Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Branded Networking

"There are two types of people - those who come into a room and say, 'Well, here I am,' and those who come in and say, 'Ah, there you are”

What ranks as the undisputed, most under-appreciated and under-utilized business and career-building skill?

Could it be the skill that allowed Mary to help her son and his flaky friends transform a fledgling company from a small player in the Pacific Northwest into a global mega-corporation that touches us each day?

Mary was the kind of woman who thought nothing of jumping in to help worthwhile causes. She took on volunteer roles with the Children's Hospital Foundation, the Seattle Symphony, the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and many other nonprofit organizations. In the mid-seventies, she became the first woman to serve as president of the United Way of King County, working her way up to the national board before becoming the first woman to lead the United Way of America. While she served on that executive committee, Mary struck up a friendship with a powerful CEO, who happened to mention one day his company was shopping for a vendor’ specifically one that could provide an operating system to power its first personal computer.

And that’s how the introduction was arranged for Mary’s 24-year old boy, to meet the powers-that-be at IBM. A few weeks later, IBM took a chance by hiring Bill’s company to supply MS-DOS, a boost that eventually made his form the world's largest software company for personal computers.

Business historians agree, the IBM deal is what launched Microsoft into the corporate stratosphere, which transpired to a large degree, from the genuine, focused-on-others networking skills displayed by Bill's mom, Mary Gates. It wasn't a blockbuster ad campaign or a fancy schmancy brochure that helped Bill get his foot in the IBM door.

Or should we say Window?

Typically, a referral generates 80% more results than a cold call while about 75% of people get their jobs through networking. However, this subject hardly warrants a mention in most books about business leadership or sales development. MBA courses barely touch this topic with a 39-and-a-half foot pole. Today, many companies and careers sputter and stall by failing to plug into connectors and rainmakers like Mary, who build and maintain relationships, vital to business and professional success.

Is it because networking gets a bad rap?

Could it be some folks confuse networking with:

a) Schmoozing?
b) Pitching products or services?
c) Canned "infomercials"?
d) Hunting down leads?
e) All of the above?

Although Mary has since passed on, she exemplified this clarifying definition of networking which is:

“Discovering what you can do for someone else to build meaningful, long-term business and social connections”

Has the practice of networking changed since Mary’s heyday?

Yes and no.

It may come as no surprise that people still like to do business with people they like, know and trust, however, the methods used to build and nurture those key relationships has changed dramatically. Now, more than ever, effective networking requires an element of “branding” for anyone serious about capitalizing on Word-of-Mouth … and Word-of-Mouse. Think of it as two business disciplines – networking and branding – converging as one.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet “The Branded Networker”.

And few personify this concept better these days than Jeffrey.

Long ago, Jeffrey built an award-winning, hall-of-fame career based on what Mary Gates demonstrated decades ago. In other words, he discovered what he could do for someone else to build meaningful, long-term business and social connections.

And Jeffrey Gitomer is still doing it today.

But, differently.

Jeffrey Gitomer has written one of the better reads about business networking, entitled "The Little Black Book of Connections".

Here are some of the highlights.

1. Are you the Tortoise or the Hare?
The science and sport of networking is not for the fast-buck, impatient entrepreneur or salesperson. If that’s you don’t even bother discovering Gitomer’s Little Black Book of Connections.

2. The Rule of the MORE!
The more people are attracted to you, the more solid connections you will make. But why would anyone be attracted to you? What have you done for your most powerful connections lately? Or are these the people you call on just to suck their blood every once in a while?

3. Be Genuine
Take a sincere interest in another person first. Learn about them. Don’t just qualify them. In other words, ditch your own agenda. Focus on connecting not extracting.

4. Who and What is on This Year’s List?
The only difference between where you are right now and where you will be next year at the same time are the people you meet and the books you are going to read. So who do you absolutely have to make a connection with over the next 12 months and which books jump to the top of your must-read list?

5. Confidence is a Self-Inflicted Quality
Biggest barrier in your fear of making connections with someone new is your mental state. Fear will manifest itself in the form of procrastination. But the more we expand our comfort zones the more we increase the size of our opportunity zone.

6. Networking is NOT Optional.
You do business between 9 and 5. You build your business before and after regular business hours.

6.5 Joining Organizations is also NOT Optional
It’s an imperative if you seek to make powerful connections. Don’t just join but instead find ways to sink your teeth into a cause or a project and actively participate.

Mary Gates and Jeffrey Gitomer operate from different ends of the networking spectrum, but do share a common approach when it comes to this vital business and social skill. Both found it within themselves to begin with putting other people first, focusing their efforts on what they could do to help others along the way. Mary and Jeffrey were not only joiners - they were doers.

Even though she passed on in 1994, many still reap the benefits of what Mary brought to the networking table.

To honor his late mother, a grateful son ponied up $10 million to get the endowment program started at the University of Washington, and help hundreds of others pursue their dreams.

Cynics and skeptics can say what they want.

But, I have a hunch Bill just wanted to do something meaningful.

“Your mother taught you everything you need to know about connecting before you were 10 years old: make friends, play nice, tell the truth, take a bath, do your homework”

P.S. ... "The Branded Networker" returns to the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce with a sold-out seminar scheduled for tomorrow afternoon prior to the monthly "Business After Five" mixer.


Elder GEEK said...

Really good story about Bill Gates introduction to IBM. For the sake of correctness.... the product they contracted for was PC-DOS. Bill Gates was a shrewd negotiator in this instance having convinced IBM to sign off on allowing them to concurrently publish their own version called MS-DOS. I wonder if Mom had anything to do with that?

Mike Shanks PSP said...

You just keep hitting the nail on the head. I was honoured to be a panelist in a Global Entrepreneur Week event in TO and was asked to discuss my thoughts on Networking. A quote was picked up in the live blog feed that really gets down to the nitty gritty of my philosophy of Networking.
"If I'm not able to help someone out with their business when I meet them then I haven't truly networked"

Gair Maxwell said...

Thanks for the feedback and some interesting observations ...

Always great to hear from "Guys" and "Geeks"!