Last week was International Networking Week for the organization Business Networking International, also known as BNI. As part of its observation of the week, the Fortune Magnets chapter that meets in our banquet room on Wednesday mornings asked us to give a short presentation on the importance of networking.
Of course, as fate would have it, I was out battling a particularly nasty bout of the flu, so our membership development manager, DeeLores Everett, stepped up to the plate and made the presentation for me. She even presented the group with a proclamation noting the importance of this observation week.
She was so good, in fact, the president of the BNI group passed the message on to me that I was officially replaced. How's that for a kick in the pants when you're worshipping the porcelain god?
DeeLores has been in BNI for a long time herself as a local distributor of Mary Kay Cosmetics. She's been in a leadership position not only with them, but with us, so she's uniquely qualified to talk about the importance of networking and how groups like BNI can work hand-in-hand with chambers of commerce.
She was kind enough to share her thoughts and ideas with me so I can pass them on to you.
Most networking begins through casual everyday conversation. A comment made to someone in line at the supermarket can lead to all kinds of contacts.
Small talk at a party can always turn up a colleague, brother, aunt or best friend in your field who knows someone who knows someone.
But networking conversations can go bad quickly if the person can tell you are only there to glean information and contact names. We all want to think you're talking to us for the fun, joy and experience of, well, talking to us. So be respectful and remember you have much to learn from — and give to — everyone you meet.
Every Wednesday, we hold what we call the Exchange at the chamber. It's a free brown-bag luncheon where we exchange ideas, business cards, referrals, contacts and so much more. Business people from all industries come and share laughs, information and friendship over Subway sandwiches and tea in a relaxed, unhurried environment.
We're certainly not the only ones who hold these events. Sun Towers has one every Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. and Homewood Residence, the first Wednesday of every month at noon. The Southshore Business Alliance has one every Wednesday morning at The Alley in Riverview. There are so many in this area, it's hard to keep track of them all.
What is consistent with all of the groups is — you got it — consistency. The business owners who are there every week, month in and month out, are the ones getting all the business. They write thank-you notes, follow up when they say they will and remember everyone's name. After all, it's not called net-sitting. It's not called net-eating. It's called net-working.
So find a group that works for you at a time you will incorporate into your monthly routine and get out there and network. It's the most important thing you can do for your business.
Now about this bit about me being replaceable … If anyone can do it, Dee can. But I'm just not quite ready to go yet.