“Will You Marry Me”?

Building business relationships

 

You would never ask someone to marry you on a first date, so why would you expect someone you’ve met for the first time to refer business with you?

We have all heard the expression “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” and in many cases we use that expression in a less-than-complimentary way. In those situations, perhaps we should respond by assessing our own skills in developing relationships that can help us build business and careers. Professional relationships that help us along in our career do not happen by accident or without significant effort. They require nurturing, constant contact, and a host of other important ingredients that, when properly applied, can create a support team as dedicated to our success as we are.

We begin developing close friends early on in life. What we might not have realized in our developmental years is that the friend we sat beside while learning our ABCs may indeed be our doctor, tax adviser, or our children’s grade school teacher later on in life. However, as adults we can visualize that the people we meet at networking events may indeed end up changing our life—or more importantly, we may be able to change theirs.

Building career relationships is all about capturing relationships as an ongoing and fundamental part of our life plan. Life is about who you know; the common ground we find with our associates; and the commitment to engaging with our friends and associates, those we know now and those we have yet to meet. The most important relationship in the world may be just around the corner, or waiting for you to say hello at that next mixer.

5 Keys to Building Business Relationships That Should Be Considered When Networking

  1. Contact: Assess your availability to meet and be met by others. Are you in the right professional associations? Do you attend events regularly? Are you an observer or participant? How many people in your associations do you know on a first-name basis?
  2. Commonality: Seeking commonality with others is important, as it is the means by which you communicate in an interesting and outgoing way. Finding activities, interests, and even exercise plans that you have in common offers the easiest way to interact on different levels, broadening your communication.
  3. Credibility: Associates, especially new ones, need to see us as credible people. This means that we need to mean what we say, say what we mean, and always follow through with the commitments we make. When people say, “Do you walk your talk?” What they mean is, “Are you credible?” While we never know how many demonstrations of credibility we have to perform so that people believe we are who and what we say we are, there is a universal answer to how many times we can NOT be credible. One! That’s why it’s important to take our commitments seriously, each and every time we have the opportunity.
  4. Confidence: Only when we have had the opportunity to demonstrate that we “walk our talk” over time and with enough interactions will our friends and associates be willing to show confidence in us. When people have confidence in you they will follow your lead, your example, and your direction. They will allow you to influence their thoughts on particular issues and they may even see you as an expert in others.
  5. Trust: Most relationships never really make it here! You see, trust allows a relationship to flourish because it makes no difference which party leads and which follows. One respects the other in any given interaction and works to unconditionally support the direction, philosophy, and commitment of the other. When you achieve this level of trust in a relationship, you’ve made it! The relationship has achieved intradependence!

It takes time to cultivate relationships, which is why attending just one networking mixer won’t do it. It requires the dedication keep attending, having a plan when you arrive, and the patience for building those relationships over time. Next time you decide that networking isn’t worth the effort, think about this: People who have made time in their schedule to network have gotten results like these:

  • 87% of top-level executives network 2–3 times weekly
  • 80% increase their business development
  • 45% increase their sales
  • 95% build their business relationships
  • 90% increase their business opportunities
  • 80% have found their next job through networking
  • 65% receive a return on their investment
  • 76% get in front of the type of business that they would like to meet

Sharon Jenks is the CEO of 6 Degrees Business Networking, #sd6degrees

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Gender Diversity: It’s time to step up

Gender Diversity

The business case for leveraging female talent to create a competitive advantage has been proven time and time again, yet almost halfway through the second decade of the 21 century the goal of meaningful diversity in our boards and corporate executive teams remains as elusive as ever.

It was only a few years ago that New Zealand was in the unique position of having a female Prime Minister, Governor General, Leader of the Opposition and Attorney General all at the same time.

This, combined with the fact that we were the first country to give women the vote, is why possibly New Zealand is perceived to be a very progressive country when it comes to providing equal opportunities for women.

But when I look around the executive teams and boards of our largest organisations today, I have to say I’m disappointed that New Zealand business appears to have lost some of its early momentum. Because, despite all the research and evidence proving that companies with higher percentages of women in their leadership perform better financially, the highest levels of corporate New Zealand continue to be a largely male dominated domain.

And the news doesn’t get any better when it comes to equal pay. The reality is that the gender pay gap and lack of women in senior roles on boards and executive teams in New Zealand is having a negative impact on our performance and productivity. The strong evidence is that having women in senior roles improves your economic performance. A report by Goldman Sachs concluded that New Zealand’s economic output could rise by 10% if women’s labour and talent were fully tapped.

In my view there are a few key areas that need to be addressed in order to improve female representation at the highest levels of corporate New Zealand.

Firstly, it’s important to frame diversity as a serious strategic issue, not just a problem to be solved by HR. By elevating diversity to an executive management level, companies are better able to give it the appropriate focus and in turn marshal the necessary resources to break down the barriers holding women back. If I had to list one factor that, in my experience, makes the difference between success and failure it is executive sponsorship at the highest levels. Only when senior leaders commit themselves to gender diversity and challenge old forms of behaviour at every opportunity, is meaningful change going to occur.

Secondly, appropriate and achievable targets need to be put in place around diversity. This is absolutely what drives real business change. If a key component of executive and management performance evaluation is improving their diversity metrics, those metrics do improve.

Thirdly diversity considerations should be instilled into the corporate HR and recruitment processes, particularly the early identification of female leadership talent combined with thoughtful targets that push women into the consideration set for key roles. There are some simple processes that can be put in place to get the ball rolling without enormous cost and effort. For example, one of the things we have introduced at ASB is a policy whereby interviews for senior roles for female candidates must be conducted with at least one female interviewer. In this way, it’s possible to reduce any unconscious bias in the interview process to provide more of a level playing field for women. And I would argue that this sort of initiative is not only relevant for large organisations like ASB. Many of the smaller businesses and operations that dominate the New Zealand economy would also benefit by adopting a more inclusive approach to recruiting women.

The prize in solving the diversity challenge is a big one for New Zealand businesses. In terms of female executive engagement, New Zealand currently lags behind our global competitors and we are failing to optimise the economic benefits that diversity brings.

Clearly there are solutions that legislation and regulation can also offer but the first step needs to be a personal commitment to address diversity by the men and women with the ability to influence executive appointments and assist with success.

It’s time for us to step up. – Barbara Chapman

The First Step to Hiring Good Employees Is Stop Looking Down on People Who Just Want a Job

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I work almost exclusively with entrepreneurs, or people who want to be entrepreneurs. In fact, I network, hang out, have dinner and connect on social media almost exclusively with entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs. My life partner is an entrepreneur. I suspect even my cat has the entrepreneurial spirit.

So I answer a lot of questions from entrepreneurs. Want  to take a guess at one of the most frequent questions I answer? “How do I know when I’m ready to hire an employee?”

First step to being ready for your first hire is change your attitude about people who want a j-o-b.

Most of the entrepreneurs I know are genuinely baffled by people who really want to be employees. Many of them have walked away from high status, well paying, moderately secure positions for the siren’s call of being their own boss. They have at least a subconscious attitude that says anyone who isn’t aiming for entrepreneurship isn’t ambitious, is settling, has a dream that is several sizes too small. For many of them, the elitist notion that entrepreneurs are a little more clever, a little more savvy, a little more cool isn’t something you glimpse under the surface, they express it freely and adamantly. It’s a club they believe everyone should want to join.

Yet, the typical entrepreneur couldn’t reach their goals without depending on people who have no desire to be an entrepreneur. Even those of us with no employees hire companies whose services depend on their workforce.

Here are three reasons why the “working stiff” deserves your respect as well as a paycheck.

1. They’re taking a risk too.

We all know that being an entrepreneur requires taking risks. Sometimes big risks. But working for an entrepreneur is risky, too. You have a lot on the line as an entrepreneur, but you have the reins in your hands. Your success depends on the decisions you make. Ultimately, so does the success of your employees. While their performanceinfluences your success, they take the risk that they will turn in a stellar performance and still lose their investment if times get hard or business gets slow and you decide you have to do it without them. Don’t belittle their risk by constantly reminding them of yours.

2. They have big dreams too.

Their career dream might not be to own and run a business. It might be to help someone own and run a business. Or just to work for someone who owns and runs a business that they can be proud to work for. Someone who appreciates them, someone who treats them as an equal, someone who believes their dreams are just as valid as anyone else’s. If they have those kinds of dreams you can make their dreams come true at the same time they help you realize yours. But only if you’re willing to be that kind of employer. Don’t belittle their dreams by treating them as anything less than worthy of pursuing.

3. They’re everything you aren’t.

Every strength you have represents a gap in the strengths of your business. If you’re a natural juggler who is comfortable with having 20 balls in the air at once, then there’s no one in the business who is a natural at following the system A-Z and staying hyper-focused on the task at hand. If you’re a natural risk taker who finds change exciting, then there’s no one in the business who is a natural at holding steady and maintaining status quo.

When you find an employee whose strengths compliment your own it frees you to do what you’re best at doing. But only if you fully appreciate the value of what they’re best at doing. If you’re one of those employers who believes that the entrepreneurial traits and talents are naturally superior you’ll shrivel your employee’s morale faster than a well-placed thumbtack can deflate a balloon. Don’t belittle their talents by treating them as anything less than vital to the success of your own goals.

Now, if you’re filled with awe and appreciation for those folks whose dream of serving the world includes working for a passionate, driven and fair-minded entrepreneur who will support and reward their own pursuit of excellence in their career, there’s good news. You’re already on the path to finding one.

Entrepreneur Magazine- Dixie Gillaspie Contributor

Sometimes, the boss is the one lying in the job interview….

one-skill-job-candidate-blanda-openforum-338We often hear about job candidates exaggerating their accomplishments. Somewhere between their resume and the interview, the truth takes a back seat.

This stretching of the truth, however, is not a one-way street. Many new employees have told us that they felt they were misled in interviews about either the responsibilities of the position or the culture of the company. Small untruths on working hours, flexibility, dress code, or employee numbers can even translate into big slights for a gung-ho new hire who feels he’s been deceived.
It should be obvious that a false start is no way to start a professional relationship.
We’re not suggesting that employers intentionally misrepresent their company or the opportunities for new employees, but somewhere inside the ritualistic dance where applicants and employers are both trying to put their best feet forward, they can wind up tripping over each other. And that can lead to an atmosphere of distrust for new employees.
 

So how can leaders build a foundation of trust with new employees from day one, and ensure their long-term success and satisfaction?

 

Start with the job description

When it comes time to filling an open position, hiring managers are often in a mad rush. Someone has just given a two-week notice and there is a chair to fill. And from the employer’s perspective, that empty chair is seen as costly. So the old job description is quickly dusted off and posted in the hopes of attracting a top-flight replacement. That’s where the first mistake occurs.

What this approach does not take into account is that today’s jobs are constantly evolving. A job description that is a just few years old may have long become irrelevant. As a hiring manager, it’s critical to ask yourself questions about the position, such as: How has it changed since we last hired for this job? What new tasks are critical to the role? What would I like a new person to do differently? How will success at this job be measured?
 

Revisiting the role before the hiring process and having a clear grasp of its responsibilities and expectations are the first steps to ensuring that you find the right person. This also makes it more likely that your new hire understands exactly what he’s signing up for and won’t hightail it out the door the first chance he gets.

 

Don’t rely on the resume

Resumes, understandably, are a key indicator for many hiring managers to determine whether an applicant will make the short list for a particular position. But resumes are just advertisements for the past. What you are really looking for is a crystal ball into the future. In fact, it is important to keep in mind that you are not just hiring someone for a particular job, you are hiring them to grow with your company.

 So, what will success on the job look like? You need to be upfront with job applicants and explore that question during the hiring process. Tell candidates what will be expected of them and ask them what their definition of success is and how they hope to attain it at your company.

Look for insights into what makes applicants tick, which will provide clues to their potential, strengths, and development opportunities. Those attributes, which can be further gleaned from an in-depth personality assessment, will help hiring managers identify individuals who can succeed in the job and thrive in the company’s culture. Combine that with a behavioral interview and referrals, and you get a comprehensive, integrated approach to hiring. When expectations are clearly defined in the interview process, it’s an exercise in trust building.
 

Build trust upfront

Once a new employee is hired, it’s important to start off on the right foot. Particularly in the first week, it is important that the new manager takes the time needed to create a real connection and ensure that trust is firmly in place.

job interview, culture
The first few days on a new job are what you might call “the Goldilocks time.” New employees are trying not to be too hot or too cold, but come across as just right. New hires are keenly aware that they are being evaluated by their colleagues, so there has to be someone who can provide a solid understanding of how a worker can best contribute in her new environment.
Trust between a manager and new employee doesn’t happen overnight, but the first impression can be a make or break point. Be clear about the requirements and expectations of the job. Be genuinely interested in who they are (don’t multi-task when you are talking to them), and let them know you are interested in their aspirations and their growth within the company. And be open about how you like to work—your habits, quirks, strengths and the things you are working on improving. -Patrick Sweeney

Why Millennials Understand The Future Of Work Better Than Anyone Else

writing on a wall 

We can learn a lot about the future of work from how millennials are approaching and redefining their careers.

The 9-to-5 grind is over.

I call that traditional view, “Big Work,” and millennials intuitively understand that’s not where the future is. They are, in a sense, the first generation of freelance natives. They’re embracing freelancing in a way no other generation has. And now, they’re the majority of the workforce.

They are a generation with markedly diverse interests––they’re into design, tech, activism, the arts, everything. They’ve been told their whole lives that they can and should pursue as many of those interests as they want. The Internet has opened more doors to this generation than any other.

That’s why the idea of a portfolio of work comes naturally to them. They’re doing web design for their mom’s coworkers after they’re done studying. They’re teaching themselves FinalCut and picking up video editing gigs to complement their shift at the bookstore. They’re aiming for a more meaningful work-life, not necessarily what their parents would call a “traditional career.”

That natural flexibility positions millennials to take advantage of this new economy without fear. They are the most likely age group to freelance––38% of millennials are freelancing, compared to 32% of all others, according to a national survey conducted last year by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk.

Millennials also expressed by far the most confidence about this new way of working, with 82% of young freelancers saying they’re optimistic about the future of freelancing.

THE CONNECTED GENERATION

Why? Because they understand networks and hubs better than anyone––and networks and hubs are what make for successful freelancers. They grew up connected across global platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YikYak. They’re the most connected generation in human history.

They understand the power of affiliations, even the loose connections more traditional generations would have dismissed. Ask any freelancer and they’ll tell you the secret to success is the power of those loose ties.

Millennials are putting that understanding of the power of networks to impressive use. In Spain, the millennial-founded Podemos is the fastest-growing political party in the country, and one of the Europe’s most prominent for social justice and economic equality. Here in the U.S., the Occupy movement took up the same causes, building a networked infrastructure to advance their politics. We’re seeing the new activist wave starting co-operatives and social-purpose businesses at a remarkable rate.

THEIR NEXT STEPS

But of course, millennials are, by definition, still young. Many aren’t raising families yet, or buying houses, or saving for retirement. It’s reasonable to wonder how aging will shape their priorities and their ideas about work.

But what we’ve seen so far is encouraging. Many young people are following in the footsteps of the “millennials” of the 20th century, the workers who were coming of age as the Industrial Revolution truly kicked in. It was the workers of the 1910s and 1920s who saw the rapidly changing economy and built the labor movement in response.

They pioneered the social unionism movement. They banded together to build worker-owned banks, housing, insurance companies, and even vacation camps. Today’s millennials are building support systems and co-working spaces.

With their comfort within the freelance economy and their understanding of networks, millennials are perfectly positioned to create the sustainable independent work economy that we–and they–need. -By Sara Horowitz

Basic Tips to Make Your First Business Networking Event

Most folks know that networking is a key to success. We want and need to know people with whom we do business, and most of us enjoy meeting new people for our social circle as well. No “networking” event is, in and of itself, worthwhile.

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It’s what happens afterward that makes the difference.

Networking isn’t about getting business on the spot, it’s about developing relationships that will lead to business, directly or indirectly, down the road. Networking almost always requires the long-term approach.

But how do you begin? Joining a “networking group” can be an intimidating step, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some basics to get you started.

Make time and do it. “Someday” and “later” have a way of never happening.

Be prepared with something to say. Know what the big news story is, the key sports results, and have a positive or thoughtful comment.

Be prepared to introduce yourself in 15-20 seconds. Without stumbling. This is usually called the “elevator speech.” Make it interesting. If it’s boring to say, it’s boring to hear.

Carry business cards and have them easily accessible…

… But don’t offer indiscriminately them at the beginning of a conversation! It’s far better to chat for a while, to know someone about the person, and then to ask for his or her business card. What if, horror of horrors, they don’t reciprocate and ask for yours? Not a problem. Send them one when you follow up after the event.

When someone offers you a business card, look at it before you put it away. A card is our tangible persona. Notice it, accord it due respect, and then carefully put it away.

Pay attention to the conversation. Don’t be one of the “power networkers” always looking over the shoulder of your conversational companion, looking for someone more interesting. Listen. Really listen. When your companion is talking, that’s your signal to listen to what they’re saying, not to be composing your witty rejoinder. Listening is the antidote for nervousness, especially for introverts, because your entire focus is on the speaker – and his focus is on himself, too!

Think about how you can help the person you’re talking with. Make a contact, offer a lead, or just ask how you might recognize a terrific potential client/customer for her. Don’t assume someone you’re talking to can’t help you. A conversation may not lead directly to business, but you have no idea who that person may know or where they’ll end up next.

Set your intentions before you go (i.e., I will leave with 3 business cards of people I plan to contact again). And aim for quality over quantity.

Follow up afterward.

If you use these tactics, your first networking meeting will be a successful and, perhaps, even an enjoyable event that will encourage you to keep coming back.

by M Peal

Advanced Business Networking

You can get a lot more leverage from your business networking efforts if you work on building relationships with strategic alliance partners. When done effectively you’ll get more regular and predictable referrals from these strategic alliances then from any other source.

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In just about any business there are natural referral partners. A real estate agent needs a mortgage broker and an inspector. A financial planner needs a CPA or accountant and an attorney. A graphic designer might need a marketing consultant or a copy writer. You get the picture.

By finding a core group of these complimentary businesses you can all help each other grow by bringing each other into new deals. You win because you’ll be getting business you might not have even known about otherwise, and your customer wins by working with professionals who are used to working together.

Building your strategic alliance network doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by identifying the types of products or services that you don’t offer that your clients consistently ask you about. If you’re a computer consultant and your clients are always asking if you know a good web designer or telephone systems vendor start there. You’ll already have something to offer to the potential partners you approach.

It’s very important that you choose solid trustworthy partners. You’ll be putting your reputation on the line every time you refer one of these people to your customer. A good rule of thumb is to only work with others that you would trust with your own business, or to help your mother, or best friend.

You can either build relationships with these potential partners one on one, or bring them all together in a private networking group where you can all learn to work together. Personally I prefer to combine these two approaches. Bring everyone together and you’ll be helping everyone else out that much more. In addition, continue to build a strong relationship with each individual so that they know they can trust you with their referrals.

The details of every strategic alliance are up to you. You might choose to pay a referral fee or share a percentage of your revenue (if that’s legal in your industry, you may need to check with your business attorney to be sure). You might just decide to refer business to each other and know that in the end it’ll work out. Working together you may also find that there are some great opportunities for cooperative advertising or working a trade show booth together. It’s up to you and your new strategic partner.

Being successful in business is all about taking action. Reading about taking your networking to the next level and building strategic alliances is useless unless you act on it. Take a few minutes right now to think about the type of businesses you could build a strategic alliance with. Now, pick up the phone!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

By  Fabian Parris