2019 feels like it’s flying by already! I hope that the new year is going well for you so far. While this time of year is often associated with taking stock, I’ve been doing that even more so than usual because of an experience I had at a recent business leaders’ event. It’s amazing how something which initially seems negative can lead to all kinds of useful insights. I won’t go into details, but this experience really brought to life a lot of things I’d been thinking already about networking and making business connections.
Respect the comfort zone
As anyone who has met me will know, I’m a keen connector. I really enjoy bringing people together, hopefully to their mutual advantage! It’s the very reason I set up Catena in the first place. I believe in “organic” networking – making connections in an informal way. This is something that we do all the time at Catena. But I’ve realised that not everyone is open to this kind of approach and that it helps to stay a little detached and to check whether what you are offering is what people actually want. Many of us still have the British habit of being terribly polite, even when something isn’t quite what we would like! My recent experience was a valuable reminder to remain open to making links between people but to also double check that this is what they want. I always work on the basis that everyone is coming from the same place as me in terms of being happy to meet with potential great business contacts. But the truth is that many people are much more cautious in their networking approach and this comfort zone has to be respected. Not everybody is comfortable saying “No, thank you” when they have a face to face offer of help. I’m keeping in mind the importance of double-checking how I communicate my intentions and how the other person is receiving that message.
There is still a lingering perception that business is about doing the hard sell – trying to get a deal and then moving on. While we do of course take business very seriously at Catena, we want to encourage people to build long-term business connections rather than just short-term transactions. That’s based firmly on the foundation of being authentic. It’s why transparency and being clear about what you want from the network is really important to us. Game playing is not an effective long-term business plan! I always value the directness of Catena members in saying what they want and who they want to be in touch with. The network is for them, after all. When people are authentic, they can state what they need and they have more choice in the people they connect with. This is in contrast with the more traditional style of networking or even with networking through LinkedIn where the emphasis is often on the short-term high volume gathering of contacts.
Add a little finesse
Another reminder from this recent experience was about the importance of finesse, the ability to gracefully and politely build meaningful relationships with other business-owners. It’s all too easy for us to take for granted that others share the personal approach to making connections we have at Catena. Some networks, as this experience showed me, are not really ready for this one-to-one approach. They are perhaps used to a more formal way of doing things. One disadvantage of the formal approach is that it means that those networkers maybe aren’t as comfortable saying what they want or applying the power of finesse to build business relationships. Having a little subtlety in these interactions helps to create a real networking community, a space where people actually want to spend time together! This is a big part of the “business dating” approach that we adopt which I think makes for much more pleasant ways of building business connections.
It takes a lot to create and maintain good business relationships. I like to think that supporting a community where people feel able to be themselves and state what they want to achieve and work together authentically is the right way to make it happen. The results we’ve seen so far confirm that it’s an effective approach. Let’s keep up the good work. Here’s to another great year for all of our members, friends and supporters!
Claire Bicknell, Catena