As a new Phoenix business owner, I spend nearly 80% of my time right now attending networking and learning events. It was a big hurdle to start a business in an area with no pre-existing network.
Probably the best decision I made in the first six weeks of my business was to follow my gut after I received an email from Gelie Akhenblit. I had never met her. I knew nothing about her. But her email compelled me to buy a (very inexpensive) passport to attend local Networking Phoenix events. With that passport, I have attended numerous events that are now core to my business including the Phoenix Metro Chamber of Commerce, Shakers & Stirrers, and now possibly Networking REI. People from these groups have formed other groups that are also red circled dates on my calendar.
Last night, I finally got to meet (and thank) Gelie. This incredible woman has built a network of 40,000 subscribers and her story is worth hearing. She shared some tips for building a network that I am pulling from pages of furiously scribbled notes. Some pieces I’ve heard echoes of in previous workshops (Larry Larson and David Hepburn come to mind). I’ll put some of it in my own words. But I apologize in advance for any unintentional plagiarism in my sharing.
1. Be Memorable – use conversation starters that throw people off the rehearsed script and start a genuine conversation with a possible new friend
2. Be Me – Use my own conversation style in networking events and follow-ups, use pictures, and let people get to know the real me, not just the job title
3. Be intentional about picking events, and attend at least 5 a month (Gelie listed some of her favorite—message me if you want to know what hers are)
4. Develop my systems for responding, make the response individual, and do so in 48 hours. This may require sorting business cards by the type of relationship I expect to have with them (clients, referral partners, resource people, and friends)
5. Be an Inviter, even when I can’t attend – and occasionally host something myself
I like talking with new people and the extrovert in me is fueled at the events where we have open time to meet people. I’ve met interesting people in a variety of forums, with a wide scope of occupations, backgrounds, and experiences. I’m starting to see some familiar faces at a number of events, and some seem genuinely happy to be seen again. It is starting to feel like I have a welcoming home in the Phoenix business community and I am grateful for those of you who are making it so.
I had a few AHA moments during the workshop that I may share over the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, bear with me as I figure this business thing out.