NETWORKING & BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
Networking and building relationships is such an important aspect of American life. It’s something that enriches our personal life, is essential for community building and an important cornerstone in business. So, what is it exactly, how do you do it and what is the purpose?
I attended the University of Southern California and our business classes were all through the Marshall School of Business. One of our main school values was networking. USC is die hard on networking, they talk about it, teach it, preach it and so many even go to USC for the networking opportunities. Good networking is an art form. Those that really get it, understand that you don't ever even “network,” you build genuine relationships.
Networking, The Early Years
I’ve been “networking” since I took my first business workshop when I was 14 years old. I wasn’t even sure what it was, I just knew it was about talking to people and connecting. So I would go places, talk to people, connect and then I’d collect a business card and would write a note on the back of the card to help jog my memory of the person/interaction. By the time I was 23 years old, I had shoe boxes filled with business cards I’d collected over the years. Reading the notes, I remembered exactly who each person was. I never really used any of it, but after 10 years of “networking,” without a purpose, I learned to have a good handshake, look people in the eye, listen, engage and I did get over my fear of talking to new people.
While at USC, they gave us opportunities to “network,” but with a purpose. I was in the Leventhal School of Accounting and every semester they had a “Meet The Firms” event where they brought together the top 5 accounting firms like Ernst & Young, Price Waterhouse Cooper etc. for an evening of appetizers, drinks and casual mingling. Recruiters attended the event, firm associates, V.P.s and all of us accounting students eager to make an impression and maybe hand out a resume that may lead to a job opportunity. We were nervous trying to make a good impression, make some contacts and somewhat be ourselves and hide the desperation of “pick me, pick me.”
Other networking events consisted of meeting people, frantically passing out business cards, collecting cards, following up with people, sometimes to pitch them a product or service, sometimes to get an in person meeting and often, it was contrived and not authentic. It was, figure it out, get the sale and not taking time to actually connect and get to know someone. This is a low level networking activity and more along the lines of a sales activity called prospecting.
Seasoned Networking...Or, Relationship Building?
After college, during professional life, the networking purpose changed. Attending networking events became more about vendors building relationships with us to secure loyalty to continue our business relationships. Through those relationships, we found mutual interests and organically found ways to provide benefit to one another. Sometimes they introduced us to new clients which benefited us. Because that’s such a huge value, in turn, we stayed loyal to them and continued to use their business services. It was such a symbiotic relationship.
Doing business with people is one of my favorite kinds of relationships. With good people, there is mutual respect, boundaries, trust, helpfulness and the best relationships are a two way street. There is an unsaid understanding of giving back. It’s not even required, or asked, it’s this innate human desire to help someone that has helped you. It’s beautiful really. And, what ends up happening, is the desperation of the early years of “networking” goes away and there is just a focus on doing good business, being a good person and offering value to others. That’s it, it’s that simple. At the end of the day, people want to work with people they like and trust. Some of those business relationships over years turn into friendships and that’s even a greater gem.
It's All About Relationships
I’ll give a few examples from my own personal life. I worked with Mark Johnston many years ago. He mentored me on business, self confidence and leadership. I didn’t pay Mark to do this for me, I was much younger than him and Mark did it because he is a natural born leader and saw something in me and went out of his way to share his expertise and knowledge with me to help me find my strengths.
Mark and I stayed in touch over the years. 15 years later, Mark is now promoting his coaching service and asked me for a testimonial. Mark gave me such great value that I took with me to so many aspect of my life, I was more than happy to give Mark a video testimonial about what he did for me. This is the power of relationship building. (www.mjohnstonconsulting.com)
Figuring out how to translate that to social media can be challenging. But, the same principles apply. Be a good person, make genuine connections and offer value. I’ll share more examples about a few women I met via social media and how much I enjoy and cherish those relationships.
I came across Rachel Cogar Yeakley via Facebook. She is a writer, speaker, coach and has a FB group with so many helpful tips for business owners. I just liked her posts and vibed with her page. I engaged a bit with her posts and I just had a good feeling about her. I reached out to her and asked if I could interview her on my podcast, Sexy Boss Babe. She accepted and we had a great interview, Season 1, Ep 11: “Sustainability in Business & Life” (available on iTunes, Spotify and all platforms,) where she shares her real life business stories and challenges to find happiness and balance.
Later, Rachel asked to interviewed me on her platform about Sexy Boss Babe and the social impact cause and separately did an unboxing video about Sexy Boss Babe. I was so incredibly moved and touched by Rachel. To me, she’s a person of quality, integrity and most importantly, so much heart. She really believes in our cause and mission and has supported us in every way, through promoting and purchasing products and even offering to help with events. Rachel is a special woman and I’m grateful to have connected with her. To date, her episode is in the top 3 downloaded episodes. (IG: @rachelcyeakley www.rachelcyeakley.com )
Then of course, there’s Shareen Rivera who I met via Instagram, we've never met in person but the relationship and friendship we’ve developed is such a great example of true women empowerment and women uplifting women. Somehow, I came across her Instagram page and the posts, quotes about life, challenges, overcoming adversity, it was as if she was speaking my own life experience and my own pain.
Shareen is an author that wrote about leaving an abusive relationship and how to find love again, Her book is called, To Love Again. I felt like she could connect to women in a special way and I reached out asking if I could interview her. She said yes and I ended up interviewing her twice on the Sexy Boss Babe podcast and to date, her episode is the #1 downloaded Season 1,E4: "Trauma, Forgiveness & Choosing Empowerment."
Shareen and I stay in touch, call one another to share of our business progress, challenges, wins, and give one another words of encouragement and friendship. I believe in Shareen and genuinely am happy to see her successes. Recently we sponsored her event, "Success Is The Best Revenge" and Sexy Boss Babe sponsored products in her gift baskets to raffle off to attendees. If you've paid attention to our interactions on social media, it's obvious, there's a lot of love between us. (IG: @shareenrivera www.shareenrivera.com )
The most recent connection was with another special woman, Marissa Cedillo Berrios, Founder of Real Women Sisterhood. Somehow I came across the Real Women Sisterhood page on Instagram and enjoyed their content and engaged. I just liked what Marissa stood for and that she brought women together to discuss and bond over real life issues we all go through to create a sisterhood of women that can trust one another and share openly. We connected and finally met in person to talk about life, business and what we are working on.
She thought I would be a good fit for an upcoming event and on January 8th, 2020 for human trafficking awareness month, I’ll be speaking on a panel about sex trafficking and the connection to foster care at their event and Sexy Boss Babe will be an event sponsor and will gift some products to the attendees. Outside of that, Marissa and I found out we share common people we both know and genuinely are interested in one another’s personal lives and business growth. Relationships like this are so wonderful to create and I'm looking forward to our new friendship. (IG: @realwomen_sisterhood @youngladiesrise )
Be A Good Person & Offer Value
I hope you were able to see the evolution of learning relationship building over "networking," over the years. It's all about being authentic, genuine, and a good person. When you give value to others, others give value to you. Not everyone gets this, so many are short sighted thinking of the sale in that moment and kill off a relationship before it ever has the chance to start or develop because they are focused on short sighted things like closing a sale right now. Being a part of someones extended network is a valuable thing that is to be appreciated and respected. That person, is essentially telling everyone they know, “Hey, I like this person, I trust them and you should too.” That type of value, is priceless.
This blog was inspired because I hear so many complaints from women in various groups about people jumping into peoples private messages to immediately sell them something without taking the time to connect and develop a genuine relationship. Often times, these people go in for the hard sell. Sales techniques will be another blog I will post in the future so please stay tuned ;)
Many, including myself at first, didn't know that social media is just like the real world; it is and the same rules apply. We need to be mindful of others, their space, their privacy, their boundaries. We all exist on these platforms together and many of us for different reasons so it’s important we all start being more mindful of that. So, just focus on real connections and real relationships and you will see how fruitful your life will start to become. I have a strong sense of gratitude for all the amazing friendships and relationships I have around me.
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#SBBMOVEMENT The purchase of all of our products supports charities that help foster youth and sex trafficking survivors. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, blue is the national awareness color, so we are donating 100% of proceeds of "Like A Diamond" to our charity partner, Journey Out, to put 500 women through sex trafficking prevention training.
Our Documentary Here is a link to a 2 minute trailer of our documentary, Breaking The Cycle, about what foster youth experience in the system through transitioning out and what people can do to help.
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--Arzo Yusuf, CEO & Founder