Every year we have dozens of built in opportunities to network. We attend our children’s school and sporting events, participate in holiday parties, workout at the gym and stop for coffee every morning at the same coffee shop. Over time we get to know dozens of people, or do we?
We’ve probably delivered the same proverbial elevator speech we’ve written and practiced over time when we’re asked what we do for a living, as have they, but we often categorize them as “personal” rather than “professional” friends.
One of the most successful business development executives in the consulting industry, who lives in a Chicago suburb, attended both his daughters’ soccer games during their high school years. During those years, he often sat next to their teammate’s father, was happened to be the CEO of a healthcare company. When the company wanted to improve their performance, he received a call from the CEO.
While working with a team on a consulting engagement for a graphics company in New York we learned the company had just been purchased by a company in Chicago. The purchasing company sent a representative to listen to our findings, we were thanked and dismissed. Two weeks later the team got a call to present to the buyers in Chicago, who happened to be someone he met at a neighborhood Christmas party.
This same man’s passion has always been airplanes. He holds a private pilot’s license, owns his own plane and is a member of multiple aerospace industry associations. About ten years ago one of his friends, also a pilot, asked him if he could put a team together to help streamline aircraft production. The team was successful and since then the preponderance of consulting engagements he’s been responsible for have been in aerospace.
His success is well earned. Ask anyone who knows him and they’ll tell you he and his wife have spent their lives giving back. When one of his former clients lost his job due to a merger, my colleague hired him immediately. He served on the board of a start-up company for a new aircraft largely used for disaster relief and quietly worked to help them secure the additional funding they needed.
His genuine interest in other people shows with everyone he meets. As a result he’s never really networking – he’s having a conversation.
Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups. Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in 2017.