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!