For the first time in 30 years, I joined a business group. I know, I know “Brad, what took you so long?” I tell you why …I am picky. Its not that I haven’t tried, it’s just that I have a low tolerance for BS and egos. So, for lack of a better word, I was looking for something that was more of a sanctuary. Especially when it comes to the tone of an organization, I have high standards.
You see, in most business groups everyone is handing out business cards, tightening their elevator speech expecting each member to hire the other. They talk at each other instead of sharing expertise and supporting new leads.
Usually at these business-networking organizations it is a one-way conversation. Each member pretending to care about the group but the bottom line is “what can I get from the organization today?” This is why many who join these types of organizations quit after a year stating that it never really helped.
And on another note, I have moved around too much to be a Rotarian, Lions Club or Kiwanis member.
But what was even more amazing to me was Barry worked tirelessly to help me get to the right contacts…and he asked for nothing in return. Every time I helped him with his own sales pitch, he helped me. In New York City, this is unheard of, especially when there is no money involved. And I began to notice a pattern: Barry is a giver, not taker.
Eventually Barry and my friend Tim who introduced us, shared their secret…they belong to one of the best business organizations I have ever seen: Clients For Life/Total Network Consulting (or CFL for short). Led by Bruce Libman my first early breakfast meeting was so intense I left with 4 pages of notes. Each meeting was at 7:45 AM with a guest speaker— and finished up around 10:30 AM. We were encouraged to ask for advice and help from the group. Everything was out in the open and members were asked to look to the membership for help. We shared our business wins for the month and appreciation for the connections made.
The key difference I was to discover, was that CFL is a relationship-based - not a leads-based - networking organization.
Their philosophy is simple: help others and the members first! Form business relationships that are supportive. Meet outside of the group. Give solid critique. Meet in groups of threes and look for synergy. Offer your services within reason to the group for free. Charge when you must. Fire clients that are not supporting your dream. Tell everyone about the group, and support a new way of building business.
Exciting huh? It took me 30 years to find a group like this…one that REALLY worked with developing each member from the ground up. CFL is that organization.
You might be thinking “Well let’s wait and see Brad…if you get business let us know.” And here is the scoop so far, I have! BEFORE I joined, I was asked to give 7 presentations over a one-month period to each regional CFL group. This exposed me to HUNDREDS of contacts who need my services. I collected so many business cards I had to buy a 3 ring binder for them. It also helped me practice my speech and get my book Liquid Leadership into the hands of people who could create a buzz. In other words, exposure.
Meanwhile unbeknownst to me, Barry, also a member of CFL, was promoting me to his clients. Barry develops high-end office environments and is a reseller of Steelcase products. After finishing one of the largest installations of his career, he decided the environment would be a GREAT place to have an event that would be seen as a giant thank you to his clients, and potential clients. This event would center around an hour presentation explaining WHY such collaborative spaces are important in today’s business environments, and how young people flourish in these types of work spaces.
Little did I know, Barry was to make me the center of this event—The Keynote speaker at MasterCard Worldwide!
This is a powerful business strategy and a necessity in the 21st Century. Give versus Get. The Power of Success these days comes from the QUALITY of your network!
From Liquid Leadership, page 83…
“A revolution is happening. Not a physical revolution with guns ablaze, but one in which the battleground is our entire way of living, working, and playing. I am talking about something that has been forgotten for a few millennia and is now being reintroduced—the very human and quite disruptive side of the business paradigm is being included in the sales cycle. People at every level are starting to realize that for business to get done, you have to get connected with as many people as possible in as many strategically chosen networks as possible. This need has created a socialized business environment where people are treating their careers as an integrated part of their lives, not a separate thing they do just for money. Technology allows us to tap into networks that at one time were hidden and obscure. Leisure time is no longer without purpose or intention, as technology extends our reach and creates a borderless, dynamic lifestyle.”
So how do you create your own Business Network Group?
In order to be affective these days it is important to accept only those individuals that meet your criteria or standard for membership. For years I accepted any and everyone into my network hoping something would get traction. But wouldn’t it be better to have 100 solid individuals than 3000 people who are so-so?
Choose wisely. Make sure they are the best. CFL has a criteria that is ongoing. If you don’t meet their requirements of engagement, they ask you to leave.
2) Make Sure The Group Comes FIRST Make sure the members of your network are encouraged to support each other first. Encourage relationships outside of the networking meetings.
Take a look at my network…It took time for me to form a solid business relationship with Barry and Tim. Same with a few others in my network. I can ALWAYS count on Tony Rubleski and Dave Sheffield. At first we only knew each other through phone calls. We started to form what Napoleon Hill called a Master Mind Team. Eventually I asked Tony to write the foreword for my book and Dave to give a testimonial. Eventually Tony came to New York City and we met in person at a Book Expo. That year I spoke at his MasterMind Group and finally met Dave in person as well. Since then, we have all been bouncing ideas off each other like crazy.
All of this trust took time. Building a relationship I could count on. Through these guys I met Dave Brown, Shawn Miller, John De Limme and many others. ALL before we met in the physical world. They all GIVE first. And I look to them first for answers.
3) Support Each Other Outside The Group
One of the members of CFL introduced me to a woman who writes for Newsweek. He didn’t have to do this, but once he realized what I did, he wasted no time making sure I got exposure. He didn’t charge me a fee. We have committed to a cup of coffee to see how we can help each other in the future. No plans, just possibilities.
And isn’t that what you want at the end of the day? A great relationship that could turn into a great business connection? Look, the money WILL come once we stop perusing money and start serving others. And on that note, how can I help you? Let me know...between Clients For Life and The MindCapture organization, there isn't a problem I can't solve...because of my network.
We are at your service.
Thank you for reading,
Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia which explores the subject of new leadership styles – mainly how to get the tech-savvy Generation Y and analogue driven Baby Boomers working together. ISBN-13: 978-1608320554
But this is not based on management theory:
Brad is a former C-Level Internet executive who went from entrepreneur to IPO in 3 yrs – co-founding K2 Design, the very first Dot Com Agency to go public on NASDAQ. His Results Only management model was applied to the first wave of Gen Y workers producing great results– 425% profitable growth for 5 straight years and winning K2 the Arthur Andersen NY Enterprise Award for Best Practices in Fostering Innovation among his employees!
Today, through his workshops and keynotes, Brad helps Fortune 500 Companies close the Digital Divide by understanding it as a cultural divide—created by a new tech-savvy worker...and customer.
Mr. Szollose also writes a monthly column on business and marketing techniques that reach Generation Y for A Captured Mind newsletter and is part of The Mind Capture Group faculty.
* 2011 Axiom Business Book silver medal winner in the leadership
* #1 Amazon Best-Selling Author