Building Professional Connections: No Riding of Coattails Allowed!

“We need to get together and discuss how I can get involved in your networking circle.”

Awhile back, someone posted this comment on one of my social media platforms in response to a photo that I shared of me with some colleagues at a networking event. While some people might have meant that in jest. I know this person did not.

There’s so much wrong with his statement…I’d call it a request, but really it wasn’t. He didn’t ask. He told me what we need to do so he can further his business in the local community.

Connecting in the local professional community – No riding of coattails allowed!

When building a network of professional connections to grow a business, there is no “we” where responsibility for reaching out and nurturing relationships is concerned. Yes, it’s fine to leverage existing connections and occasionally ask for introductions to people who you might have some synergy with.  (As professionals, it’s professional courtesy – and the right thing to do – to graciously introduce connections whenever appropriate), but it’s wrong to expect others to do all the work for you.  To anyone who hasn’t shown the initiative or effort to make inroads on their own in their community…get off our coattails!

There are no shortcuts for building meaningful business relationships.

Building relationships and awareness in the local community takes hard work, continuous effort, and a consistent presence. Sometimes you even have to dole out some cash to join groups and pay registration fees for events. Why would you share the fruits of your investment with anyone who is obviously looking for free ride and has nothing to offer in reciprocation?

While helping others professionally is admirable and often mutually beneficial, giving a pass to people who are too lazy to build relationships on their own could damage your reputation rather than strengthen it. If they’re that self-focused with you, you can bet they’ll be equally as self-serving with the people you connect them with. By introducing them, you might be misunderstood as endorsing them. And that could put your professional credibility at risk.

Back to the incident that prompted me to write this post…

I did respond graciously to his request. I didn’t offer to sit down to talk with him, but I did share what I believe are some helpful bits of insight to get him thinking about  how he might start to forge relationships on his own…

  • I listed the networking organizations  in our area for which I’ve paid to be member so he can consider them for his own business development – and so he would understand that networks don’t grow by accident. You have to put yourself where the people you want to connect with are.
  • I explained how important my ongoing and consistent use of social media has been for nurturing relationships and expanding my network.
  • I told  him there’s no secret formula. It takes getting involved and putting in time and effort. You get out of it what you put into it.

Hopefully it has made him think about what he (not we) needs to do to start making connections and building trust within the community.

If I seem a bit territorial about my network, it’s because I am. You should be, too. We’ve worked hard to start – and maintain- our networks of connections. Why should we feel obligated to help someone with a strong sense of entitlement but a weak desire to pay their dues? I’ll always be willing to give other professionals a hand up…but a handout is out of the question.

 

By Dawn Mentzer – Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post.

 

 

3 Reasons Far-Reaching Solopreneurs Should Hold Fast to Local Roots

Business technology is beautiful! It enables us to expand our reach far and wide as solopreneurs. We can network, Face-to-face networkingcommunicate, collaborate and complete projects across the cloud – and across the world – without ever talking on the phone or meeting in person. Without a doubt, we’re faster and more efficient than ever before.

But that doesn’t mean local relationships aren’t necessary to solo-professionals.

As unlimited as your potential may be to do business online and out of your geographical territory, building camaraderie with other professionals in your own back yard remains important. Even if you do the bulk of your business out of the area, strong local ties bring unique benefits.

Solopreneurial Support System

Chances are your local business community includes solopreneurs of all varieties who deal with the same challenges and issues that you do. Many of them are probably ready and willing to offer their insight over a cup of coffee to help you overcome the obstacles that they’ve encountered and persevered over. Nothing trumps advice from someone who has walked the walk and beaten the odds.

Targeted Referrals
Getting to know nearby professionals face to face allows the opportunity for you to establish trust more quickly and easily than you might be able to online or over the phone. When people take the time to meet you in person, they’re showing genuine interest in learning about you and what you offer – and that can increase the odds of you getting meaningful referrals. Just remember to be equally engaged in listening about the other person’s business, products and services so you can reciprocate by giving targeted referrals in return.

Sense of Belonging

Though the majority of your work might be untethered to a single space, having professional roots provides stability and identity. Being an active participant in your local business community also allows you to be involved in something larger than yourself. In short – It feels good. It’s motivating. It feels like home.

Share your thoughts! What perks have you discovered by developing relationships in your local business community? Any of you find that it hasn’t helped you very much?

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net