Up until mid-March, like me, you probably had a couple weekly networking groups on your calendar each week. Chamber groups. Local business owner groups. Women’s groups. You were dedicated to the communities you linked arms with to further the impact of overall business community.
Or perhaps, networking has felt daunting. Maybe you’re a newer business owner who has been watching the business community from the sidelines. You were about to dip your toes in the networking water when “the ‘rona” threw its hat in the game or wrench in the plans.
Good news. Whether you were well drenched or a toe dipper in networking, the playing field has been leveled for all of us, as we’re all adapting to the new virtual ways of doing networking. There’s no better time than now to dive in, because it’s kind of weird for us all!
I run a women’s networking group in the Tampa Bay area called Hearts and Heels. Prior to COVID-19, we had one big meeting each month to connect on a workshop topic and socialize over dinner. We maintain a very active online group. I love the face to face time we schedule each month and the side meetings that happen between the members. When I realized meeting in person was going to be a no-go for a while, I admit…I freaked out.
I knew I could go to an online model, but I myself did not particularly like the few online meetings I had done to that point. Between March to now, however, I’ve (and maybe you’ve) done probably hundreds of online meetings. Practice makes perfect, right?
I am convinced there are some ways we can all make the experience of online networking more comfortable. Here’s some tips to help you not feel like a fish out of water but like your online networking time is valuable to your business AND that you are contributing to the meetings. Let’s face it. Online networking isn’t going anywhere, even if the current world health situation was to disappear tomorrow.
- Get a 60 second commercial together. It’s going to happen. It’s going to be your turn to introduce yourself and give your 60 second elevator pitch. Write it down. There is no shame in reading off a cue card to make sure you use this 60 seconds as effectively as possible. BTW, I’ll go live this week on my FB page http://www.facebook.com/genevamaresma to talk about exactly how to do this!
- Before the meeting, create some personal goals. Perhaps you’d like to identify one or two people with whom to have a virtual coffee. Maybe you’d like to learn something specific from a workshop being given. Your goal, if you’re new to networking, may be to simply attend a group and get more comfortable with networking in general.
- Recognize that the true reward to you is in the follow-up and post-meeting connections. If you attend one or 100 networking meetings and never extend your efforts beyond the meeting itself, you’ll probably be in the camp that says, “Networking meetings didn’t work for me.” Networking is THE single most powerful form of marketing you can do for your business. Hands down. My entire first business was successfully built on word of mouth.
- Remember, networking is not a one and done, and many people unfortunately look at it this way. They will state, I didn’t make a sale. No one was interested in buying my products or services. That’s the wrong perspective. Networking groups are to create referral connections. Connections take time to build. No one will refer you until they know, like, and trust you. If you join a group, commit to it for a time and shift your focus to how you can pour into it and how you can give to the community over take from it. You will gain from it eventually, but you are going to have to authentically give to get.
So set a networking goal this week. Embrace virtual networking, because it’s here to stay! Be brave and try a group if you haven’t. If you’d like to join my group (for women in business), let me know, and I’d be happy to introduce you into it and I promise it’s fun and friendly!
Dream Big and Shine On!
Let’s cut to the chase. If you want a long and healthy relationship with your business, you’ll have to establish boundaries around it.
Think of your business as a person. Do you want it calling you and texting you at 10pm? Do you want it to coerce you into work you’re not excited about? Would you want it to feel like it monopolizes all your time? I’m sure you’re saying, “Of course not,” but the truth is that without clear boundaries around how you conduct business and allocate your time resources to your business, you run the high probability of becoming resentful of your business. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with a friend or partner in which you feel resentment, it’s really not fun. It makes you less than the best version of yourself, and that is no way to have long-lasting relationship with your business.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business 5 days or 5 years, you can begin to groom habits that help you stay in harmony with the dream you have for your business. Here are 3 areas to examine and develop plans for to help you maintain balance through boundaries:
- Task Boundaries- Make a list of all the day to day tasks you need to manage like social media, returning emails, writing reports, packaging items…ALL the stuff. Set designated times of the day to tackle each in order to prevent flitting from task to task and checking in on social accounts are emails which will wrangle you in for more than work (Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone down the rabbit hole of social media? We’ve all done it and regretted how much time got sucked into nothing productive). Stick to your deal with yourself of when you will do these tasks.
- Customer and Client Boundaries- Before we talk about what boundaries to set up here, let’s talk about why we struggle with customer boundaries. One word. Fear. Scarcity mindset feeds the fear that if we are not all things to all people when they “need” us, they will land with our competition. However you respond to people will set the tone for what people expect of you. If you do not want to be answering emails at 8pm on a Monday, when you’d rather watch The Bachelor, then determine you won’t. Set an autoreply email for after the end of your business day, if you’d like, or be really good at disciplining yourself to respond to after-hours emails as one of your first tasks the next business day. When I first started in business, I struggled with client boundaries for a few years. I was over-delivering thinking I was giving exceptional customer service. I was providing great service, but it was through unsustainable behaviors at the cost of fights with my husband and lack of “me” time. I came to realize I could still provide outstanding care to my clients but had to prioritize my priorities first, otherwise, I was training my clients to act like young children who were constantly in need of me. I’m a stickler now for boundaries around texts and emails to my clients. A little secret… I often draft back text or email responses on Sunday mornings, but I don’t hit send until 8am Monday morning. Why? While I worked the weekend for a couple hours perhaps to alleviate my Monday morning time, I do not want my customers perceiving I work weekends. Texts and emails received after 6pm relative to work go on the next day’s task list. Lean in and listen closely friend. You have to know something. You’re amazing at what you do, and you are a wonderful person to do business with. That is your sell. Your people will not leave you if you are responsive when you tell them you will be. They do not do business with you, because you reply to all their FB comments immediately. They do business with you, because you are reliable and they have the confidence you will follow through on communication according to when you say you will. Build your business on the value of you and your integrity.
- Personal Time- I should have listed this one first in order. When you go to schedule your week (I do mine on Sundays), you must put your needs on the calendar first, and then the other time is work time. I have a need for 30 minutes in the morning to drink my coffee and eat my breakfast. I might write or watch the news or read during this time, too. It’s non-negotiable. I know when my day does not start this way, I will struggle the whole day feeling aligned. Whatever is important for your personal inner balance, schedule first. A workout. A half hour lunch. A dinner date with a friend. Time to curl your hair or put on makeup and your best face forward. It may sound silly, but a swipe of mascara, a pop of lip color, an outfit I like, and good hair make me feel put together which boosts my confidence that no matter who I run into during the day or what Zoom meeting I end up on, I represent myself for my business in the best way. I put on perfume, even when I have a day of video calls. Why? It simply makes me feel good. Set yourself as a priority, and whatever you do, do not compromise your boundaries during YOU time for one more email or one more phone call. They can wait, but your mental health is always immediate.
If you want to shine and truly see your dreams reveal themselves, getting harmony and balance with your work and within yourself is one of the keys that opens the doors to fruitfulness and success.
This is as important a business strategy as any others I teach. It’s foundational and life-changing. I’m here to support your boundary plan and cheer you on, sister!
Dream Big and Shine On!