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Transcript: The Culture  of Networking (EP12)

 

Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.

 

Brendan Rogers: Hello, everybody. I’m Brendan Rogers, the host of The Culture of Things podcast. And this is Episode 12.

Today, I have two guests on the show, Isaac Feeney, who’s the owner of East Gosford Websites and Marc Charette, who’s the owner of Work Pics 360.

Isaac and Marc are also my fellow co-hosts of LinkedInLocal Central Coast. We’ve actually known each other since about 2016, where we regularly attended a different networking group called Business Made Better, which morphed into what is now known as LinkedInLocal Central Coast. 

The focus of our chat today is the Culture of Networking.

Isaac, Marc. Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast.

Marc Charette: Thanks for having me.

Isaac Charette: Thanks, Brendan.

Brendan Rogers: Absolute pleasure to have you, guys. It’s very, very good to have you guys all in the same room. It’s been a while.

Marc Charette: It’s been a long time that we’ve actually shared…

Isaac Charette: Yeah, several long months.

Marc Charette: That’s right. Yeah. Distancing has been distanced. (Laughing)

Brendan Rogers: It has. It has. Not that we haven’t spoken to each other quite a lot. We’ve been, you know, always working on things together as we do but it’s just nice to have us in the same room together so guys, thanks for giving up your time today. Getting into our topic, the Culture of Networking. What is networking? Marc, how about you start? 

Marc Charette: Networking for me? I think it’s more about the opportunity of connecting with people you don’t already know and reconnecting and improving the quality of the connections with the people that you already do have a contact. They may or may not be friends. They may or may not be colleagues or a client, whatever the case may be, but they’re people that you really do want to develop a relationship with and learn more about. 

Brendan Rogers: And how about yourself Isaac, would you like to expand on that? ‘Cause when I look at the three of us, we’re all very different people and you know, we joke a bit about Marc being a bit of a networking tart. You know, he’s been involved in lots of networking groups and that’s fantastic experience mind you, not knocking any of that, but what about networking for you? What does it mean?

Isaac Feeney: It is a good question. And Marc and I are very different in that regard. I wouldn’t cope with networking at the level that Marc does, but Marc seems to just take it in his stride really well. So, I’m not really interested in networking so much to a client base as to finding just other colleagues who you can work alongside. So people in shoulder industries, even competitors at times, just to know and, you know, chew the fat and then we start to pass work around as we kind of find out, “Oh, this is the kind of job that such and such is really good at.” And I’ll be able to hand a client to them or a contact that way. 

Brendan Rogers: That’s a great point. You talk about even networking with competitors. There’s so many networking groups out there that I guess there’s that word ‘exclusive’. We’ve already got a photographer here. Sorry, Marc. You can’t join us until that photographers left. What are some thoughts around that?

Marc, I’ll throw out to you. You’ve been involved in some of those groups more so than myself and Isaac. What do you think about those things? 

Marc Charette: I understand why anybody who is in business wants to try to create sort of a moat or a, you know, some kind of a protective layer around themselves and try to keep all the business for themselves. That’s a natural reaction that I think anyone would probably have initially, especially when they’re starting out. The challenges with that though, is that generally speaking, most people don’t think in terms of the long game when it comes to developing a business. And when you start a business, you can’t be thinking, yeah, of course you have to think about survival on the short term, because otherwise you won’t be around, but on the long game, it’s more about developing relationships so that not only, and I agree with you, Isaac on it, and it’s completely true. You do need to be able to communicate effectively with competitors, but I don’t really look at anyone as a competitor per se, because short of, only basically having a small, little tiny of limited or limited pot of money to go around, then, yeah. Maybe that’s the case, but rarely is that ever the case in any market area. Even small communities, you’ll find that there’s actually a lot more money going around than you may realise. And there’s also a multiplier effect that takes place when people in the community share work and work together and not really think of each other as competitors. In fact, actually, I’ll bring up a term that I may have bandied around before.

And it comes from Edward De Bono. He’s the same fellow who wrote the book, Lateral Thinking. And one of his books is called, Sur/petition, which is essentially the idea of surpassing the idea beyond competition, because really, in a situation where competition really is working one against the other, Sur/petition is going beyond that where you’re actually not just in a constant struggle with someone else trying to get that same tender, that same job. You’re thinking more in terms of strategically of how can we actually not just help each other, but help ourselves become better at what we are. Because if you’re really thinking in terms of how good you are at your own work, then you won’t really worry about competition. You’ll be thinking about how you’re simply different because you are who you are.  

Brendan Rogers: Yeah. Look, I think it’s a great point and I’ll continue to use the word competitor because I think people can relate to that easier. But if I throw it across to Isaac, ‘cause you raise that Marc, expand on that. Like, what is it about you and your mindset that makes you feel comfortable in connecting with your competitors, so to speak?

Isaac Feeney: Well, there’s just so much work out there as I’ve been telling you and whinging to you the last few weeks. We’re just swamped. I think too, when you’re consulting, it’s often about the personality or also the skill set in a certain industry. So, one of my great colleagues has really honed his skills in working for trades. If I ever get a lead that’s related to trades, I always always ask myself, is this a better job for Sam? And being able to sort of, I guess definitely offload, I don’t mean like hospital passes, but offloading projects to a more appropriate service provider in my same industry is actually good Marketing. It stops me from being bogged down, but it also means that I’m able to share the love around. And that’s part of what networking and building trust I think really is all about.  

Brendan Rogers: If you compare our LinkedInLocal Central Coast environment and other networking events, why does LinkedInLocal Central Coast seem to work for a lot of people? The feedback we’re getting from businesses that we’re bringing businesses together, why do you think that is?  

Marc Charette: One of the things that we probably have heard most often, or at least I’ve heard from a lot of the attendees most often, they say it just feels different and that it wasn’t so scary. Those are the kinds of, you know, simple phrases that people will say that everyone felt approachable. That’s not to say that other events aren’t as friendly or as approachable, but there’s an element, whenever you are part of an organisation that has some form of closed structure about it, membership as an example, or a paid membership or a limitation as to the number of people within an industry that can participate in it. As soon as you do that is, yes, it does create a certain amount of protective environment for those who are attending but if someone new comes in, then they have to ask themselves really, you know, if this is the way it is, how does this work for me if I find that the people within this group, aren’t in fact, actually the people I would want to do business with, or that I want to connect with? Then, so, suddenly, you’re feeling like you’re kind of getting trapped in the way. No, it’s not a form of entrapment of any kind, but what it does is it creates a wall where there probably shouldn’t be one.

And I think that what we’ve been successfully able to do with LinkedInLocal Central Coast is to essentially break down that barrier and make it easy for anyone to attend, make it easy for anyone to feel comfortable, to strike up a conversation and to feel like they’re not stuck. If they want to move on to meet someone else, by all means, do so. And there’s plenty of people because as we know, our turnouts have been fabulous. So, there is no lack of opportunity for great conversation. So, I think that it’s that whole element of not making people feel closed up.

Brendan Rogers: Isaac, I’ll get you to add to that. Respectfully, you’re a different type of networker. So, what is it about the networking events you’ve been to that you like, and maybe that you also don’t like? 

Isaac Feeney: Well, I’m a sucker for breakfast. So, I do like a networking event that includes a breakfast. I like it a lot more than a lunch. I find the lunches typically just stuffy. You’re kind of stuck next to maybe one or two people. It’s, you know, you’re on a big table, but it’s just got awkwardness all through it.

The light bulb went on for me when I went along to the hub at Chatswood. Got myself there and noticed these people who weren’t looking for their own, but they weren’t looking to sell to me or, you know, maybe, “Oh, maybe this guy can be a client.” But their question to me was, “What kind of people are you looking to meet?”. That different attitude where I realised people are building their own network, not of clients, but just of trusted advocates really. That’s where I saw the difference. And whenever there’s an event that I can see at the organisational level, there’s been that at the heart of it. And LinkedInLocal, I think is that. I always liked those events better.   

Brendan Rogers: Great point you make. I like that word advocacy that you use. Marc, I’m gonna throw our next question to you. When we talk about advocacy, what does that mean to you in relation to networking? And we’ve talked a bit about sort of first level, second level.  

Marc Charette: Advocacy is an interesting word because it actually layers a number of different ideas which are very interconnected to each other. And it really is about people and people communicating with each other and trusting each other. You don’t have advocacy unless you have trust. You can’t have one without the other. It just doesn’t happen.

That’s one of those core things. I think about it more from the point of view of when someone has actually earned the trust through whether having done work with them, having seen the quality of the work, having had their clients say nice things about them on an ongoing basis, you know, you basically just don’t ever hear any bad news. Then, what happens is that it’s much easier to get that level of advocacy or also I love the term that David Meerman Scott came up with his latest book called Fanocracy. That whole idea, if you can develop fans that are prepared to actually be your cheerleaders, they’re prepared to actually tell the world about the fact that they know you, they’re honoured to actually be able to be asked sometimes, you know, who would you recommend for whatever the service might be? And that’s the first name that pops in your mind? That’s what advocacy to me is.  

Brendan Rogers: That point around advocacy. I mean, what I really liked to always have in my head and what I freely say to people is that it’s far more powerful when somebody is telling somebody else about your business and what you can do for them, and then help them as opposed to me telling them about how good I am or how good my business is. And that to me, is the power of advocacy. Diving into that a little bit. Now I’m gonna throw across to you, Isaac.

When you talk about advocacy and flowing on from Marc’s comment. To me, it’s a mindset. There’s different types of mindsets around networking. If you look at a certain mindset with networking, and maybe first level versus a mindset around advocacy. What does that look like? That certain type of mindset on a first-level networking versus the type of mindset needed for an advocacy-type of networking?

Isaac Feeney: Well, I think the first level is when you go to a networking event and you’re looking for clients and you sense that. I sense that. And my walls go up when somebody has sort of hints at, like, “Maybe we could work together” you know. And I’m like, “Well, we’re probably not going to be a good fit because I’m already getting a vibe of your short-term interests.” As opposed to meeting somebody, I mean the classic example for me, I work in web design and a lot of our work is involving a business’s domain name. Now, the other person who uses a domain name as a professional, is an IT company, using the, setting up emails and all sorts of other server records and so on.

So, meeting other IT professionals for me is great because when I can find somebody who I get along with and I trust, we get asked all the time, “Can you also do this?” “No, that’s not something we do, but I’ll tell you what. I know someone in your area who’s great at this.” So, our trust goes up, but also the ability to send somebody like one of my clients to a service provider who is not going to then take away from our work, but actually enhance it. We get on well, you know. They can call me directly and I’m just trying to troubleshoot this or whatever. And I found too, it works both ways because they then have clients. I mean, IT is the classic. Everybody thinks website and IT are the same thing. So, everybody asks their IT guy, “Can you do my website?”

So, knowing IT people and passing them work and it just naturally flows that they will give you a call and say, “I’ve got this challenge. Can you help out?”

Brendan Rogers: I want to jump back to a point that Isaac made about. He loves breakfast. To me, this is really important. Why? Because my ears prick up around those sorts of things. And there’s two things that you guys know I’m not a massive fan on around networking. One of those is not particularly breakfast, but paying exorbitant amounts to go to networking events. I’m not a fan of that at all. And the other thing is about exclusivity, which we’ve touched on. What don’t you guys like about certain networking events? 

Marc Charette: That’s an interesting one because there’s not much I don’t like about networking events. (Laughing)

Brendan Rogers: As we said, you are a networking tart.

Marc Charette: I’ll take that as a compliment. Thanks. I’m joking about it, but there’s an element of truth to that, that to me, the only time that I find that networking is not something that I enjoy is if I’m truly fish out of water, truly not in the right environment, truly not in an environment where I feel welcomed. And that’s pretty rare because if you think about the fact that the vast majority of events, regardless if they’re networking events, if it’s just a meeting, I see all of these things as networking events. I don’t really put a line in the sand between them. You know, I belong to many organisations here on the Central Coast and in every one of those cases, some of them are closed environments and they’re paid for. Yes and there’s breakfast included too. And I like the breakfast just as much too.

But to me, it’s not about necessarily that line. It’s more about the opportunity, again, based on the principles, because I tend to think more of the decisions I make in my business life and in my personal life to that degree, very much that about being principle-centred as much as possible. So, what that does is it actually, it basically unshackles me from having to think about what I like or dislike. It’s more about, do I like the people I’m with? Do I like what’s being said? And do I agree enough with them or for that matter, sometimes even challenged by them?

I’m okay with even being in an environment that is counter to my belief systems or my values, because if we don’t do that, then we can’t have effective conversations. If you’re always networking to the same people, you got to remember one of the things that’s a problem with that is that you’re speaking to the converted. You can only tell them, “Hey, you’re cool” and say, “Thank you very much” for every time they say the same thing back to you before, it’s like, “Well, that was nice. Let’s all just go home now.” And we all know that it’s like a fun, sort of a love party and that’s about all it is.

There has to be some difference in there. So, I tend to see things maybe a little bit differently, and I’m far more open-minded in that sense. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have ground rules in terms of the way that I would operate within the space of networking. But I tend to think more principle-based helps me ensure that I am applying those values that I have against the, you know, up against the environment that I’m actually in. 

Brendan Rogers: You make a great point. And I feel like I need to explain myself a little bit because the two things I mentioned. For me, a lot more of it’s about the principle to use your word is that I really don’t like when there’s a barrier to entry for people. In my experience, building a network, network building, whatever you call it is such an important part of something that can help you in life and you in business. And I see those things as barriers, that exclusivity and a fee on networking.

Isaac, I want to put you in a situation. You walk into a networking room, there’s a speaker up there and they start lining everyone up and they say, “Right, you’ve got 30 seconds to pitch your business to each person and then move along the line.” What do you reckon about that? 

Isaac Feeney: Yeah, I wouldn’t like it. It’s got nothing to do with public speaking or any fear about me presenting for 30 seconds, but I would just be bored. Respectfully, I mean, I understand that there are different ways of doing networking and that they have a place. But my taste, if the group is much more than 12 people and you’re sitting around listening to each person go through their little spiel, I’m tuning out. And the other one that I don’t enjoy so much is the ones where you are expected to turn up into sort of have-done-something-in-between times as far as a certain level of networking. Again, I think those things probably work well for some people, but I got into business to have more flexibility and more autonomy over my time. So, anything like that, that’s locked in my calendar for, you know, the whole year ahead. I’m very resistant and I’m not really interested.  

Brendan Rogers: Isaac touched on it. Marc, I’ll chuck over to you as well. Why do you think it is important to build a network?

Marc Charette: I actually think that it’s probably the only thing that’s important practically in many respects, because if you don’t have a network who you’re selling to, I have a network of clients. I have a network of prospects. I have a network of friends. I have a network of work colleagues. I have a network of industry colleagues. I see it as very much that whole thing of building a network to me is the core way in which we communicate. It’s essentially the second or the formality of meeting people. If you take away that and you look at it as every one of the networking events is just a large quantity of opportunities for having a large quantity of conversations and then you pick through them, even those people who go to networking events simply to just pass out their business cards.

There’s tons of people who do that. That’s all they do. It’s essentially just a spruiking opportunity, right? And I respect that. That’s not what I would do, but at the same time, I do have full respect for it because it’s just one, all you’re doing in that situation. If you’re not the person doing it is you, then know how that person operates. “Thank you. Now I know more about you. I know the way you operate. Does this a good fit for me?” You also can probably see who’s actually engaging with the person that’s just spruiking their business cards. And that tells you a little bit more, it’s an opportunity to, you know, people watch in a sense, but really about understanding who in that environment is a good fit.   

Brendan Rogers: Nowadays, I find myself more and more, I think as time goes on, whether I’m just getting older and crankier, I’m not sure. Even if I’m looking for that thing, that person can help me with, if somebody approaches me in that way, it turns me off. It’s hard not to judge straightaway when something like that happens, but I then hold on a minute, pull myself up. And I’m just curious about understanding why they feel they need to do that. You know, people stand there at the entrance or the exit and they hand out, you know, Ninja Star their business card out to everyone that comes in and out. How do you guys feel about that? Isaac, I’ll go to you. What’s your psyche around that?

Isaac Feeney: I mean, I’ll graciously accept it and I’m there to meet people and to have conversations with them. So, I’ll swiftly move past their business card and try to connect with them and see if we can find any common ground or find any, you know, things to kind of bond over or chat through. I understand that a business card, maybe for some, a mechanism of how to psych themselves up to start a conversation with somebody and for somebody else, it might be, or maybe they’re playing a numbers game, you know, and if, I guess it depends how many transactions they need in a week. They might have something that they need to sell lots and lots and lots of as opposed to just one a week or something. Some people might have, you know, one or two clients a year. And that’s, it’s a very different game.

I don’t think those ones would be handing out business cards quite as much so I can understand it. I know that salespeople have, you know, they’re getting good at overcoming objections and they’re getting good at like making sure, you know, I’m hitting my numbers. That’s fine. I’m happy to be one of those numbers. And I do keep the business cards for a time. And then, and it does help you remember who you’ve spoken to. So, I’ll try to get past the business card and talk with them and connect. But yes, they’ve, I definitely notice, “Oh, you led with your business card.” “Yeah.” I’d put someone in a bit of a box straight away.

Brendan Rogers: Marc, what’s your thinking on that?

Marc Charette: I’ve actually done both, you know. I’ve actually spent a lot of time being very much a salesperson who did the handing out of business cards ‘cause it was part of my job. It was part of what I needed to do.

And you’re absolutely right. There were times when you have a quota of not so much with, it’s the whole idea of you hand out a business card, the expectation is you get one back, right? That’s the hope. And then you got a bunch of business cards in your pocket that you can then add to a CRM or database. And then, you know, often if you’re working for a sales company of some kind, that’s what they’re looking for. They want to see how many new leads have you actually generated. And you know, and then they’re going to start stacking them into a funnel to figure out exactly where they are.

And that’s just part of the game. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, I think. This is where it’s just whether or not it’s actually effective. That’s the problem. It’s the level of effectiveness that we have to think about with these things, because I actually have had success at both ends of the scale. It just requires a different kind of person.

Have you ever been sold by someone who is good at spruiking their business card and absolutely just really impressed you? Because they were, to use the word slick, I don’t want to use it as a derogatory term, but they were very, very smooth. They knew their elevator pitch. They knew what they’re offering. They were able to size up how to actually generate interest or curiosity. And they did it so, so well that you just couldn’t say no. You just say, “Wow, that was a really good pitch. I gotta give this guy a go.”

And those opportunities really teach us something. That’s why, again, I go back to the principle based thinking there’s room for it all. There’s room for people who are really good at selling that way. And there’s room for people who dislike it. There’s enough people on this planet. There’s enough people in the Central Coast, let alone anywhere else to keep going. As long as what you offer has a high level of value and that you basically are truly, you know, if you’re a person of character and you’re an honest and authentic person, that’ll come through in the end. And eventually, if what you offer is something that’s right, then it’ll come back to you.

I’ve also had experiences where I have been sold and I ended up becoming good friends with the guy. He was amazing. He was slick. And this was a guy who was essentially a client. And he had actually, and I had been a client of his before, but he came into the store and his whole approach towards how to get my attention was so smooth that I ended up actually offering him a job because he was just that, we became good friends. And he was, he never did it with the intent of not providing more value than, you know, it was that whole principle was still there. You just also understood that not every conversation you start necessarily starts with the ability to know that you’ve got plenty of time to develop and earn that trust over, you know, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 meetings. Sometimes, things have to happen a little faster and if you’re really good at it, you can just go a lot faster.

The challenge we run into as to why I think networking is such a powerful tool, is it lowers the bar of entry for people who are not exceptionally-skilled communicators to still run a good quality business or product or service and meet with lots of good people and be a success. And that’s actually where it comes down to for me. So, it’s not so much the issue of whether or not one strategy is better than the other strategy. It’s really having to do with that whole thing of “Well, are you really exceptionally good at it?” That’s what it is for me.  

Brendan Rogers: Well, I’m going to throw it across to Isaac. Have you been sold to, if we can use that term, can you share anything on that?

Isaac Feeney: Yes, I can. So, I don’t mind being sold to if it’s something that I want to buy and I can think of two standout times actually in the last 12 months where as soon as I spoke to this person and they did, both of them handed me a business card, but I was like, “I’m curious. I want to know more.” Just their manner was very warm. You know, I was never sort of put off. And so, I followed up with like, “Let’s meet again and go through this.” And both times, I was already, not that I let them know, I was pretty much ready to buy as long as I just clarified a couple of extra questions that I had and I’ve gone on and proceeded with both of them. And it was great.

So, I suppose at times, you’re like, you know, it makes sense that somebody would be handing out business cards. I appreciate both of those people very much for doing so.

You know, somebody could even come to me quite nervous and unpolished. That doesn’t really bother me too much. Like I’m more about trying to connect, you know, an eye-contact kind of human-to-human level. And if you get that authenticity, which can be, this person is a little bit nervous in crowds. I don’t mind knowing that about somebody. I don’t need them all to be, you know, super slick and polished. And I’ll still happily do business with someone if I think there’s a good connection and they do, like you say, Marc, they do something really well.

Brendan Rogers: What’s going through my head is that like all those scenarios we’ve just shared and I think at what reinforced to me is that, is it that it’s not actually the act of, in this case, handing out a business card, it’s that rapport off the back of that and how that’s built into the process. Marc, what do you think? 

Marc Charette: I think it comes down to intent. It’s as simple as that. It’s also that whole idea of how does love at first sight work, right? Isn’t that the same thing as basically buying very quickly? So, you have to think in terms of really every situation is slightly different and there are times when there’s chemistry, so to speak, that just works. And sometimes, the chemistry’s not there, but it doesn’t mean it’s not right. And that’s where, again, I go back to the whole ideas is very much that networking really lowers the bar of entry. It creates an opportunity for everyone to have a chance, have a go. You know, if you think about the people who attend our LinkedInLocal events, not every single person in that room is a well-established, highly-functioning business. There’s a lot of startups in there and that’s okay. And maybe sometimes, it’s because of the fact that they come from having been in the situation where they no longer liked the form of selling that they were doing when they were working for an employer and they’ve gone off on their own.

We have a lot of, you know, a lot of solo entrepreneurs, a lot of entrepreneurs. We’ve also got bankers that have shown up. We’ve got all kinds of people. And that bar of entry, we’ve been able to fortunately keep that bar of entry so simple for everyone to just get it. It just, it’s hard for it not to resonate with people from a point of view of the principles by which we actually operate. And that’s why I think that it’s been successful. And that’s why I also think that, again, going back to the reason why, you know, I’m trying to drive this as a principle-based conversation is that other organisations that I belong to are incredibly structured. You know, there’s rules there’s yeah, you do have to pay your bills and you do actually have to participate and you do actually have to show up or you get kicked out. They’ve served me well also. If nothing else from having learned what I like and dislike what works for me and basically who else it works for, because that’s who tends to attend them. 

Brendan Rogers: Let’s talk about preparation or going to a networking event. What’s your intent before going to a networking event? 

Isaac Feeney: Well, I’m maybe different to most. I’m actually not very strategic about turning up to a networking event. I don’t think of it in terms of any kind of numbers. I’m just there open to meet who I meet. And that’s usually the way with me. I suppose the intent really is just to get yourself there and then see what happens and just be yourself. I mean, I know I can remember distinctly one time I was at a breakfast event and after going around the room and sharing about, you know, this is everybody having their turn, this is me and this is what I do. And we sat down and afterwards the person sitting next to me turned to me and just said, “I need to hire you.” And sure enough, we did work together that very day, which is unusual, to say the least, but I guess the intent of do I have time to get here? “Oh, you know. I’ve got other things on.” I just turn it up.

And LinkedInLocal is the same, you know, just get along. And there have been times when, you know, I’ve been hired by people there. Like, “Oh, let’s work together.” But I’ve also met people who we’ve collaborated together on some really exciting projects. And that to me is probably the highlight of just, “You would have missed that, you know, if you didn’t have the intent to turn up.” Probably, the other thing is more often than not. I’ll grab a couple of business cards and throw them in a pocket, but that really is just a readiness. I mean, quite often, I don’t have any, and I just say, “Look, I’m mostly online. You can find me here.” And we track each other down, regardless. And I would frequently have them with me, but forget to hand them out. So, I’m pretty un-strategic but it works. I think by just being there.  

Brendan Rogers: Marc, what about yourself? Like, what’s your intent around going to a networking event and even to the point of, is there certain preparation you do in readiness to  get the best out of that event? 

Marc Charette: Probably, the thing that I think about the most of and it’s very much in alignment with you, Isaac is, you know, and I actually took the line from Woody Allen which is, “80% of success in life is show up” because you can’t succeed unless you can do show up. That’s number one. But then, it’s what do you do when you show up and that what you do when you show up depends on how prepared you are.

One of the things that I’ve actually done is actually attend events, such as a tourism event where my intention was very simply to collect business cards. But I was very strategic in that situation where I knew in advance, who the attendees were going to be, what industry they were in, what they represented, likely what kind of conversation I was going to be having with them in advance. In fact, in some cases, I actually sending them a LinkedIn connection request in advance, basically as a way of saying, “Hey, I’m planning on being at this event. Would love to meet you in person. Thought I’d send you a connection request.” And that’s a way for me to open that door.

And so, in that situation, it is very strategic. So, there are times when you just do show up because you just don’t know what you don’t know, and you have to deal with life as it comes. It’s kind of like getting in the car in the morning and going for a drive, well, and you know, you have to be ready for anything. Yeah. That’s what, but that’s still preparation, isn’t it? In the end, you know, knowing what you actually do for a living and being able to share it clearly is preparation without preparing specifically for that meeting. ‘Cause it’s just, if somebody asks you, “What do you do?” You gotta be able to tell ‘em.

So, I think in terms of preparation it’s more thinking in terms of, is there a strategic reason to prepare? There may not be, but if there is, it’s not that hard to work that one out, but it just requires you to think ahead a little wee bit, such as if you actually have a sales goal. You know you have to earn X amount of dollars by a certain time. And you know what your average close rate is, and you know your average price of your product, all that kind of stuff. You can reverse engineer pretty well how many people you need to actually connect with on average to be able to have some form of success. So, that’s a form of preparation. The problem, again, goes back to intent. You know, if your intent is simply just to make sales, you may succeed, but it will be short-lived. You probably won’t get a renewal. You probably won’t get referrals and that’s really what you have to be prepared with. So, again, I can’t drive enough the importance of that intent.

Brendan Rogers: The thing that stands out for me apart from intent but is consistency. And I know it’s something that the three of us have spoken about a lot, but it’s really curious to me about people that turn up to an event every now and again, and expect some sort of result from that, whether that be, you know, developing strong relationships and opportunity and those sorts of things. So, that consistency of turning up is really, really important. What I want to go to is let’s skip the actual networking event and let’s jump to the followup. Isaac, I want to go to you because I know that this is an area that you are fairly exceptional. Tell us a bit more about why you see the importance of followup and even example of what you do there.   

Isaac Feeney: Well, there’s not much that beats just the ground you can cover in a one-hour coffee with somebody just connecting and really getting a sense, whether you’re a good fit together, whether there’s chemistry. If you’re gelling, then I think doing business together is a natural part of that. Even if it’s somebody who’s not going to be my client, you know, I’m very open to having a coffee and you can really lock in a bit more in terms of, that’s where I would probably do most of my preparation. So, I just turn up to a networking event and just meet people, you know. And if it works, there’ll be somebody there who might be like, “Hey, you know.” “Oh, I met you last time, but it’d be really great to catch up. Let’s do a coffee.” And that’s when I would bring probably my A-game in terms of ideas.  

“Like I’ve been thinking about your business and I just want to know more about this, you know” or like, “Have you ever thought about doing this?”. And probably not in a way that is leading them towards like, “And therefore, buy from me”, but in terms of ,“Here’s what I’ve learned about business, you know.”

The classic for me, I suppose, is seeing somebody like the people in the hub at Chatswood, who all seem to understand about finding out who is, who do you want to meet, you know. And realising that there are people who actually spread your word, the word of your business further. And so, trying to bring just a brainstorm is something that I really enjoy doing, but for a business, I really feel like, you know, this kind of professional will be great for you to know and to get the word out to them because they are going to want to continue to get the word out for you. Like you’re a natural, you’re going to make them look good to their clients. So, that’s where I’ll be intentional coming along to a coffee, usually armed with some ideas like that. Like, “Have you thought about writing an article, you know, for somebody in this other industry” or something like that.  

Brendan Rogers: So, it’s a real focus on the intent of preparing and knowing enough about the person and continuing to learn enough about the person to be able to add some value and help them move forward. So, it’s that phrase that we use, you know, be more interested than interesting.

Marc, let’s start with you. Over this last four years since we’ve known each other, what has been the biggest learning for you around networking?

Marc Charette: Probably, one of the greatest things that I’ve learned is that it’s actually, it’s going to sound funny. I actually came up with this phrase as a personal motto. Teach me not new things, but remind me of what I already know. And that principle of, again, thinking in terms of, we probably already have a good idea of why we do what we do, but we sometimes kind of get pulled away from it for whatever reason and that’s okay. And curiosity sometimes. And sometimes it’s a great thing because, you know, you might uncover something, you had no idea you were really skilled at, or people that you’re really interested in and, you know, you’re interested in others. But to me, it’s about understanding that base principle of we probably have inside of ourselves already all the answers we really need. We just need to uncover and clarify just exactly what that is.  

And the aha moment with how this relates to networking is that I’ve always enjoyed learning about other people. I’m absolutely fascinated by how people come to be, who they are, where they, you know, their history and getting into those kinds of conversations and getting a really broad perspective is far more interesting to me. So, that’s why networking to me has become a really important part of my business ‘cause, and it’s become far more natural for me, but the aha was that I already knew that this was something I was going to be comfortable at doing. And so, I just got to keep doing it.

Brendan Rogers: Look, I’ll get you now before throwing across to Isaac, how about you share your one bit of advice that you’d like to share with listeners? 

Marc Charette: I think probably the best thing is it’s not about becoming robotically prepared, but having at least a set of interesting questions to ask others that help them feel comfortable, at ease at sharing more about themselves. What is it that you really want to learn about the people you’re meeting? You know, what exactly is it that you want to know? Do you want to know what they do for a living? Do you want to know what their family structure is like? Do you want to know what part of town they live in? Do you want to know, what does it take to be successful in this neck of the woods? What exactly is it that you want to learn?

Be clear on those types of questions before you go into networking and that will help you take the focus off yourself. People are going to get back into networking now, and it’s very timely to be asking that thing of, are you going to be struggling? And if you’re going to be struggling, you’re probably going to be a little bit on the needy side and you might be a little bit too salesy. And this is an opportunity to take that step back and think more about how can you learn more about others? Because chances are the opportunities will simply just uncover themselves if they should, when they should and how they should.

Brendan Rogers: Absolutely, mate. Thank you for sharing that. Isaac, for you, what’s been your biggest learning or reminder over the last four years, and then off the back of that, tell us that bit of advice you’d like to share with listeners.  

Isaac Feeney: It’s actually a phrase you taught me, Brendan, which is, “to dig the well before you need it”. And I think that’s been really true in LinkedInLocal. So, I guess the thing to understand when you go to a networking event is you’re probably drumming up business that’s really gonna come to fruition maybe in a year. The more long-term you can have in your conversation with people, the more benefit you’re going to get from that. Like you say, if you come across too needy, you know, you probably put people’s walls up quite often, unless the timing just happens to be just right. Like that person needed something that I was selling and they needed it quite urgently that day and they were relieved to meet me. And then like, you know, let’s do it. But more often than not, it’s going to be about those longer term connections.

So, for me, going there, just going, there’s no pressure on making any sales today, but it’s the friendships that are going to be started or strengthened. And in a year’s time, that’s going to be great. And I think going into isolation like we have, which just got thrust on us, you know, in the space of a couple of weeks before any of us really knew what was happening. In that time, I’ve continued to connect with people I’ve met from LinkedInLocal and we’ve been referring work to each other. ‘Cause we’re all still trying to make a go of it in our own way and you just stop and think, “Wow, we needed a well”. You know, and I’m glad that I started to dig one a couple of years ago, you know. And I think that’s just been a really, really good thing. So, digging the well before you need it is the thing that I’ve learned about networking.

In terms of what I would give as advice, I think networking is for introverts too. I tend to be more introverted. I’m more comfortable, you know, in one-on-one or in a very small group than in a large gathering, but it’s still worth getting along and finding one that maybe doesn’t put you so uncomfortable. And that’s what I like about LinkedInLocal. It’s just a really relaxed feel. I don’t feel under any pressure when I’m there. It’s just, you know, grab a drink, talk to somebody, mix it up.

I suppose, when you’re talking to somebody, I would suggest, if somebody is not sure about networking or not sure what to do or, you know, what to say when you’re there, talk about non-work things, you know. Try to build rapport with common ground. You know, maybe you both, for me, the classic is running, you know. Or I’ll always ask somebody, “What are you listening to when you’re driving?”, you know. And trying to find their podcast person, are they a talkback radio person, an audiobook person, you know. And if there are audiobooks, well it’s on, you know, and finding those things. And if they don’t listen to audiobooks, I’ll talk about something else until we find that thing of like, “I grew up in that region as well” or whatever it is, you know. And just forget work for a moment.

Brendan Rogers: Once again, great advice. Look, I really appreciate the time you guys have taken. What I’d love you to, Isaac, I’ll continue with you. Let listeners know how they can get hold of you.

Isaac Feeney: Yeah, well, I’m on LinkedIn. Isaac Feeney on LinkedIn. That’s a great way to connect and just send me a message or alternatively, www.eastgosfordwebsites.com.au and our details are there.

Brendan Rogers: And Marc, how about you, buddy?   

Marc Charette: I’m pretty easy to find because of the spelling of my name is such that if you type Marc, M-A-R-C. Charette, C-H-A-R-E-T-T-E. And just look me up. You’ll probably find me  via LinkedIn or on my website at www.workpics360.com or www.workpics.com and definitely, you know, I’m easy enough to find that way.  

Brendan Rogers: That’s fantastic, guys. Look, I want to say again, thank you very much for sharing your insights. Thanks for continuing to push my thinking and judgment or curiosity or whatever you want to call it around networking. It’s to me, it’s really powerful. I value it a lot and thanks for taking the time to come on today. Really appreciate it.

Marc Charette: Thanks for having us.

Isaac Feeney: Yeah. Thanks, Brendan.  

(Music plays)

Brendan Rogers: This conversation was several months in the making. We had planned to do it in March, but then COVID-19 restrictions came in. We felt it would be far better if we could sit in the same room with each other and chat about networking. I’m so glad we waited. I really enjoy sitting down with my good friends, Marc and Isaac and gaining different perspectives.

Today, it just happened to be focused around the culture of networking. I’m not sure if you would have noticed, but the way both Marc and Isaac answer questions gives you an insight into their different personalities and communication styles. And that is the beauty of people. We are all different and it is these differences that helped to make our experiences far more fulfilling.

This is what Marc and Isaac do for me. They give me differing perspectives, which helps us all become better. And that is why I was keen to capture and share their thoughts around networking.

These were my three key takeaways after my conversation with Marc and Isaac.

My first key takeaway. Be comfortable being yourself. This is so important when meeting and connecting with new people. Like-minded people will attract each other. It is so much easier to progress through the know, like and trust process when you are being your authentic self. Go out and find the networking event or group where your authentic self will shine through.

My second key takeaway. Focus on building relationships. Isaac referred to building human-to-human connections. And Marc mentioned how he just loves meeting new people. Isaac builds the human-to-human connections through his preferred one-on-one coffee chats. Marc gets involved in several networking and community groups, which allows him to create the opportunity to meet lots of new people. They are being their authentic self and focusing on building relationships. This is why they both have solid and trusted networks.

My third key takeaway. Dig the well before you need it. How many times have you met people who go to networking events, get what they need and you never see them again until they need something else? Don’t build a network because you need or expect to receive something. Build a network because you want to add value to it. It’s through this value creation that advocacy will build and opportunities will appear. Remember, as Porter Gale said, “Your network is your net worth”.

So, in summary, be comfortable being yourself, focus on building relationships and dig the well before you need it.

If you have any questions or feedback about this episode, please feel free to send me a message at brendan@brendanrogers.com.au

Thank you for listening. Stay safe. Until next time.

 

Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.