In the end, my search to understand this thing called networking brought me to a point at which I never would have seen – developing a peer-to-peer business development and networking group called IGNITE. Below are some of the networking tips I’ve learned over the past 12 years and I hope they serve you well and lessen your networking learning curve:
n business it’s rare to discuss character. It’s not tangible. It holds no cash value. It plays no part in budgetary meetings. It’s not bantered around at board meetings when discussing clients and suppliers. It’s not sexy like “scaling” the business. It’s not looked for in job interviews. It’s just not there – anymore. Character used to be a foundation of business. It’s the reason business was done with a handshake and not a twenty page operating agreement. Being a native Texan, it’s the reason Texans wanted to know you and your family before doing business with you. Character used to be a reigning principle of business.
Here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way being in partnerships (some will sound rudimentary; but, how often do we as entrepreneurs forget the simple things) and how to tell when not to enter into a partnership or when the partnership has turned toxic. Hopefully, you can glean some nuggets of value from my past experiences (this list is in no particular order).
Every business has cycles. Since I have been in the business world (from way back in 1995), I’ve seen numerous cycles run through numerous industries. The industry I was heavily involved in, real estate, took a major hit in 2006 – 2007 with the real estate meltdown. Like many, I was involved in the dot-com bubble in 2000 – 2002, when dot-coms littered the barren stock market landscape. I watched the web hosting industry meltdown in 2008 – 2010. Now I’m watching as we are in the midst of the large ad / marketing agency meltdown.
Just the other day I had someone ask if I had a vision board. It got me thinking – wow, have we really cycled back around to late 70’s early 80’s motivational tactics? Don’t get me wrong, I get the power of a vision board; but, is it really powerful without knowing your “why?” I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a vision board. Not that I have no vision, it’s just that the vision I have is something that doesn’t pin up nice and neat on a cork board next to my iMac.
Yesterday I had an amazing blessing. To think that a young man about to turn 30 would come to my home office to ask for guidance was both humbling and scary. He is not your “average Joe.” No, he is charismatic, smart, driven, caring and searching. He, like many of us, reached the point where he was searching for deeper meaning in his business life; he was teetering on the moment when he was going to determine his true career path – corporate life or entrepreneur. He has all the potential to be an amazing entrepreneur and I know he will be.
As a Dad who works from home, I sometimes have the opportunity of my seven year old daughter, Faith, being at home while I am working. The other day she made an observation that hit me deep “Dad, you don’t smile as much when you’re working.” It got me thinking that evening – what would business be like through the eyes of a seven year old. I thought back over the past three years on situations I have dealt with as an entrepreneur that closely mirrored those that Faith has dealt with at school. I came to the following conclusions:
There Frank Lopo and I were at Einsteins over a bagel and orange juice having a fantastic business philosophy conversation when we reached a topic many entrepreneurs find difficult to discuss. Both Frank and I agreed, it’s one of the hardest pills to swallow as a business owner – letting go to move on.
I have had the great blessing to work with a number of nonprofits since starting Xpleo in 2006. Some have flourished and grown immensely, always keeping in their hearts their mission, the community they serve and the donors, sponsors and supporters (their “base”) that are the lifeblood of their organizations. These are what I like to call high grateful index organizations (or high grateful index nonprofits). To give you a quick visual reference, I created the “Grateful Index” at the bottom of this post (please finish reading before scrolling to the bottom).
I heard someone in passing the other day talking about someone else’s “rookie mistake.” The more I thought on this concept, the more I realized a rookie mistake is pretty close to an oxymoron. To be a rookie, a person doesn’t know any better as to what will work in a situation and what will not. To make a mistake implies that a person has faced a situation previously and failed. Rookies don’t make rookie mistakes, they make “rookie learning experiences.” The fear of “rookie mistakes” is the reason so many people never leave the bench to take their first at bat.