other business people.
Mark O’Donnell, President of RGA Network

It is difficult for one person to succeed without the help of others. At the very least, a business needs clients in order to sell its products and services. Additionally, most also require vendors or suppliers of one sort or another, and many need contractors or advisors to help from time to time.

Thus, at its most basic level, networking means a business reaches out to find clients, vendors, suppliers, consultants, and others. As it grows, however, a business may also need new employees, to gather information about competitors and possible allies, and even buy or merge with other companies.

Using Networking to Get a Job

As I was going through school, all the way to college, and into my career, I was introverted and more or less did everything on my own, only asking for help when it was absolutely essential. Since I’d never taken the time to build relationships with teachers and administrators, when I asked for help, they didn’t know, like or trust me. This made it more difficult than necessary to get things done.

Networking makes it easier to get things done.

Nonetheless, I did well, and got hired straight out of college by a small startup company called Software Techniques, Inc. In fact, I was their first employee. In hindsight, that was my first success from networking, although I didn’t know it at the time.

I was very busy going through college and working three jobs, along with a two hour commute each day. My best friend at the time, Don, and I both did our assignments in the computer lab in college, and unbeknownst to us at the time, we were being observed by the department head, Mr. James.

Our computer teacher was a man named Frederick – we knew him as Fred and he was 7 feet tall – who started a company called Software Techniques to help businesses install and operate their computers. In those days, computers took up entire air-conditioned rooms and disk drives were the size of washing machines.

Based on the recommendation of Mr. James, Don received a small stipend, a few hundred dollars, to attend what was, at the time, the most important computer convention in the industry. He didn’t want to go alone, so he invited me to come along. I had no idea what this was about, but since he was paying for everything out of the money he received, I agreed to go with him.

During that convention, I met several of the heavyweights in the computer industry of the time. Our teacher, Fred, was one of the speakers, and invited Don and I to go to dinner with both of his partners and four of the top computer people in the late 1970s and early 80s. These were the guys who designed the first programming languages for Digital Equipment Corporation, and all of them were famous throughout the industry.

This dinner was the first time that I networked with influencers, and it made quite an impression on me. I must’ve made an impression on Fred, as well, because a month later I received a job offer out of the blue to come work for him as his first employee.

Network Your Business to Prosperity

Click to purchase Network your Business to Prosperity

Later, I found out from one of his partners that Mr. James had recommended me over all the other students in his department. As a result, Fred had been watching my progress for some time, and further based upon the recommendations and insights of the people at the table during that dinner at the convention, he decided to hire me.

Because of that fateful lunch meeting, which lasted about three hours, the entire direction of my life changed. It’s only from my more mature and knowledgeable viewpoint, 40 years later that I understand what happened during that brief time.

That small amount of networking, which I didn’t realize was happening, resulted in some quick decisions that affected the rest of my future. Within three days of accepting the offer, I dropped out of college, moved 100 miles to a new city, and started my career in the computer industry.

Within a year, I was the Vice President of Consulting of that company, later became the Vice President of Consulting for Beck Computer Systems, and eventually wound up as the Director of Technical Services and Computer Operations at Trader Joe’s. I remained there for 20 years until I decided to retire to become a professional writer.

When I started my computer career I made no attempts at business networking due to shyness and introversion, as well as a complete lack of social skills. I didn’t even follow up with the heavyweights from that luncheon.

Business Networking

After a few years, my attitude began to change because of two factors. First, my boss was a strong proponent of business networking and pushed me in that direction by using his own example to show me how it could be of benefit. Second, the job that I had to perform was so large that I was forced out of my shell to delegate, manage, and lead people, and, eventually, to reach out to people for help and advice.

Don’t forget to mingle. Are you going with someone? If so, split up once you get to the event. The 59 Commandments of Business Networking by Diane Helbig

As I expanded my network and built relationships, I noticed that it began to get easier to get things done. Instead of trying to do everything on my own, I was engaging with other talented and knowledgeable people who knew, liked, and trusted me and thus were eager to help. That network came in handy many times during my career, especially when I decided to look for new employment.

Because of that journey, I have a unique viewpoint on the difference between using networking effectively and not taking advantage of building relationships at all.

My book Network Your Business to Prosperity explains how this works.

 

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