There is an old saying that a skip-tracer is only as good as his/her contacts but I believe that networking is the most important aspect to one’s personal and professional life. I owe my career to my ability to network and to those around me, which naturally includes those in my inner circle who I encounter on a daily basis, but also all those great men and women whom I sadly only get an opportunity to speak with every now and then. With the invention of email, texting, twitter and smitter good old fashion networking has become a lost art unto itself.
This week I want to share my insights on how I apply networking techniques in both my business and personal life, and how rewarding it is when the two can actually merge.
Let’s start with an understanding that every aspect of your life is a chance to network. As we drill down on the subject, we can look at interactions we have in everyday life, such as our favorite restaurants, sporting events and even church. Yes, I said “church.” When I look at my church family, I see a group of people who have come together for the purpose of worship, but also to meet and get to know others who are like-minded. Members of a congregation like to share common interests and, quite often, problems that need solutions. They may simply need an ear to listen, or a shoulder to cry on. As scripture says, “Iron sharpens iron.” Under these circumstances, the strongest of bonds can occur and result in lifelong friendships.
With the knowledge that any encounter can be turned into an opportunity, I never leave my home without some business cards. One of the largest clients I have ever done business with started with a simple conversation on a three-hour layover in the Crown Room at the Atlanta airport. What began as pointless downtime was conveniently utilized to produce a major deal. So take a page from the Boy Scouts handbook and always be prepared!
People in any category of your life have the potential to merge into another part of your life. Some of my most cherished friends in life started out as professional contacts. Now let’s take a look at the Who, What and Why…
I doubt anyone starts out networking with a specific plan in mind. Most of my contacts have come by pure chance meetings, but as I began to gain a larger group of contacts, opportunities grew to meet others that were not previously encountered in my usual paths or network. These new people in my network became teachers and mentors in many areas of my life. Start by looking at where you are in your profession, and where you want to end up. Who can help you move up the ladder or expand your realm of knowledge? A grounded individual realizes that you must also reverse the concept and consider who you can help, or who would benefit from your own knowledge.
Consider what you bring to the relationship, and what this new person has the potential to bring to your life. Simple conversation starts the process: Explain what you do, and what your role in your company or club is, and determine theirs. When you start with common interests, everything else will flow naturally.
When I started SkipGuru.com, I only had an idea in my head: A concept that I wanted to give back to an industry and group of people who have given me everything. I had to begin with considering why anyone else would care to network with me on this venture. So I did what a skip-tracer does best: I started researching. I reached out to several of my contacts, some in the blogosphere, and others who aren’t, and received counsel on the do’s and don’ts to try to determine the best content to utilize from my life experience, knowledge and years of being a pack rat in order to best assist a skip-tracer.
What happened next is what networking is all about. It is quite amazing how some of my friends introduced me to two of the nation’s leading bloggers, who subsequently gave their time unselfishly in this project. I was also introduced to a web designer who offered to build the site, and thanks to the help of these great men and women coming into my life, a few months of effort gave rise to SkipGuru.com.
The last thing I would like to add on this subject is always make sure you give more than you take in any relationship: business and personal. I never teach seminars, give an interview or write an article with the single concern of ‘What’s in it for me?” If you have this type of mentality you may have some short-term success, but you will never pass the test of time. Build relationships that will last and never enter one where either side has a selfish agenda. The relationship will be doomed to failure at some point, leaving dissatisfaction for both parties. Next time I want to continue this discussion and look into the dangers of “Hidden Agendas”!
On a more personal note…
The beneficial effects of networking are responsible for the most profound experience of my life. Although I was completely unfamiliar with the term ‘networking’ at the time, a chance conversation with a mind-blowing redhead at a party, followed by a more formal introduction through a shared friend, resulted in what became a 27-year relationship with the love of my life, Page Price. Had we not shared a common friend, we would not have ultimately shared a lifetime of joy and two wonderful children, so the proof that networking works is displayed on my desk in the Price family photo!
Until Next Time…. Follow Me Down the Path to Better Skip-Tracing
Alex Price is a nationally-recognized expert on the Art of Skip Tracing and author of Skip Tracers National Certification Program with over 25+ years of experience in skip-tracing, collections and public speaking. Alex began his career with Barnett Bank as a field representative collecting past-due accounts. He then moved to World Omni Finance, where over the next ten years he worked in all aspects of collections and handling the nationwide charge-off skip portfolio.
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