Networking Skills

By Dayn Benson, founder of ExcluServe, Inc.

NetworkingIn July of 2001 I opened my first construction business. Then the terrorist attacks happened. The country and the American consumer changed their spending habits immediately. It wasn’t the best time to start a business. Tens of thousands of MY dollars in advertising had fallen on deaf ears or ended up in a trash can. I needed to find another way to build my business.

I was in the handyman business. My average ticket was $350. I needed a lot of volume to attain my financial goals. I started knocking on doors, going to chamber meetings, and creating a local brand for my business. That’s how I fell into networking. By the grace of God and the people around me I was able to survive the recession and grow to 13 trucks on the road before selling the business in 2007.

This article will focus on simple tactical actions that you can implement for your appliance repair business. The point of building a local brand is to create resale value and current income for your business. When I talk about value, I’m speaking specifically about exit strategies that determine how much you can sell your business for when the time comes.

Who is in your network, and why do you engage with them?

  “I don’t skate to where the puck is, but to where it is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky

Who you surround yourself with will play a huge role in determining the success that you and your business will have. A well-networked person will see trends before the market does. He will be able to position his business proactively rather than reactively and he won’t be caught off guard when the market changes. Strategically aligning with competitors, vendors, clients, suppliers, and other industry experts will give you the information that you need to make world-class decisions.

In the appliance repair world, the best place to surround yourself with industry leaders is at the annual ASTI convention. At this meeting you will rub elbows with 500 colleagues from around the world, as well as with dozens of vendors and other industry experts who want to see your business grow.

There are three relationship circles in everyone’s life:

1.       The life circle – comprises your family and long-term friends.

2.       The social circle – comprises people you see at least monthly; includes church, clubs, chambers of commerce, networking groups, and online affiliations.

3.       The work circle – comprises colleagues, vendors, competitors, employees, clients, and association members.

How can you network effectively?

The most important part of networking effectively is knowing what you do and why you do it. Many people call this a 30 second commercial. A well delivered commercial will tell a new acquaintance, as well as an old friend, what you do and why you do it in a way that impacts them. The part that is often left out of these commercials is the sentence that discusses WHY you are in business. Don’t make this mistake. It’s the most important part of your introduction.

Here are other suggestions that will help you be a better networker:

  • Be curious. People want to be appreciated. Learn to be a pro at asking questions.
  • Be prepared. Keep a supply of marketing material with you at all times. Always be ready to tell a story about your business – the more unusual and memorable the better.
  • Add variety. Go to many different types of events, and don’t just spend time with people you know. Make a point to meet new people and learn about them.
  • Determine who the centers of influence are in an organization. Typically one or two people in any group will be the most influential. Those are the people who you want to know first.
  • Be engaged. Many meetings take place early in the morning or late at night when our energy is drained. Be an actor and bring energy into the room.
  • Prioritize your meetings. Make sure that the most important meetings don’t take a back seat to lesser meetings. Mark your calendar to attend the ASTI and the regional meetings every year.
  • Develop an inner circle. I’ve heard it said that your five closest friends define you.

Whether you’re just starting out in business or looking to transition your business to the next generation, your local brand and reputation will determine the level of success that you are able to achieve. Networking is a significant strategy to help you achieve the brand awareness and the reputation needed to reach your goals.

Dayn Benson is the founder of ExcluServe, a business growth consulting firm, and development partner at Right Now Marketing. He can be reached at dayn.benson@gmail.com or at 734-353-0083.

 

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