I have had more than one person question, “Why would you leave an area, where you have 22 or 40 years of connections to start over?” I have asked myself that question a few times, too. The only answer I could give was, “It was time!”
I have lived in the Chicago area since I was 14 and in New Jersey and New York before that. Upstate New York was beautiful but secluded. New Jersey was a sardine can outside of New York City. Illinois was friendly, but it was almost too big to really get around and meet new people. So I lived mostly in a bubble of the far western suburbs. Just going to downtown Chicago was an all-day event, with traffic, parking, and the return trip.
Since I was 16, I owned or started businesses. I worked for big companies like AT&T and Arthur Andersen in spurts. I learned from an early age, that networking, people, and connections were the key to success. When I ran Sound Decisions (my recording studio in Lombard, Illinois) in the early 90s, my biggest clients came from relationships I had formed at AT&T. When I started B2b Interactive Marketing in the early 2000s, it was networking and those past clients that propelled me to where I am today.
I had built up a Golden Rolodex of connections that I could refer to others or utilize in my own business. When we decided to move, it almost felt like I was throwing that all away. But I am here to tell you that could not be further from the truth.
The Hills Are Alive…
Raleigh is a completely different city from Chicago. The people are just as friendly, but I have a couple of “Captain Obvious” revelations to share.
In Illinois, most streets run east-west or north-south. A lot of towns have numbered streets (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 75th or 111th street), and it seemed like there were some hills.
North Carolina on the other hand, does not have a straight road unless you are in a small town, or heading down a highway. Many roads are diagonal and are curvey, twisty (but beautiful) drives. And we don't live in a mountainous area, but MAN… there are some hills!
A compass and a GPS (or Apple Maps) are almost mandatory here!
The traffic here is also much less congested. In Chicago, ten minutes would get you a couple of miles, but here it's easy to get from area to area. That means that getting out to meet people is much less of a hassle than it was in Chicago.
Planting The Seeds
On my reconnaissance trips down, I met with friends and business associates. We ate meals and discussed the area. That opened the door to building a new network of friends and business connections down here. I was invited to join the American Marketing Association (headquartered in Chicago), but I am a member of the Raleigh Research Triangle Chapter.
I was already invited to one party to catch up with a few old friends and meet some new ones. They immediately invited me to a networking event within less than a week of my arrival here. People in that group are already helping me figure out how I can get involved, and network or mastermind with the right types of local business people.
This is where I can bring my two worlds together. I am sure that some of my 20+ years of networking in Chicago can provide resources for people here in Raleigh and vice versa. Now it's time to start maximizing and utilizing my connection strategies.
I've shared before my strategies for meeting new people and maintaining active relationships.
First off, I have to be prepared to take names and kick ass! I mentioned before how Evernote can be used to take a picture of a business card, and then OCR (optical character recognition) and integrate it into my CRM (Nimble). I had a Zap (Zapier) written that sends the person a connection email and connects with them on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has many features that I can use to build and maintain relationships. I have links to my podcast, blogs, and my LinkedIn Newsletter. That (I hope) will provide some insight and context as to who I am, what, I do, and how I can help them.
My 10-10-10 strategy will help me stay in contact with the people that seem interesting. They could be power partners, potential guests for my podcast Bacon & Coffee, and even potential vendors or customers.
I hope you have learned from me that it's “Not About YOU!” when it comes to networking. It's about them and how you can be a resource. I have to create a “Fresh Set Of I's” when speaking to people. Sure, people will ask me about who I am and what I do. I have to be careful not to fall into the trap of “I do… this” or “I help companies…” (insert catchy slogan here).
I need to keep it short, and concise, and turn the tables to get them talking about themselves and their business or solutions. The goal here is less “I”s and more “U”s. That first impression has to be subtle, yet strong. There will come a time to dig deeper into what I do if there is a reason or purpose that mutually benefits us.
The key thing I am looking for is finding the connectors who can help me find places to plug in and prove my value before I start looking under rocks for new business. In the B2b world, networking relationships can take years to bear fruit. I have to bear in mind that I have plenty of time to forge ahead into the abyss and abundance of new and unknown relationships.
We have all heard the analogy of the cobbler whose kids have holes in their shoes. As an author, speaker, and relationship marketer, I have to act as if I'm somebody outside myself, watching me practice what I preach. That can be really hard with all the excitement of NEW… new places, new people, and new things (like food) to experience.
But… now is the time to be humble, patient, and active at the same time. I came to this town to get out of the rut and see the world through a new set of eyes. Now I have to learn to experience my business world with a… New Set of “I”s.
“Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.”
– Debbie Ford
I would love to hear your thoughts on networking. Have you ever moved or started over? Did your past relationships meld with your new life or did most fade away? How could you look at your own business through a new set of I's? Tell me about your challenges or successes!
Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about how you see the world through a fresh set of I's.
To learn more about this and other topics on B2b Sales & Marketing, visit our podcast website at The Bacon Podcast.