How many people do you know today that you did not know yesterday?
How many do you know today that you did not know last week? How about last month? Or a year ago?
I own and manage an engineering company. And not to disparage too many of my peers, but I think most of the stories and jokes about engineers possessing few social skills is generally true. As a group, we are more comfortable working on a computer, solving problems, and building things than we are at interacting socially.
Unless asked specifically, nearly all communications are through email. We would rather do just about anything than visit with someone either face-to-face or over the phone.
This form of preferred communication is usually acceptable until a problem arises. And then my engineers have to quickly learn a few inter-personal communication skills so they can diagnose the problem and work toward a solution. Once the problem is solved, they resort back to their cubicles and computers.
A great definition of networking offered by Diane Darling is “building relationships before you need them.”
I find that most people are aware of the process of networking. You go to an event, usually free or low cost, that is attended by many people you don’t know yet, but who have some connection to you and your business. You may work in the same geographical area or have an interest in a similar cause. Chambers of commerce, neighborhood associations, home building groups, and parents of same-aged children all draw people together to network.
For many, that is the end of their level of comfort. They chat with a few people, have a few hors-d’oeuvres and drinks, and then go home.
For those people, they miss an invaluable opportunity. You network to meet people you do not know. You should want to connect with these new acquaintances because you never know when that connection will open opportunities that otherwise you may not have.
These new acquaintances are not Facebook friends, Twitter followers or LinkedIn connections, although they eventually may be. These are real people with whom you have had a conversation and will recognize their face. And, more importantly, with whom you should have exchanged contact information so that you can call at a later date.
Why would you call?
As an entrepreneur, you are always working to expand your business, and the people you meet may be able to help. Or, if you are an employee, you may meet someone who can help or has expertise in what you are working on. Maybe you have too much work; you may meet someone who can help with office efficiencies or temporary help.
But, for the most part, you never know who you will meet and what opportunities they bring. That’s why it’s called networking. You are creating a series of connections each of which has its own set of opportunities that can when needed, be activated at any point in time.
The point is you never know who is sitting on a board of directors that may be looking for a consultant. Or who to call if you need some unique tax investment advice. Or when you suddenly find yourself looking for additional warehouse space. It is through networking that you have a name, a number, and a face of someone that can help.
Through networking, you will build a reservoir of connections that when the unknowns of business show up, you can tie into to begin the process problem-solving.
Networking is not new.
Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist when he heard John refer to Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” Andrew immediately left John the Baptist to find his brother Simon Peter, and the two began following Jesus. Jesus later tracked down these two brothers while they were working and convinced them, as well as James and his brother John, to become His disciples full time. (Matthew 4:18–22, Mark 1:16–20 and Luke 5:1–11, and John 1:35–51).
Jesus Himself was a master at networking. He used parables to engage people He did not know, He regularly spoke to crowds of hundreds, if not thousands, of people, He made time for individuals, and He spoke to anyone whether they were part of the in-crowd or an outcast.
You, as a business owner, have two reasons for networking.
First, it will always be good for your business; there is no downside to networking.
Second, the Bible demonstrates the power of networking, and the connections you may make may not be business related, they may be eternity related.