How to find the events that are going to take you and your business further, faster
We hear so much about the importance of “networking” and we know we should be out finding advocates and ambassadors, yet this is still an area where many of us struggle. I think as women we sometimes think we’re already good at networking, simply because we’re good at being social, but according to the Harvard Business Review, there are actually three types of networks we need to build to become successful leaders. They are:
- Operational: people who can accomplish routine tasks
- Personal: kindred spirits who can support you and help you move forward
- Strategic: people who will challenge you to reach your objectives
Most of us are good at the operational and personal networks (which is why we think we’ve got this whole networking thing down), but we may fall short when it comes to the strategic.
Now I know what you’re thinking, because many women (myself included, once upon a time) think “strategic networking” sounds like something that happens in a windowless room where everyone trades business cards and interacts solely because they want to get maximum economic value out of one another. And that’s just icky. But that is not what I am talking about.
I am asking you to give “intentional networking” a try, which encompasses a bit of all three types of networking mentioned above.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn
The first time I heard this famous quote, it really made me stop and think. I had already hired highly competent people at work, but what was the state of my entourage outside of work? Was I spending time with people who would challenge my thinking, who were a few steps ahead of me in business, and willing to help me grow in areas where I needed help? Not so much.
Spending more time with people who already operate in the circles you want to enter, such as professional organizations, will help you grow your business and give you access to people who can help you get through the inevitable challenges that will come up as you scale your business. Intentional networking allows you to find people who can offer advice and valuable business opportunities before you even need their help. I always credit joining Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) with helping me take Little Pim over the $1M in revenues mark and perhaps as importantly, providing me with entrepreneurial peers who kept me sane while getting there!
Intentional Networking 101
I completely understand with so many demands on your time as a business owner (and for some of us, moms as well) choosing which events, conferences or social gatherings are worth attending can be overwhelming. But when you network with intention, you choose which events are going to have the most benefit for your business and schedule time for those first.
When I was trying to get Little Pim to $1M in revenues and had to choose between all the different events I could go to in order to meet people, I created a kind of decision filter. I asked myself three simple questions about each possible event:
1. What two benefits will I gain from attending?
2. Will it help me accomplish something I’m currently working on?
3. Will I also have a good time? See friends? Will it double as a social event for me?
I eventually developed my own version of management guru Stephen Covey’s “Important vs Urgent Matrix”:
By mentally plotting any potential event into one of these four Quadrants, it became much simpler to say Yes to the right events and No thanks to the ones that wouldn’t help me forge ahead. Here is how the Quadrants work:
- Quadrant 1: Make It Happen These are top-priority events and opportunities where I will meet clients or other people who will have a direct impact on helping me grow my business. These are the events to which I simply must go (“make it happen!”) and I make it a point to schedule at least one each week.
- Quadrant 2: Make Time but Not Every Week Events that are important for long-term strategy and may require some active research (think professional development events, trade-shows, industry-specific conferences) get put into Quadrant 2. I try to do one per month and am always on the lookout for these since they usually require advance planning to carve out the time, and in some cases, travel.
- Quadrant 3: Send a Staff Member Just as the name implies, these are the events that may be valuable to my business, but don’t require me to be there personally. Stop going!
- Quadrant 4: A Sometimes Treat: This is margarita night with my gal pals, attending a class dinner for one of my kids, or anything else that may be fun to do, but has no direct impact on growing my business. I still go to these, but I also make sure they aren’t eating up all my nights out.
Start cultivating the right networks by setting your intention
In a world where information is free and instantly available, and labor is cheap and often offshore, our networks have become one of our most valuable assets in the professional marketplace. Who you know and who trusts you will determine what projects you can get done, what circles of power you have access to, and ultimately what level of success you can achieve. And when you think about it like that, being intentional about the people you meet with sounds a lot less icky and a lot more like something that you need to find time for.
Happy networking and I hope you meet some fantastic Million Dollar Women and men who can help you accelerate the time it takes you to take your business big!