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Archive for the “Networking” Category

I recently wrote an essay on my thinking on and discomfort with networking.  The following short film speaks to what constitutes real one-on-one business communication and connection with eloquence, passion, and generosity.

The video is by Nic Askew.  (Notice the sameness of our last names.  We both trace our antecedents back to 11th century Normandy.)  Nic is a poet and exquisite film-maker of what he calls “Soul Biographies.”  His subjects often are small businessmen and business wise men.  Nic recently shared with me his soul biography of Jenny Garrett.  Jenny is the APCTC Women’s Coach of the Year. I heartily recommend her thoughts as an addendum to my recent piece, Networking For People Who Hate Networking.

Nic calls this brief film Unprotected Conversation.  His presentation of Ms. Garrett’s thoughts are a gift to any thoughtful entrepreneurial leader.  Try to watch it with full attention and mindfulness.  It’s quite short.  Nic’s artistry deserves it.

Nic’s film is prefaced with his poem, Unprotected Conversation.

Unprotected Conversation

 ‘How brazen’ they said.

“How threatening’ they thought.

She’d talk with anyone.
With everyone.

Without cautions, or regard
to who and how they were.

Or to where such
conversation might lead.

Slaying make-beliefs and
catching uneasy truths
along the way.

Such is the consequence of
unprotected conversation.

‘How irresponsible’ they said.

‘How courageous’ they thought.

Thank you Nic Askew and Jenny Garrett.

Comments 8 Comments »

I bloody hate networking.  I really do.  I really hate the whole idea of networking.

Much of networking just seems to smack of manipulation and insincerity.  When I hear people talking about networkingthe verbiage always seems undergirded with an assumption of venality and calculation.  And that includes those whose networking philosophy is “you get by giving.”  Even that philosophy of networking has the root assumption of giving as ultimately a manipulation to get what you want, rather than real generosity of spirit.

1311684I ask myself if my discomfort with networking is because I’m insecure with it.  Kinda like I was when I was lousy at picking up girls in bars in my younger years.  Yet, while I’ll be the first to admit my deep-seated existential uncertainty about myself and just about everything else, my friends and business colleagues consider me an excellent networker.  Hah!  Go figure.

My own general feeling is that most networking is a distracting, energy vitiating waste of time.  There is only one form of networking that makes sense to me and that is networking with peers—networking with fellow CEOs, owners, seekers, and entrepreneurs, hopefully through relaxed, open-ended personal conversations that allow development of relationship in a general atmosphere of collegiality.

Quality, not quantity, is the only comfortable solution to my personal networking conundrum.  If that means I only connect with one person at an event, well great.  As long as something authentic and real happens in the limited moment in time.

I sure feel mightily uncomfortable when I work into a popular networking event where everyone seems “on”—smiles are a little too bright, energy is a little too high, darting glances are a little too hungry.  I find the atmosphere exhausting, much like the heightened tension and perfervid excitement ambient in a Vegas casino.  Not that I don’t want to connect with appropriate people and drum up some business.  I do.  It’s just that I want to find real, appropriate co-laborers in the vineyard of the Lord, so to speak.  I just don’t like being part of a roomful of speed daters.

For example, Inc. Magazine puts on two superb conventions each year for small businesspersons and entrepreneurs.  I try to attend both events, particularly GrowCo,  yet even at these excellent Inc. events, where I have numerous acquaintances, I rally have to steal away every afternoon to recharge and re-center for at least a couple of hours.  To remind myself who I really am and re-inhabit my own life.

For me frenetic, frequent, voluminous communication doesn’t equate to thoughtful and effective communication.  What I am looking for is real connection.  Isn’t everyone?  Quantity of conversation cannot substitute for quality of conversation.

Greg McKeown, the author of NY Times bestseller Essentialism, had an excellent piece in the Harvard Business Review online January, 22, 2015 titled, “99% of Networking Is a Waste of Time.”  It comes out of a series of interviews McKeon did with venture capitalist and entrepreneur Rich Stromback, who he calls “Mr. Davos” and who is widely respected for his international networking skills.  Stromback is  truly a man after my own heart.

160px-RichStrombackBriefly, here are five pieces of advice I like from Mr. Stromback, as reported by McKeon.

1.  Don’t care about your first impression.  Networkers just get this wrong.  Stromback says they “try to look right and sound right and end up being completely forgettable.”
2.  99% of any networking event is a waste of time.  The quality of any event is not it’s content but the wisdom of the gathered attendees themselves.
3.  Sleep from 4-8 PM every day.  It works for me.  It keeps you fresh and centered for real interactions at appropriate venues and gatherings.  You don’t need to meet everyone.
4.  The key to networking is to stop networking.   Go with the flow and spend time with who you enjoy.
5.  You are not required to go to big name parties.  Says Stromback, “…you need to know where appropriate people will be.  For example, one year I told someone ‘Don’t go to the Bill Gates party this year.’  And I told him, ‘Because no one will be there.’  He went and couldn’t believe I knew ahead of time.”  So networking is about knowing where to be and when and under what conducive circumstances.  (For example, I absolutely abhor and avoid very loud party events.  Useless).

For me, real networking is simply a life-long process of staying true to yourself and having the courage to consistently present your authentic self to the world.  If you do that the right people will find you.  That I believe.  Call it Tim’s Karmic Law For Networking.  But there is really no silver bullet for networking efficacy.  It takes patience, effort, sincerity, and time.

Comments 16 Comments »

There was a nice column on business networking in the Wall Street Journal last weekend (November 13, 2010 by Anne Kadet). Anne states, “On any given night, New Yorkers have their pick of 50-odd networking events. Last week, for instance, you could have mingled with Long Island Techies, Hispanic business owners, professional comedians or ‘Mommies with Babies and Businesses.’ But if you’re not a regular in on the networking circuit, you have to wonder:  Does anything ever come of all this sound and fury?

My own general feeling is that most networking is a distracting, energy vitiating waste of time. (Admittedly I’ve never felt very good at it, kinda like I was never very comfortable at picking up girls in bars.) There is only one form of networking that makes sense to me and that is networking with my peers; that is, networking with fellow CEOs, business owners, and entrepreneurs where relaxed conversations can occur allowing development of relationships in a general atmosphere of collegiality.

But, with that caveat, I wanted to recommend an article my partner David Downey, President of Corporate Rain International, sent me last week authored by an entrepreneur named Greg Peters from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Greg is the founder of The Reluctant Networker and he sets out some rules for networking in terms of law enforcement. His clever article is entitled Don’t Violate These Networking Laws and in it he lists some “misdemeanor” tickets he would give to misguided networkers.

Parking Ticket. This would be issued to anyone at a networking event who chooses to grab a seat at a table without first completing their networking goals. This is a relatively minor offense, but if you get too many of them your networking license can be revoked.

Speeding. Anyone who tried to ask for some benefit which exceeded the relationship that they had established so far would be in danger of receiving one of these bad boys.  The most egregious offenders would be the folks who ask for a high-level referral five minutes after meeting someone.

Passing in a No Passing Zone. Handing out your card when the other person didn’t specifically ask for it is another of those minor offenses that the networking police are watching for.

Not coming to a complete stop. The social butterflies (or social  climbers) who are always looking for someone better to talk to (or be seen talking to) collect the largest number of these citations. Part of the networking officers’ training is to watch for the tell-tale “looking over the other person’s shoulder” which usually indicates an infraction in progress.

Networking while trying to influence. NWI’s are the nice way of saying that instead of networking and trying to establish new long-term relationships, the perpetrator in question was trying to sell. This is definitely one of the more serious violations.

Illegal “You” turn. The networker who earns this ticket has a problem. They only want to talk about themselves. Whenever the conversation drifts to the other person, they try to turn the “you” back into “me.” Violators of this particular statute soon discover that they are alone on the road since no one can hang around for long with the conversational whiplash their networking can cause.

Thank you, Greg Peters.

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