Franchise Careers talks networking for women
Networking is about give and take. We all have something valuable to offer or know someone or have a talent that could benefit someone else. Great networkers are a conduit, a connector, a resource – someone that connects others to people, information or support.
Deborah, a corporate minx friend of mine, is a supreme networker. Ms Daly has the gift of remembering names and what people do and in her head she is able to form connections (like a spider web) of how people are connected and who should be connected. Deb takes inspiration from two fictional characters when describing her networking philosophy - you need to take the good bits of Hannibal Lector (Silence of the Lambs) and a tiny bit like Blanche Dubois (A Streetcar Named Desire).
It's not often you would think of Hannibal Lector as being a networking icon, however, when thinking of the subject, Deb likes Hannibal's quote to inspire herself...
Hannibal: "I tell you things, you tell me things... Quid pro quo. Yes or no?"
What Deb is getting at is that networking is quid pro quo –it is a two-way exchange, you get back what you put in. You need to give a little of yourself, even if you do not anticipate an immediate benefit.
Networking - really, what are we talking about? Working your network? Working the room? Networking is all about forming useful links and connections. So, for starters you need a network of people to 'work'. These people are contacts that you have met over the years, both personally and professionally - all of them with something to add to your life.
Even if you think you may not be able to help immediately or may not have the entire solution to their query, your response may just be the spark to the next idea or may make you top of mind for the next big opportunity they have.
As for Blanche Dubois, Deb believes she had the right idea with "whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Meaning, at your very next networking function just remember, a stranger is just another networking opportunity to cultivate. You never know what kindness they may offer you in the future as you might to them.
However, remember your network will define you. People will remember you by who you are connected with. The last thing we all need is to be tarred by someone's brush because we misread the situation or individual (first impressions last, remember...). So maybe let 'quality, integrity and competency' be your mantra for developing your own professional network.
Intuitively we develop a networking strategy, a sub-conscious plan on why we want to form connections with others, who we are going to approach and for what reasons. So, why do you want to network? Is it for personal or professional reasons? What are they? What do you hope to achieve by getting out there and amongst it?
For me, it was about building my own 'team', finding like-minded people who understand what I do and what I am about (and if we happen to do business at some point, then so be it). It is about finding mentors and individuals I find inspiring and who will entertain my wild notions, a group of people that I can call upon to ask 'hey, what do you reckon about this?... or 'I need your help...'
Once I figured out the tone and intention of what I wanted from my own network, I then had to go find them. Enter the Dragon. My business partner Dean, suggested I trot off to the first Women in Franchising event in 2002 – on my own. To be perfectly honest, wasn't too keen on the idea but did it anyway. I went dragging my heels knowing that I wouldn't know anyone there. I had a chance to speak to my father before the dinner and he reminded me of his networking rules and as a result, I was able to turn the evening on its head (and inadvertently created the little networking monster that I am today).
My father's rules of networking
My Dad is ace. He's been in business for a million years and it always surprises me how he always bumps into people he knows everywhere we go. He knows people and they know him. He's not egotistical about it, he is silent, unassuming. Over the years he has delivered his rules of networking (in installments, mind you...) and darling reader, here they are – the Camm rules of building a mutually rewarding network...
Networking rule #1 – What do you want to achieve?
What do you hope to gain from building a network? This is the first question – what do you want to achieve. However, this has a flip side question – so what if you don't network? You turn up to a FCA breakfast, you sit with the same old suits, same old faces, eat and leave with not once striking up a conversation with the person next to you that you have never met before. What could you be missing out on? What could they be missing out on?
Networking Rule #2 - Who do you want to meet?
There are millions of people out there, all with something to offer, as you have something to offer them. If you want to build a professional network of contacts then you would need to find the right type of professionals. But where are they?
They hang out at events, functions and conferences.
They are part of professional and membership associations.
They could be your colleagues, managers, clients, service providers or franchisees.
They might exist in online business forums, such as <www.linkedin.com> We work with people we may not necessarily entertain (or endure) on a social level, but the eternal optimist in me always aims to seek the common ground, how can we work together?
Networking Rule #3 – Know Thyself Know who you are.
Know what you stand for, what you believe in and how to clearly articulate what you do, why you do it and what you do when you are not doing it. Remember Deb's Hannibal Lector inspiration –networking is quid pro quo. You have a story, so does the other person. Listen to discover things about them. When you are talking about yourself keep it genuine (people can sniff a puffed up ego and faux-confidence a mile away). Dad's Rule #3 asks you to keep your story professional if you are aiming to develop a professional network, disclose personal stuff if you want and when the time is right and keep yourself nice. Roll on Rule #4...
Networking Rule #4 – Etiquette and Keeping Yourself Nice Women networking in a male-dominated environment can be successful and professional and it can also be like watching a car crash. What do you really want to be known for? Remember, your behaviour defines you and your network defines you. Flirting isn't networking and Dad has ingrained in me the minute you resort to flirting in the first instance to introduce yourself you've missed the point and you have forgotten what you have to offer as a professional (Rule #3).
Don't get me wrong, you can still have fun once you've figured out what you're comfortable with and what will be deemed appropriate professional behaviour in the context you're currently swinging in (pardon the pun).
I've got it wrong (boy, have it got it wrong...!), but I am fortunate to have a forgiving network of nearest and dearest. That's the beauty of having a network – they can tell you to pull your head in when you are dangerously close to busting Dad's Networking Rule #4.
Networking Rule #5 – Maintain Your Network
You need to look after your contacts. Don't stalk them or spam them. I like to personalise any correspondence I have with them. A follow up email thanking them for the chat or to drop a line to tell someone what a great article they wrote (hint, hint...) is far more powerful than being put on a database or nothing at all. On that, manners dictate you ask someone's permission to be included on your database and I certainly invite people that I have met for the first time to visit our website.
Maintaining your network is more than communication. Sometimes it's a social event, a coffee or something stronger may be in order and it pays to make time for your network. In my case, it's the only time for a social life!
Business cards are a great tool. Always treat a business card with respect. At the IFA Conference in Palm Springs this year, I had a little chat with this American man. He asked for my business card and I asked for his. He took one look at mine and promptly handed it back. Without skipping a beat, I handed his back, smiled sweetly and mentioned what a pleasure it was to meet him. I have this little habit of writing notes on a business card pleasure it was to meet him.
I have this little habit of writing notes on a business card once I have met you – nothing too sinister, just a word or two to remind me what we spoke about. Some people are gifted with photographic memory and attention to detail. I've been known to write 'great shirt', `G&T' and 'horse riding' on business cards as a trigger.
Networking Rule #6 – Know When You're Being Political
Interesting one, Dad. What he meant here is know when you are name-dropping or networking for political or power purposes. It might be wining and dining a prospect or a current client – just be conscious of what you are doing and why.
Political maneuvering is not for the timid and meek. Know when you are being a political monster and decide to play the game or don't, as there will always be someone stronger. Political power, in my book, is the ability to influence or create awareness of a problem or need and recommend a solution that someone else picks up and runs with, the ability to form links and connections and having someone recommend you because you know your stuff.
And a final note on cracking the boy club code... Who says you need to behave like a bloke to get things done? Corporate militant feminism died out with shoulder pads and I much prefer the more feminine, confident and competent air of women in franchising that exists at the moment. Look, if you want to tackle the boys club, go for it – same rules apply: know why, who you want to target and how Networking is rewarding. Remember some of these golden rules of who you are, why you network and how.
Don't forget Dad, Deb, Hannibal Lector and Blanche Dubois. Don't miss out on opportunities to add more meaningful contacts to your team. Remember to equally give to your network as a woman never lives on 'take' alone (and it can be very lonely if you do...)
Take a risk, enjoy the stretch, be a good networker and a networkee... and if all else fails, come and find me and we'll have a chat.
This article appears courtesy of Franchise Careers .
See the running a franchise and buying a franchise pages for additional information.
FC Business Solutions News
FC Business Solutions named FCA's number one supplier
11/10/2012 - The Franchise Council of Australia voted FC Business Solutions ...
How to boost your franchisee performance? MPR Group to demonstrate Virtual Franchise Support Manager
18/09/2012 - Join Russell Sharp and Marc Peskett of MPR Group for breakfast ...
Exciting new workshop: Leadership Fundamentals
10/09/2012 - FC Business Solutions will be holding an energetic and thought-provoking ...
FC Business Solutions crowns Franchise Woman of the Year 2012
23/08/2012 - FC Business Solutions names this years Franchise Woman of the ...
Tasty Trucks celebrates new Vanchise launch
13/06/2012 - Tasty Trucks celebrated earlier this month when they unveiled ...
Support staff recruitment numbers up, reports FC Business Solutions
29/11/2011 - Executive Recruitment GM for FC Business Solutions, Michael ...
Contact FC Business Solutions
Tel: 03 9533 0028
Fax: 03 8640 0413