Leader Letters are monthly letters from the Maintex Leadership team. This month, Maintex President Linda Silverman discusses the value of networking.
Whether you are running a business or succeeding in life, it's all about people. People make things happen and people get things done. Thus, from both a business and a personal perspective, we need to build positive relationships and network effectively with other people. But with so many competing priorities, how do we build strong networking relationships?
Put yourself out there.
Let's start with the simplest advice first; take advantage of the networking resources that already exist in your industry!
To build new relationships and expand your network, you can attend business functions, join business organizations, and participate in a variety of networking events. These groups and activities will help raise your personal profile and build your reputation. You will also meet new contacts and stay in the minds of the people you want to engage with.
However, showing up is only the first step. To make stronger connections, consider becoming more involved. You can volunteer for activities or take on a leadership role. I serve on several Boards of Directors with business and charitable organizations that are meaningful to me. I actively participate in committees, act as a mentor to others, and volunteer my time freely. These activities have led to new friendships, business opportunities, and lots of learning.
Give before you receive.
Networking means developing connections that can become mutually beneficial relationships. Your network can be vast. It should include your friends and family, work colleagues, business associates, and your social network.
But it is important to remember that networking is not a one way street! It is about collaborating and sharing. You should authentically seek to help others reach their goals before you receive the benefit of being helped. Plan to give as much or more than you expect in return.
Once I have collaborated and helped others, they are much more open to hearing the story of Maintex and they already have a glimpse of the value this company delivers. Genuine relationships based on mutual support will ultimately lead you to the people in your industry who will have your back.
See the value in small takeaways.
Networking has become a valuable way for me to expand my awareness and knowledge. Meeting new people and engaging in new experiences helps me to become a more innovative thinker. It creates opportunities to learn about best practices from others. I get exposed to new techniques and stay updated on industry trends. The exposure to new people with new ideas is always illuminating. I believe that if I gain one or two morsels of knowledge from an event or interaction, my time has been well spent.
Feeling Shy? Practice Makes Perfect.
Networking can be a catalyst for personal growth. Many of us are naturally shy and not exactly comfortable putting ourselves in a new environment with new people. Networking pushes us to move beyond our comfort zone. It forces us to introduce ourselves and meet new people. The more we do this, the easier it becomes and our self-confidence will grow.
Shy networkers should consider planning ahead with some relevant talking points. Asking people about themselves is always a great conversation starter because most people are comfortable talking about themselves and what they do. Remember, networking conversations do not have to be all about work. They can be about what is happening in the news or about the event itself.
We all need to communicate regularly to maintain our relationships. Whether these are friends you have had for years or new acquaintances, keeping in touch makes a big difference. When people know they are on your mind, they feel gratified and cared for.
Anyone who knows me personally knows that family and friendships are my highest priority. Some of my most valued and long lasting friendships have grown from my work relationships. I have made incredible friendships with people that have similar values, goals and interests. We spend time together on business and association activities. They truly understand and support my career. Our relationships have become personal and the time we spend together is wonderful!
The Clean Up
The goal of networking is to cultivate authentic relationships that become the basis for your business and personal success. Remember to seize a variety of networking opportunities, give before you receive, and communicate consistently to nurture relationships. Networking takes time and energy, but as you develop exciting business opportunities and genuinely supportive friendships, you will see that it is well worth the effort.