Last night, I attended a quarterly networking event of a local Linkedin Group that I belong to. It was, as always, fun and challenging. Fun, because the people are fun, the structure is enlivening, and the atmosphere is upbeat and informal.
Challenging, because meeting new people – business people – can bring out the Middle School wallflower in all of us. Well… most of us anyway. But I had to keep reminding myself that I was there for a reason and it was not solely self-serving nor completely altruistic. I was there because I need and want more relationships.
The unofficial mantra of our Group is “Networking is NOT Enough… Relationships are the KEY!” And while I do appreciate the strategic value of effective networking, I also realize that things really happen for people as a result of a relationship with others.
People Helping People
So why do we need relationships birthed from networking and referrals? Here’s my take:
1. You Need Others
You and I cannot do this all alone. On the most fundamental level we must have others to buy our products or services in order to even have a business. Beyond that, we need people to help us run our business, sell our stuff, do our bookkeeping, and so on. The world is full of people who can help. The last time I checked there were about 317,185,012 people in the U.S. alone. (as of when I typed these words!)
And the only way you can benefit from the help others can give is by having some kind of relationship with them. And the more, the better.
2. Others Need You
This is flip side of the coin, so to speak. You have value you can bring to others. And there are plenty who need it. If fact, you possess far more value to others than you may realize because it’s not limited to your business, your products or services, or even your skills and knowledge. Because relationships have a way of drawing us out of ourselves in ways we do not always anticipate. And we can do for others in ways we may not have ever imagined.
3. Needs Are Met In Relationships
And therein lies the rub – if I simply have your name and email address, or a profile and image on Linkedin, or (possibly worse) a Twitter handle on my smart phone – then we are simply “connections”. Can’t have you over for coffee; you can’t buy me lunch; and I doubt seriously if you’re going to give me an unqualified referral to your mother!
But if we move beyond a mere connection and began establishing a relationship… well, then all kinds of good things can come about! I can help you, you can help me; we can both learn from each other, grow and stretch as people, possibly even become quite good friends – it is truly unlimited where a relationship can go.
I would suggest that if you have not already you need to look for and become a part of a group, an organization, a club – something! – that will allow you to reach out and make connections. And then nurture those connections until they become relationships.
And if you can’t find a really cool group like ours then start one! I know someone who can help you with that…