The Power of Networking I learned from my dad
When I was a college kid, I worked in my dad’s office in the summer and holiday breaks. Often he would take me with him out of the office and to an account visit. One of his responsibilities was visiting his accounts and a responsibility he took very seriously. One day I remember distinctly was walking up to a big silver building. The vast size, the shine, it looked like a character out of star wars. As if that wasn’t intimidating enough, we walked inside a large lobby and when we walked across the marble floors, every step echoed like an old catholic cathedral.
In the midst of all of this larger then life atmosphere, my dad walked over to a large desk in the back of the lobby and with a big smile, greeted Pete, the security guard who was seated there. “Hey Pete, How are you?” “Hey Frank, great and you?”.
“I’m doing well. So how was the wedding? Your little girl. Must have been tough, huh?” “ It really was Frank, you’ll be there some day”.
“Yep, you’re right. Not looking forward to that”
“It’s tough, really is. So who are you here to see?”
My dad told him and we went up.
We arrived at the 4th floor and an older woman was sitting at a circular desk. “Hi Frank!” “Hello Cecelia, how’s that new puppy, is she tearing up the house??” “Oh yes Frank, but we love her anyway! Who are you here to see today?” She asked and we went into a man’s office named Tony.
This kind of conversation, back and forth small talk went on with Tony as well but with Tony there was business to discuss and they did just that. After about 45 minutes we left Tony’s office and stopped by several other offices to “just say hello” before we left.
When we got down stairs after shaking a few more hands and kissing a few babies we finally got into our car and drove away from the big shiny building. “Dad, honestly we could have wasted a lot less time if we just went to Tony’s office and didn’t do so much “chit chat”.
“Wasted time?! Greta Ann (yep that’s my real name) have you not learned anything about how business works? What are they teaching you in school?
“Yes Dad, and I understand how important it is to build a relationship with Tony or the guy who will be making the decision on your work, but we spent time with a security guard, a receptionist and the mailroom clerk. You aren’t going to get much business from them.” -It is amazing how smart you are in college…
He began to explain to me the importance of not only building relationships with your clients but all the people around your clients. I asked if that was because if one of them left their job, you would potentially know their replacement. He said yes but explained there is much more to it then that.
He told me that Pete, the security guard called my dad’s office to let him know a competitor came into the building to see one of the project managers. I asked him if he asked Pete to do that. He explained that he would never do that but Pete felt a connection with him and just wanted him to know.
Cecelia let him know one day that it was Dale, the executive directors, birthday and he was able to stop by with a congratulations note (no email back then).
As a teenager, I was pretty sure I knew everything, after all, I was in college and my dad didn’t even go to college. Being business smart is all of the little things you don’t learn in college. It is the caring, the asking and the listening. Being a real person. Slowing down to smell the roses, or talk to Sam in the mail room or Suzie, the cafeteria lady.
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