Whether we like it or not, 2016 is almost over. This means it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to run your business for the better in the New Year. This might mean new products, new services, new practices, new staff, new training and an endless gamut of possibilities. Something your 2017 business plan must contain is networking. Face to face business networking is not dead, what is dead is how it’s been done in the past and how it’s currently being done across the country.
Without naming any acronym networking groups, I will say that in my experience weekly meetings and events where the same people show up and the same the matters are discussed are not beneficial for anyone’s business or time. Should a new person or business enter the group, it’s like lions on a gazelle pouncing to get a piece of the meat. Everyone has already becoming acquainted with the other members of the group want to be the first in their specific business niche to meet the new member and call “dibs”.
In addition to the same people being at every event and meeting, these groups often have extreme competition both in industry and referrals. This means that there are dozens of people from the same industry (real estate, insurance, car sales etc.) and everyone is trying to be the number one referral for their market. Again the analogy of lions on a gazelle comes to mind.
Finally, the biggest issue that comes to mind with the networking groups of today (cough cough insert three letters here: _ _ _ ) is that there is a demanded sense of expected loyalty if you’re in the group. What I mean by this is that the networking group expects you to only give referrals to potential business connections of people who are in the group. This really bothers me because if I’m going to give someone a referral for business, I want it to be deserved and earned because they are the best, not simply because they pay to be in this networking group. That has crummy ethics written all over it to me.
As you can see, there is A LOT wrong with most of the networking groups today and something needs to change. I actually avoid networking events sometimes because it feels like a feeding frenzy, not a symbiotic relationship where business is discussed and earned. Networking meetings today feel like a simple hello, here’s my card and on to the next person.
Having said what I don’t like about the networking groups I have come across, I went searching for a solution; a networking group that makes all other networking groups obsolete. Guess what I found? Just that! Recently a networking organization has come to light that is going to shake the masses of how networking is done. No longer will you interact with the same people every week, competing against others in your same industry and fighting for “referral loyalty” simply based on your networking group. I wouldn’t event categorize this as a networking group. It’s a networking rotation!
Friday Networking Lunch has been running strong in the Southwest for a few years now and its made its way to North Carolina. Friday Networking Lunch (FNL) is literally a rotation of people and businesses in a restaurant setting where you guessed it…they eat lunch. What is really neat is that each week you can opt in or out of the Friday lunch. If you opt in, they will send you the restaurant (usually a different one each week) where you will be meeting and eating, but in addition they will send you a list of who will be at the lunch with you. This will allow you to do your due diligence and see who will be at your dining experience. What I really like about this is that there will never be two competing attendees at the same rotation, i.e only one real estate agent per lunch rather than the 20+ you find at the regular networking events. In addition, you will receive access to a sort of CRM system to keep all their information stored to remind you what lunch you had together and their contact information. Wabam! You can come to lunch without your business cards and save them for another occasion because everyone at that lunch will have had your information emailed to them two days prior. Talk about WOW!
What I really liked about this is that to get started and take it for spin you get to join them for lunch for FREE! Well, you still have to pay for your food but the networking is free. The Guest Tables are meant as a trial run of what a Friday Networking Lunch rotation is like, and your get to try it for FREE! If you choose to join, there are different level memberships and even a 30-trial after your guest lunch, so there’s really no risk.
You’ll get to sit down, break bread, dine, chat, and get to know everyone (usually about 8-10 people per lunch) in a more intimate setting. This allows you to really get to know other businesses at a deeper level than a business card exchange. The following week you’ll be set up in a new group, with new people at a different restaurant. This is beyond brilliant! No longer will competing industries have to sit next to each other at a meeting, no longer will it be the same people week after week and no longer are you expected to only refer businesses in the group because they are in the group, you get to refer them because you got to know them and feel confident in their practices. I LOVE THIS CONCEPT!
Don’t think if you’re not in North Carolina you can’t partake, Friday Networking Lunch is growing fast across the country and it’s looking for leaders to jumpstart it. I would HIGHLY suggest going to www.GoFNL.com and taking a look at this networking rotation concept and giving a guest table a try. It’s free, you need to eat anyway so why not eat and networking at the same time. #multitasking ßyes, I hash-tagged a blog post
If you’re interested in Friday Networking Lunch please feel free to email me and I will answer any questions I can. I am really excited for this and cannot wait for it to take the United States by storm and knock those old school groups out of existence! P.S. Restaurants can join as members to host the lunches so every week a new group of customers comes and you get a shout out in the email and on social media. Yay social media!
Let’s be honest, many of us (small business owners) want to do all the work ourselves. In fact, delegating can often be the biggest nightmare for an entrepreneur or solo-preneur (at least it often is for me) and the mere thought of asking for help keeps you up at night. When I was in college, my biggest weakness was my lack of ability to delegate tasks. I thought that if I didn’t do it myself then it would be done wrong and I’d have to go back and do it again after someone screwed it up; thus wasting my time. I also thought that needing help or assistance was a sign of weakness. Don’t worry, I have since learned that I was wrong in thinking those things.I still sometimes try to do it all. I still hate asking for help, but we all need it sometimes because no one person can do it all (yes, I am admitting I am wrong). This is especially true in business. You might be a genius computer technician or athletic trainer but you can’t balance a checkbook to save you life. That is why payroll firms and accountants exist, to do the work you suck at doing. The same goes for marketing. There comes a time when you realize that you have too much work on your plate in order to maintain your business that you just can’t focus on the marketing side. That is where hiring a marketing consultant comes in handy. (insert fun intro music for me to walk in and pageant wave at everyone).
A little known fact is that my minor in college was Leadership. Yes, it’s an actual collegiate course and minor and I graduated with it; go ahead and get your laughter out now. My leadership degree is probably more useful than your French minor that you only use to impress your Tinder dates. Of the entire leadership degree course-load that I learned, the one lesson that has stuck with me throughout these years is that the real weakness is the act of NOT delegating and asking for assistance but trying to do it all on your own. Sometimes you need help. Don’t be ashamed of it, but rather be assured that assistance and delegation of tasks will be beneficial to you and your business.
However, I will make note that before assigning important tasks to others, make sure you do your due diligence on them. You want to ensure that they are capable of not only doing the work correctly, but to a level of perfection you’d expect from yourself. Example: Don’t trust your plumbing with the neighborhood teenager who doesn’t know which direction to turn the faucet to turn it on. You may be paying him in cans of Red Bull, but you’ll get what you pay for…a plumbing disaster.
In my experience, most business owners are stubborn when it comes to asking for help (I’m guilty of this). The trick is pinpointing when it becomes time for you to call in a consultant for guidance and just how to make sure they’re the right one for you and your business. Here are some signs and situations you may encounter that says, “I need to get some marketing help and hire a consultant”.
If you have said any of those phrases lately, please take a moment to fill out this marketing solutions survey. This will get you thinking about what you actually need to do to achieve your business goals!
There is a problem in society these days. People spend more time working “on” their business than “in” their business. What I mean by this is that you often focus so much effort on organizing you calendar, your workflows and strategies, your bookkeeping, your sales, and your payroll to name a few, that you forget what is more important…your clients!
The number one program I suggest EVERY small business owner who deals with clients needs is 17hats. 17hats has revolutionized how I run my business. From gathering leads, to following up with them, tracking their account progress, setting up workflows and procedures and especially invoicing and taking payments. Almost everything I do can go directly through the program and they recently launched their app, which has been a huge time saver when I’m away from my computer.
This program is so easy to learn, understand and master that there is no excuse not to give it a try. You get a 14 day free trial, so there REALLY is no excuse now. I honestly have no idea where I would be with Strazanac Solutions if it weren’t for 17hats. It only costs $29 a month BUT you can use code “STRAZ16” and get 10% off. They also just added, 17hats Ally, which is your complete business management team. I have been impressed with it so far and look forward to trying it out.
All blogs posted prior to this were originally on a blog titled "Skills for Success 101" by Samantha as a way to share her experiences in business, marketing, failures and especially successes.
My mother’s high school yearbook quote was “Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation” (yet more proof she has always been wise). The reason I specifically quote her is because I have recently learned what luck truly is.
Luck is not finding a four-leaf clover and luck is not wearing a rabbits foot around your neck (thank goodness that went out of fashion). Luck is something that occurs when you have laid down all the puzzle pieces and formed a complete picture. For that puzzle to be completed you need to carefully organize and place each piece in its proper location. This takes time and analysis. When all that hard work is complete, your puzzle is complete too. Luck (as defined by society) is opening a puzzle box and it falls out in one, complete picture (this just plum doesn’t happen).
Apply this puzzle situation to real life, my life for example, since that is the one I have to most expertise in. Every job and activity I have ever accomplished was a separate puzzle piece I laid down. Individually the pieces look like nothing, but when I started to look at the whole picture, and not just each piece, a picture started to form. My leadership experiences showed me I have management skills and my work in sales and promotions showed me I had marketing skills. Separately all those experiences looked like merely odd jobs and activities to occupy my time, but it truth they were all puzzle pieces for my new career (yes, Samantha got a big girl job) as a marketing manager.
If we take the previous quote, “luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation”, and apply it to my situation, then we can look at as if all my odd jobs and activities were preparation and this job was an opportunity. Together I guess I got lucky, but this “luck” didn’t come without lots and lots of hard preparation and a good opportunity.
Few things are as discouraging of thinking up a great idea, spending hours, days or weeks perfecting it and then when you present it to your superiors…they rip it apart. The hard part about this is to not take it personally. I repeat, do not take it personally.
This has been one of the hardest lessons I have learned in my past few months of work. I could have spent hours and days working my proposal to perfection, but when I present it, I am told to change over 50% of the idea or simply receive a “No” to all of it. Its beyond discouraging, but it wasn’t me they disapproved of, it was my idea and it wasn’t because they didn’t like me or had some vengeance to take out on me…it was simply business.
While it may be easier to complain and b*tch about the fact that all your hard work was flushed down the toilet, use this as an opportunity to blow them out of the water next time. Instead of stewing away at your desk all bitter and upset with thoughts of “it was a great idea, they just hate me” forming in your mind, think about how you are going to impress them next time. Peter Pan and Tinkerbell said it best, “think happy thoughts and you will fly”, well keep a positive attitude, work harder and you will fly…fly right into success!
So, when you get discouraged and start to take things personally, follow this simple idea…just think happy thoughts and work harder. Remember, no one ever became successful by complaining.
Robertson Davies wisely stated, “Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it”. These wise words have got me thinking about another topic of what it takes to be successful. It’s quite simple, be extraordinary.Now while these two words may seem complicated, if you truly analyze its meaning you will understand why its so important. It’s hard to be successful if you do the same thing as everyone else. By being just another white sheep in the herd one is likely to not be noticed. It is those who are noticed that get what they want and isn’t what we all want success?
To be extraordinary is quite simple, just find the boundaries that ordinary people cease to cross and cross them. Be willing to go out of your comfort zone, stretch you capabilities, and understand that sometimes these things will be uncomfortable but in the end the rewards will trump those feelings.
I know this all sounds like a lot of work but no one ever said success came easy; you have to be willing to work for it. If your preparation meets opportunity, aka you get lucky, then you might have a chance at success. But prepare to stand out; be extraordinary.
In conclusion, to be successful is to rise above the rest, to stick out, to be unique…in short, to be extraordinary (goodness, I seem to say this a lot…that’s a hint that it’s words you shouldn’t forget). What you do to be extraordinary is your decision but keep in mind that no one ever achieved anything without taking chances at least once.
Lets be honest, who you know can get you a very long way in life, but it won’t get you all the way. I know this sounds like another one of my ramblings but trust me, there is a method to this madness I call “Success Techniques”.
Let me begin by saying that I know a lot of people, people from every stretch of life. I know bartenders and bar owners, I know bankers and bank managers, I know doctors and nurses and I know company CEOs and company secretaries. But the big thing I know, other than knowing so many people, is that connections with them are only helpful to a certain degree.
Let’s take for example getting your kid into college. Say that you personally know the Assistant Director of Admissions (the one who selects who gets into the university or not). Now this connection can prove to be very helpful, but if your child is a dumb-butt and just doesn’t have the criteria to get in, no matter how much the Admissions Counselor tries, you kid isn’t going to get admitted. In this case, knowing that person in the position of power didn’t help that much because although you knew “the who” (Admissions Counselor), “the what” (your credentials) weren’t enough to get you into the university.
Lets say you know someone who owns a company. This company has a position open and you are more than qualified for it, you apply and get it. The mere fact that you know the owners probably helped you 1% but in truth it was your qualifications that got you the position. In the game of business, acquaintances mean a lot less than qualifications because if you are going to work for them, then it will cost money (to pay you, duh) and if you are not capable of doing the tasks as assigned for your position, then not only are you wasting the company’s money but its time too. This is often if not always, equally as valuable.
So yes, while knowing someone on the inside can get you “inside”, that doesn’t mean you automatically get to stay there. And yes, I am fully aware that people often say, “Its not what you know, but who you know”, and be that as it may, knowing people will often only get your foot in the door, it is your capabilities, credentials and other abilities that really push you through that door.
So remember, connections will only get you so far, it is your abilities that will get you all the way.
They always say that mother knows best. Well, I guess my mother does know best, she has always told me to be positive and good things would come. I thought that was a bunch of hooey but I figured I would try it and find out for myself, after all, what did I have to lose? After 24 years of pretty good stuff happening with a pretty good attitude, I decided to try it with a great attitude and see if great stuff happens. Guess what…mom was right!When you tell yourself that good things are going to happen, that positive attitude shows. Not exactly in a physical way of course because there is no neon sign on your forehead that lights up but more psychologically. When you are happier and more relaxed, people can sense that.
Take for example going into a job interview, if you walk in confident and knowing that you are the best candidate for the position, you are more likely to make an impression and therefore have a better chance of getting a job. If you walk in slouching with self-doubt, then chances are you aren’t going to impress anyone.
If you look at all the successful people in the world you might come to realize that all of them have a positive outlook on life. When was the last time you found a pessimistic successful person?
It really is that simple. When you are positive about things, it shows and positive things are more likely to happen to you. So be positive…its that easy!
I find myself writing this post at a time where support is crucial, in the beginning. When you are starting out on a new career path or a project it can often be reassuring to know that others, especially those with nothing invested in it, support you. I find myself realizing that it is not just the belief in myself that pushes me everyday, its my collection of personal cheerleaders waving their invisible pom poms.
The climb up the success ladder can be lonely and its nice to know there is someone out there who knows you can make it to the top. When you start your journey up the ladder, you may start out alone or you may start out with some support, either way, eventually during your journey you will find your true personal cheerleader(s).
Sometimes they are family or friends, sometimes they are mentors, and sometimes they are just bystanders who think you have what it takes. Regardless of who your cheerleader may be, having one (or many) can make a world of a difference.
The feeling that someone other than yourself believes in you can often be the only push you really need to succeed. It no longer becomes about being the best or succeeding at one little thing, but now becomes about being even better than anyone thought you could be and always striving to achieve more than you originally set out to. Keeping everyone else on their toes is a great push to keep yourself going.
When it comes to success, take all the help you can get because encouragement is often the biggest help anyone can offer. I am blessed enough to have more cheer squads full of people with pom poms supporting and cheering me on then I can count, but I will never take any one of them for granted because they show me that my goals of success can’t be just a crazy idea if so many people believe in me.
Find your own personal cheerleader and cheer squad and you too will find your journey to success a lot easier than it looks.