Posted by Leonard Knight | Posted in Entrepreneurs of Knoxville | Posted on 24-04-2014

Networking People

Lots of people networking

I learned something today and would like to share with you.

I’ve always been eminently opposed to the idea of “networking”.  I’ve always associated networking with “fake” or a “false sense of value”.  You’re forcing a relationship…just doesn’t feel right.

BUT…members of EOK keep saying this is the best “networking” organization they’ve ever experienced.  So, I say…hmmmm…maybe networking isn’t a bad thing.  Maybe there is a right way to network.  For EOK, it happens VERY organically and over a long period of time.  You meet someone, you see them again at a pub night, you see them at a crowdsourcing event and hear some of their ideas, then you see them at a member spotlight.  All of the sudden, they become a real person with great ideas and an interesting story.  And you think…this is someone I’d like to spend more time with and perhaps do business with.  The RIGHT way to network.

So, as you might guess, I’ve always been opposed to referring to EOK as a networking organization.  It just makes my skin crawl when I hear “EOK” and “Networking Organization” in the same sentence.  Mainly, due the to the fact that I’ve attended many “Networking Organization” meetings over the years.  Chamber events, BNI, REO, etc. and have always thought it just felt forced and a little useless.  I launched my first company back in 1995…I have worked my whole life but launched a real business in 1995.  None of these meetings, events, or other “networking” did me any good…or…did it.  Everyone who meets me comments about how outgoing I am and how I seem to know everyone.  It seems that through my opposition to “networking” for the sake of networking, I’ve been doing something right.  I’ve spent time getting to know a lot of people.  I’ve also learned to listen a little more.  I’ve been networking my entire life…I just didn’t know it.  I network at my kid’s sports, my Church, my Rotary club, and even EOK meetings and events.

I’ve learned a few things over the years and want to share them with you.

  1. Listen more than you talk (you’ll learn a lot more about the other person)
  2. Care about what the other person is saying (Seriously, this helps)
  3. Be the conduit (Connect the people you just met to people you know)

So, LISTEN, LEARN, CONNECT…that’s my advice for events, parties, church, civic clubs, etc.

Another aspect of speaking to new or existing contacts; Speak in terms of benefits to them and their clients.  You know…bring value to the conversation.  So, when you’re not listening…and the other person has just asked your opinion on something or for your input, share something valuable with them.  Give away as much as you can in those next few moments.  Something they can walk away with and be better for having met you.  A tip, tool, referral, quote, etc.  I always have some software tool I’ve been experimenting with to share…just ask.  Believe me, they will remember you and seek you out at the next event.

Anyway, I started into this latest rambling in an effort to tell you I learned something today.  One of my recent startups is Neighborhood Nerds.  Yes, they’re a sponsor of EOK…that’s just how we roll.  Anyway, one of my contacts I’ve made through EOK, Dan Rawls, reached out to me about a week ago.  Dan, if you didn’t know, is the Executive Director of BNI TN.  I have always respected Dan but have never seriously considered joining a BNI chapter…until now.

Dan had never strong armed me or given me much of a sales pitch for BNI.  He sings its praises if you ask but NEVER pushes it.  Dan said BNI was starting a new chapter in Bearden and thought Neighborhood Nerds would be a great fit.  He quickly explained BNI at a high level.  Since I do respect Dan, I agreed to attend this first meeting.  To my surprise, I very much enjoyed the meeting and learned a great deal about how BNI isn’t “fake” or “forced”.  Their vetting process is serious.  You don’t get in unless you’re good and you’re going to play by the rules.  Also, they are intent on you getting to know your fellow BNI members.  They do this through “One-to-One” meetings.

So, Neighborhood Nerds is completely onboard with joining BNI and we’re VERY excited about this new chapter!  If you’ve looked at these organizations in a negative light like me but want to try again, let me know…maybe this new chapter is just what you’re looking for?

You know…I may even go to a Chamber event sometime…maybe I have them all wrong.