I love quotes both on a business and personal scale. I have random quotes hanging all over my office and I often find myself referring to them and making it a goal for that week to do what the goal says. So, my life and business quote for many months after I moved to Michigan and started a new business was from Eleanor Roosevelt “Do one thing that scares you every day!” I took this quote to heart when I started building my dream portfolio.
I moved to Michigan with my husband Quentin just over 2 years ago now. We decided we were ready for a career change and a location change. We were ready to jump out of the nest and spread our wings. So, as I have talked about in some of my other blogs, we sold everything, quit our jobs and moved to Michigan. A state we had never even visited and knew no one here. It was an adventure, Quentin and I for the first time ever would be completely away from family and friends. All of our Kansas people thought we were crazy and would be back in a matter of months. To this day I cannot tell you why but it just felt right. I wasn’t terrified or even really worried that it all wouldn’t work out. I was just ready to start the adventure.
With the move came a new business that I was starting from scratch. I had done some sale for the landscape company and had some of those skills, but I always worked off of referrals from people who knew me. This new location was going to be a challenge. I was building it from scratch. So, the first day in my new home office I sat down with a blank pad of paper and a pen. I was going to write down goals on how I was going to get my name and the Davidson Promotional name out there to the Michigan masses. An hour later I was still sitting in front of a blank pad of paper with my pen……this was going to be harder than I thought. I was going to have to network, something I had never done before. Where was I going to find people to meet?
- Meet up:
For those who are not familiar with this internet sensation let me enlighten you. Meetup.com is a place where you can type in any activity, network, person you would like to meet and it will give you a breakdown of what groups are available and when their activities are. I typed in Business networking and a whole bunch of groups came up. I started working my way from the closest to me out to the downtown Detroit area. I found some great women business owners groups that I am still involved in. I also found some really bad groups where people just shoved business cards at you and walked away. Apparently, the networking game was a numbers game to them, if I shove 35 business cards into people’s hands surely one will call me…. right? ugh, no!!!
- Networking after work:
This is another national group that has local to you networking events. It can be a big crowd or a small crowd depending on your area. You get to meet quite a few people going to one of these. There are cocktails which can help with the freak out of meeting a ton of new people. They can be awkward with trying to have meaningful conversations with people. I have found the best way to work one of these is to look at the nametags around the room and pick a couple of people you want to have coffee with and meet them. Talk for a bit and offer to have coffee. Most people will take you up on that offer, they are trying to grow their business as well.
- Chambers and Associations:
Chambers and local business associations are a great place to meet new people. I joined our local chambers and went to all the events. I made time to go to ribbon cuttings, breakfasts, lunch and learns and many more. Some of the smallest events were where I got my best leads to new people. Supporting a local chamber can get you a new network. The chamber wants your business to succeed, you doing well brings money into the community. Don’t be afraid to ask the chamber office staff what the best activities would be to meet your ideal clients.
Find a local association for the businesses that you work with. I can work with pretty much anyone so I have tried quite a few associations. You just need to find one that fits. We have a great builder and remodeler’s association as well as an apartment association. Figure out your ideal clients and where they hang out. There are a ton of women in business associations as well that are geared to helping women entrepreneurs. Being a woman, I find that networking with women can be a little less daunting.
- Coffee with new people:
Remember you are not just networking with that person you are networking with their network. They may not do business with you but someone they know may be a great potential client. I try to have coffee with the people that I like when I am networking with them. The key to having coffee with someone is to actually listen to what their business does and try to make a connection for them. You would be amazed how many connections someone will have that they can introduce you to even if they would never be your customer. Help them and they will help you!
- Community Volunteer:
I knew I wanted to be able to have the time to volunteer and be involved in my community when we moved here. I didn’t have a lot of extra time off work when I was in Kansas and wanted to give back to the community I lived in. I am lucky that my new career allows time for volunteering. You never know who you are going to meet being a volunteer and who they can connect you to. I was volunteering at a local car show and was helping one of the vendors put up his booth tent. We got to talking and I found out he was the new owner of a smoothie place in downtown. As the day went on we chatted back and forth and started talking work and I got a great order for some shirts and magnets just from a conversation. I also got a customer for life because we are friends now after a day in the community. I am scheduled to volunteer at a smoke and jazz festival beer tent in the near future, wonder who I will meet there???
Use these tips and get out there! No one is going to talk about your business if you are not talking about your business. Networking is scary for all of us, but like Eleanor says do something that scares you every day! Even now almost two years later I still get butterflies when I walk in the door, luckily, I put in the work and I usually know one or two people in the room! My best advice is just be yourself, don’t worry about what people think of you and most of all be genuine. People can tell when you are not genuine and it is a real business turn off. Now get out there and network!
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