Friday, February 8, 2008

Networking Is Important


Now, I've heard about this networking for years and just thought it was only for those professional type people. I have a store and wholesale business and just didn't feel like it was important for me to make the time to attend any of these events. Plus, when you are a small business you are wearing way too many hats and the networking hat just didn't seem to fit.

Today I've totally changed my mind. How this happened was I had a Valentine's Party at my store. The reason was to sell product, and I wanted it to be an event that those attending would have fun. Major advertising went through a Tarpon Springs chamber blitz. This is email and faxes to all the businesses in the area. Plus we sent out invites to other customers.

9 people showed up and most of them were my friends. I hate selling products to my friends. It was something I was taught not to do as a kid, but anyway, I was so disappointed. Sales were great but attendance was very poor. Now I worked very hard for this event and to have so few show up was very disappointing but I said I have to step back and take a look at this and figure out why. My fragile ego wanted to jump right in and say "no one likes you, Linda," but I knew that wasn't true. So I thought and thought and then had my 'ah ha!' moment. 

It's not that they don't like me, they don't know me. 

So with that I decided it was important to go to the networking events and form relationships with other business people.

The first event coming up was a Tarpon Springs Chamber event that's called Coffee With Class. It's held at the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club and breakfast is served from Panera Bread. So I was determined to go and start meeting and getting to know other business people from the area. 

The one thing that I hate at these events is the 30 second elevator speech. For 30 seconds all eyes are on you and you speak about your business and who you are. Usually as I start to speak my brain goes dead, I'm frantic in my head searching for where all of my thoughts went. The best is the red face that always happens when attention is on me. I feel the blood slowly rising up my neck and reaching my chin area then my cheeks then all the way up to the forhead. An Italian, 58 year old woman isn't pretty with a beet red face. All this is going on as I'm searching for those words that decided to hide from me.

Sometimes you just have to do things outside your comfort zone. This is one of them.

So off I went and did my little elevator speech, mine was probably 20 seconds long, that's how long I've determined the blood takes to get to the top of the head.

But success was achieved

One meeting and I met two woman who want to introduce my products into their spa.

One meeting and a sale at the store.

One meeting and another wholesale customer.

If you have a store, you just might feel like I did, that networking isn't an avenue for you. Let me now, after my revelation, say 'uh uh,' because it is. 

First off it's free!!! Free advertising for your business. The only thing it costs is your time. (I know that's valuable) 

If you have a gift shop, think of all the people you meet that need to buy gifts and when the time comes for that gift, after developing a relationship with you, they'll think of your store, plus they'll recommend your store to others.

Now on the otherside of this is meeting people who you develop relationships with who can be of service to you. I know I'd much rather do business with people who I know and trust.

There is a new business that opened up in Tarpon called Liberty Tax. 

The owner and the employees are all high energy full-of-life people. For the grand opening they were standing in costumes such as the Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam on the street waving to all passers. But my reason for mentioning this is I met them at the event and they are such nice knowledgeable tax people and I would love to have my taxes done by them if I didn't already had an accountant. The next person they meet at a networking event probably won't have an accountant...

So I'm still struggling with the going out and meeting people through networking but I'll just keep on stretching my comfort zone and doing it. I'll report back later on my experiences.

Standing still is boring. I just have to keep on growing.

Linda Nigro