In this day and age of Web 2.0, Twitter and Facebook it might seem like people-to-people contact is all but obsolete. Why phone when you can email? Why talk to someone when you can just as easily (and more efficiently) text them? Why have actual face-time when you can Facebook them? Um actually there are plenty of good reasons why and I recently discovered a few, particularly as a business owner.
Networking is a word that gets thrown around a lot, particularly as some kind of ‘catch-phrase’ for people looking for work. I found that out when I was made redundant last year. It seemed like networking was the silver bullet that would be my ticket out of redundancy-ville. Well it did kind of happen that way (I got an email from a friend about my current job – interestingly I got her the job where she now works – the company I got made redundant from! The circle of life?) but it wasn’t what I imagined the traditional method of networking. When I think of networking I think of gate crashing high society cocktail parties and making small talk with important-looking people, the odd bit of name-dropping and a dash of self-promotion (I struggle with that bit). But I’ve come to realise that networking has a much broader meaning and it been profitable for me to remember that. Here’s an example.
Yesterday I was at the gym just having a friendly banter with my trainer. I wasn’t taking the conversation in any particularly direction but we got on to the topic of running our own business. I mentioned I build websites. Bingo! He needed a website and what do you know – that’s one of my many talents (along with computer hacking and been pretty good with the bowstaff). He was happy because I could fix a business need for him and I was happy to get more work. It’s what I refer to as ‘unintentional networking’. I didn’t go to the gym that day with some hidden agenda or ulterior motive to sell my business services, I was just making conversation. If I hadn’t had that friendly chat I would have completely missed that business opportunity. Having my business card handy was a good idea too.
Speaking of which I was in at my local Postshop today loading a PIN on my credit card. I had a lovely chat with the lady behind the counter (sorry I don’t know your name) and we were talking about a range of different subjects (as a side point I was impressed I didn’t get the short shift because of the queue – definitely makes you feel like a real person and not just a number!) but I thought why not hand over a business card or two. There was nothing to suggest that she needed a website but who was I to assume she didn’t want one or had a friend starting up a new business that needed one. I went through the same thought process when I gave Jaimie a few of my cards the previous week (one of the very lovely ladies at the Colombo St Postshop). The point I’m trying to make is that unintentional networking is a good way to spread the word, relying on the community effect to kick in. We all know that living in NZ we are part of the ‘2 degree’ syndrome, and to limit our networking to what we perceive as being strategic individuals would be shortsighted. That person we have a casual chat to today may mention us to the best client we will ever get tomorrow.
So don’t close yourself to the possibilities out there – sometimes all it takes is a friendly hi and a quick chat to open up a massive window of opportunities just waiting around the corner.
So what magical things have happened to you, either personal or business, that were a result of ‘unintentional networking’?