You've Got To Get Out More Often

Small Town Optimist Column

By Cyndy Bolton

Over the past 18 months I have charged myself with the daunting task of meeting and networking with as many groups and people as my time would allow. I initiated this course of action as the only fee based component of my marketing plan. After a one year membership stint as a member in the likes of area groups such as Brockville Women in Business, The Brockville Chamber of Commerce and The Greater Brockville Ad & Sales Club, I find myself having to make a difficult, but budget-based decision. Where to continue and where to end.

The hammer will fall after I have weighed the pluses and minuses of each membership value. Here is where the difficult task of separating heart from head comes. This is where I have to decide whether dollars trump relationships. That's the tough thing with business. You don't want to cut off your nose to spite your face.

Relationships aren't measurable. The value is intangible. It's a feel good sell that's reciprocated when it is at its best. Actually, when both concur, it transcends the "sell" and becomes a mutually beneficial relationship, a marriage of sorts.

The education when one joins a network is unequivocal. Once you find a point person to cover the introductions, the rest is up to you the learning curve can be steep, but only lasts a short time. Finding out where you fit best is where the work lies. What is the purpose of your curiosity? Is it business oriented, or social? Like I had mentioned previously in my column about taking away a "nugget" from all of your experiences, networks have more nuggets than you can shake a stick at. This holds true only if you wish to partake and are open to creating common connections between you and others.

A funky thing, these groups. As I discovered in my journey, many of these people are members of more than 1 or even 2 groups. The common goals range from raising money for charity, raising community awareness or providing shelter in trying times. These multi-network species work the crowd like no other. It's like second nature for them to float the room, shake hands, greet and strike up a conversation which engages all who are within ear shot. These are the leaders, and rightfully so.

The opportunities that these groups offer are endless. Opportunities for new folks to the area to introduce themselves. Chances to meet and discuss issues with high profile keynote speakers, and to give back to the community which we are so fortunate to live in.

Briefly, I'll share with you a few of the nuggets I've taken away from my networking opportunities this year:

  1. ASK, don't be afraid to ASK. Exercising this may seem to be a very basic skill, but many of us are too hung up on the possibility of a negative response. The word "no" is very powerful, but it is what it is. If you receive the response "no" from a request, try another angle, or weigh your losses and move on. Someone along the line will give you the information you need. you just have to remember patience prevails. Please use etiquette when you ask.

  2. Take responsibility for your own happiness. You cannot hinge this on anyone else but you. If working for yourself is what you do, then this is a big one. ASK yourself honestly what makes you happy about what you do, and who you are. If changes need to be made, make them. Stay committed to the important things in your life, like family, community and work life. Keep a balance, and monitor it regularly.

  3. Brockville and area is a very giving and caring community. I knew this already, but had no idea to the depth and breadth of it. By being involved in networks, you experience this first-hand by being involved directly if you wish. Even in our community, one which I consider quite bountiful, there is a great need to support our friends and neighbours. It may be awkward to walk a bag of groceries across the street to a family in need, but we have the services that enable them to reach out and get help if they need to do so with dignity.

  4. And one of my favourite lessons, one which my Mom appreciates: Do not lick your fingers in public - It's RUDE! I'll let that one speak for itself.

The soul, or core of the group is its people. Without the human component, they would not exist of course. I am delighted to report that many of the people I have met over the past year were not born in this region. Although I am a native of the area (except for a total of about 10 years away), I am always up for a discussion with a new perspective.

So there you have it, my soft-sell approach to joining a network. To those of you who have invited and welcomed me this year, thanks. I appreciate the warm smiles and pertinent discussions. Now it's back to the drawing board where I will make my decision. Quite frankly, some of you may be tired of seeing my face more than once a month. How do you think I feel having to look at it every morning?