Career 10 October 2016
A few things you need to get straight in your business (and head) about networking, it’s a process. Like any other process, you need to have an action plan with goals of your outcome. Below are a few things you should do to start networking effectively.
Know the Basics of What You Need
Seems a little silly to say, but you need to know what your needs are before networking. Yes, everyone needs to make sales and gain new contacts, what I am speaking of are the needs within your business. What services or products do you or your business need to perform better? Are you currently looking for a new graphic designer or need another payment processing solution? Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations when attending events, the purpose of networking is to get help and be a help to others as well.
Also, do you have a Strategic Partner? If you are looking for one, begin by thinking about what products or services would complement yours.
For example, a Personal Trainer and a Distributor for a wellness product would be great partners, they are going after the same type of client, but not offering competing services. This process will help maximize your time and efforts while attending events.
You should also be prepared to explain what you are looking for in a potential client or customer. I know what you’re thinking, you know what you are looking for, but make sure it’s easy enough for everyone else. I like to ask myself a question about my prospects. What situations are people or businesses in that make them an ideal client for me? Are they suffering from high turnover in their sales department? Are they closing a branch office or relocating? Whatever circumstances make for an ideal client, be prepared to describe it to others. Make the task of finding leads and referrals for you as easy as possible.
Finding the Right Events
The next step is to start looking for the right events to attend to maximize your time. There are several sites that you can check out to see what events are coming up in your area. A great place to start is your local chamber, if you are looking for more specialized events, you can also try Meetup. If your ideal client is a woman business owner, then try to target women’s events that are hosted at lunch or after hours.
You may see some results at a Golf or charity event, but keep the picture of your ideal client in mind. Ask yourself, would they be attending this event, if the answer is no or not sure, then move on.
Treat it Like a Sales Appointment
When you schedule time to network, it’s a great idea to set a goal of attending a certain number of events per week or per month. When you find events to attend, be sure to treat them like sales appointments, don’t skip out or reschedule them. Like any sales activities, don’t let it overwhelm your calendar, attend an amount of events that you are comfortable with, being consistent is key.
Have a Number in Mind
Have a number in mind each month, not your sales goal, but a networking goal. You will continue to build those relationships with the connections you meet, but you should have a goal in mind. Whether its meeting a certain number of people a month or attending five to ten events a month, stay consistent in your efforts as it will eventually pay off in your business.
3 Min Read
"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.
Find A Need And Fill It
I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.
I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.
Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.
Have Working Capital And Credit
There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.
I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.
Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.
My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.
Know Your Product Thoroughly
I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?
My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.
My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.
Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!
More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.
Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth
I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.
I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.
Delegate From The Bottom Up
I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.
In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.