The rule of ten (part 2)

                            Last week, I talked about ten rules of networking. At that time, I could only come up with seven, largely because I was distracted by dinner. Having a week to mull the issue over, and having dispatched the evening comestibles, I submit the other three for your consideration.

                            8. Networking is not selling. (This principle was suggested by my good friend Ruth.) Such is the claim though there are many who would argue the point vigorously. Very few people show up at a networking event ready to buy anything which explains why nobody ever seems to have any money on them. The idea of networking is to educate people in attendance as to how you are able to solve their problem without telling them exactly what it is that you sell. For example, say you sell widgets. Let’s further state that they are the best widgets made anywhere as evidenced by the fact that your widget will solve every widget problem on the planet. You, of course, want to educate folks of that fact so you might state that widget problems are a terrible blight on the American landscape and you are hear to eradicate that very issue. Once you have their attention as to your world renowned problem solving talent, then you sell them stuff.

                            9. Say thank you – a lot. There is not one person at a networking that owes you even so much as a sideways glance. The fact that they took the time to hear of your non-selling, problem solving talent (you are, of course, a legend in your own mind – but they don’t know that) is enough for you to be eternally grateful. Thank every person that speaks to you. They have chosen to spend a few minutes of their life listening to you. That is time they will never get back. Don’t waste it. Extra credit project – when you get back to the office, consider sending a thank you note to each person you met. That brings us to the final principle.

                         10. Who is the real priority anyway?  Consider every person at a networking event as more important than you. I daresay an attitude such as I have suggested would indeed make the world a much better place. You might even consider posing the following inquiry to each person at the start of a conversation, “What can I do to help you?” Resist the temptation to give them an example of an appropriate reply by giving your own answer. Do remember the idea is to convey that you are genuinely interested in the other person.

Well, there you have it.

An excerpt

(NOTE: This is an excerpt from the book “When Girls had Cooties” that I am working on – enjoy)

            Our field was now gone. There was no looking back. We had moved all of our stuff over to the field behind Mr. Russell’s store. There was not anywhere near the hiding places in our new field as there was in the old one. War would be very different. There were very few rocks which was probably ok as this field had horseradish trees in abundance. Clods were also plentiful. There were no hills to hide behind and there was not even one ditch. The wars that we did have centered on the dozen or so horseradish trees that lined the eastern side of that field. That was the side of the field where the old farmhouse sat which meant we had to watch out for the old turkey that had the run of the place. He got hold of us more than once during our days there. Right smack in the middle of a war, somebody would dart from one tree to another and that stupid thing would be standing there. If you made the mistake of spooking him, he would really let you have it too. He wasn’t afraid of more than one little boy either. He’d whip two as quick as he’d whip one. We wanted to “get rid” of him but he was owned by the old lady that lived in the farmhouse. She was the meanest woman on earth and she had made that turkey the meanest bird on earth. We got to where we sent spies out to find out where he was so we could avoid him. It didn’t do much good as he would hear us and come after us. There was not a day that would or could go by without him whipping one of us. That’s when I had an idea.  

            “You see how fat that turkey is?” I asked the guys one morning. We were in the middle of the field one morning and he was walking in amongst the horseradish trees waiting for us. “So what, he’s fat. Big deal,” Mark answered. “What’s that got to do with us?” “It’s simple,” I explained. “He’s fat because he’s always eating. Why don’t we give him what he wants? Let’s get some turkey food or whatever it is turkeys eat and put a whole pile of it out for him to see and get to. He’ll spend all his time eating or sleeping off what he ate. Then we can do whatever we want.” A long silence took over the group as they pondered my incredible wisdom. Finally, Tom popped up and said, “That’s a good idea except for one thing. We don’t know what turkeys eat and, if we did, we don’t know where to get it.” Randy thought they ate worms and Steve thought they ate special turkey food. “Whatever it is, we need a lot of it and we need it now.” We all looked up to see that old tom heading right towards us at full speed. You never saw a faster moving bunch of boys than we were at that moment. Most of us got away but poor old Rex was not fast enough. That stupid bird put a terrible whipping on him. We threw stuff at him and kicked him and eventually he left. He sure did rough Rex up. “That tears it,” Rex said as he held his bleeding nose. “That thing’s got to go and go now. Where’s the nearest feed store.”


            We didn’t know whether they ate worms or feed so we split up. Half of us went to dig worms and the other half went looking for a feed store. What followed was a week long project of highly dubious value.


            Me, Mark, Randy, and Gary went looking for worms. There are more snakes in the Texas Panhandle than there are worms. We didn’t find very many at all. We did find at least five snakes but my brother said that turkeys won’t eat snakes. “If you gave him one, you’d’ just make him mad. He’d kill the snake and come after you for revenge.” So, we got rid of the snakes and kept looking for worms. We went up to the old field after the construction crews were gone and did find quite a few there. We put them in a bucket and Rex took them home. We were going to wait until the other guys had gotten some bird food and then we could test which one worked best. It took two or three days for the rest of the guys to come up with what they said was turkey food. Steve’s dad had bought a big bag of wild bird food for us (and took it out of Steve’s allowance) to try out on the turkey.


             The next morning, the whole gang met at the fort. Steve brought his bag of feed and Rex had a bucketful of worms. Tom took charge of the test. You will have to read the book to see how this ends…

The rule of ten

                As promised, herein begins a weekly discussion on the art of networking. I’ll continue to write a weekly article for the betterment and (maybe) the instruction of my fellow man until I get bored or think of something else to write.

                There are ten or so rules of networking that one violates at one’s own peril and at risk of public shame.  They are in order of priority. Start with the first and do not move on to the next step until you master the previous one.

  1. Show up. On a seemingly regular basis, I bump into people that join a networking group, never go to an event, and then quit because they “never got anything out of it.” Can’t imagine why not.
  2. Dress like you are somebody. If you are an insurance salesman, it probably would not be a good idea to go to an event dressed like you’re off to a redneck bar. Dress the part that’s appropriate for your job. If you are clueless as to what’s right to wear, hire a fashion coach or have your spouse check you out before you leave home.
  3. Brush your teeth. Dude, do I REALLY have to talk about this? It happens more often than you might think. Nothing is worse (well, an IRS audit maybe) than listening to somebody’s elevator speech when they have breath bad enough to gag a buzzard.
  4. Bring your business cards Another “duh” and it occurs with remarkable frequency. You would not forget your cell phone or your car would you? Of course not. It’s part of your morning checklist. You know, brain: check, clothes: check, brushed teeth: double check, business cards: check. Sheesh.
  5. Be on time. You are not going to be “announced” when you walk in, are you? Arrested perhaps, but probably not announced. This is not a red carpet affair and you are more than likely NOT going to meet a glamorous movie star. You don’t need to “make an entrance.” Drop your name in the fishbowl and get some coffee. Nuff said.
  6. Know how to use the predominant language. Most of us in these parts are native English speakers so it would be of immense value if you have a command of English grammar. Do try to sound as if you know how to communicate in coherent sentences.
  7. Know what you want When you are explaining what it is you do for your daily bread, have something more substantial to say than “I sell cars and do you want to buy one?”  Further, when asked who your target market is, please have something more specific to say than “people with money.”

Ok, that’s only seven. Work on these and I will give you the other three next week or as soon as I can think them up.

Friends in odd places

                A number of years ago, I was at my desk at work when a daughter of a friend of mine called. She was at her apartment and had locked her keys in the car. Would I come over and get the car unlocked for her, she wanted to know. Being the ever dutiful and faithful friend, I told her I would be over as soon as I could.

                Having no criminal experience that I would be willing to admit to, my first challenge was finding somebody who did. Inquiring at a nearby repair shop, I found a mechanic who indicated he had the skill set that I was looking for. He further indicated that, seeing as how he knew me and liked me, and seeing as how it was my friend’s daughter that was in distress, he would break into her car at no charge.  I thanked him profusely and we got into my car and drove to her place not far away. He was an inquisitive type and, by the time we got to her apartment, he had ascertained that she was in her mid-twenties, a student, and the single Mom of a young daughter (who, by the way is way beyond cute).

                “Mom” met us in the parking lot and my friend got to work getting her car door opened. In the short time he took to do that, he and my friend’s daughter talked up a storm. Her daughter was busy being cute at Mom’s feet. The mechanic finally asked where Dad was and found that he lived in Chicago. That lit a memory spark in my mechanic friend who had grown up in Chicago and had worked there until just a year or two ago. He inquired as to the father’s involvement in his daughter’s life which launched Mom into a brief lament as to his unwillingness to help with child support. By now my mechanic friend had the door opened and stepped back with a look of disgust in his face. “He does not want to pay his part of the deal?” He was clearly not happy. Mom affirmed this fact whereupon the mechanic whipped out his cell phone and started looking up a number. “What is his name and where does he work?” he wanted to know. “Why?” She asked. “I have some friends in Chicago who will go “see him” and make sure he knows he has to pay.” He waited patiently while she took in the idea he had in mind. After a time, she finally told him that she had a court date and he was going to get his wages garnished.  The conversation ended with my mechanical buddy giving his cell number to my friend’s daughter with the instruction that, if he ever gives her any trouble, she is to call him and his friends in Chicago will pay him a visit.

                True story.

It’s not rocket science

                I did an internet search on the word “business networking” the other day. Whatever time I have left on this good earth is wholly insufficient to research the information made available by that investigation. Wikipedia™ even had an article on the subject.

                There are networking clubs, institutions, and gatherings of all sorts to facilitate business people of all walks of life in their daily quest to meet people and sell them stuff (or, as they will say, “Build strategic relationships”). Because so many people apparently don’t know how to network, there are speakers, books, articles, and seminars ad infinitum, all designed and written to help the business people of the world in their never ending quest to meet people. There are the five R’s of relationship, the “X” procedure of reciprocity, and the one elevator speech that, if properly written, will wow all who hear it and create in the audience an immediate desire to do business with the speaker. Yes, the “network industry” is big business.

                It’s also hogwash.

                Yes, I said it and I’ll bet there are a few people that would like to see me arrested for doing so. Take all the methods, procedures, and positive thinking malarkey out of the equation and what do you wind up with?  People meeting people with the intent of doing and/or referring business. That’s really all there is to it, folks. There are only a couple of things you need to know and do to be a successful networker. Over the next few Mondays, I will present one idea at a time for your consideration. You may or may not agree with me and some of you may wish to see me burned at the stake for heresy. The fact remains, though, that you and I have been networking since birth. The target market may change along the way and the elevator speech is certainly different depending on one’s age. It is all essentially the same process.

                I could give examples of networking at each stage of life and maybe I will at some point. For the purpose of this article, let us save to say that there are certain behaviors and methods to be used in networking that cannot be violated regardless of age or station in life. They range from the absolutely most basic of all things (like showing up) to the simpler things. None of it is complicated unless one chooses it to be so. I recently met someone who claimed to be a “certified networker.” I don’t know what that is. Maybe he went to a school. I don’t know and I was kind of afraid to ask. Anyway…

                Ok, enough. Next Monday, I will present the first and most important rule of networking. Do try to get some sleep between now and then. I will also see if my old friend Augie has anything to add to the conversation.

Our office

                 The little room in our house that serves as the family office is in a perpetual state of disarray. Just two weeks ago, we spent the better part of two hours sorting through papers and files that had accumulated and hung around the place like an unwelcome relative.  The hour or so after that herculean task was spent shredding those ancient files. All that work and the room looked no better than before the task had been started. Even now, the place looks like a college dorm after an all nighter.

                In one corner is a video camera mounted on a tripod. It’s been there for at least a month in an attempt to learn to make videos and use them on the computer. It is a safe bet it will yet be there a month from now. Right next to it on the floor is a tangle of cables that goes with the beast. Not all of them belong to the video camera. We are not sure where they go or how they got there.

                There are two bookcases in the room stuffed beyond their limits with books of all sizes and shapes. The books in the office are, of course, the “scholarly” ones. You know, how-to books, Bible studies, technical books on gardening, and dictionaries. The fun books are kept in another room. No reason for the books to intermingle. No telling what might happen.  The other bookshelf in the room has an assortment of kid’s books that are only used when actual kids are here. Being as how we are empty nesters and we see our granddaughter only sporadically, this collection gathers dust. Threats to remove them and put them in the attic  have been rebuffed by the matriarch of the house who insists that they stay where they are. There are some things one does to keep “peace in the valley.”

                The centerpiece of the office is a large mound of papers, notebooks, bill files, wires, and who knows what all. There is a rumor that under this mass of rubble is a desk. We know it to be true as we once saw it. There’s also a computer there and that we can see. There are papers on this desk that date back at least thirty years. We have decided that we cannot be bothered with the stacks and stacks of papers and files so we are going to leave it to our kids to clean up after we are gone. We call it a little revenge for all the times they did not clean their rooms. Serves them right.

                The rest of the room contains a stack of books destined for the used book store (someday), an old VCR console, a stack of outdated CD’s, and, off in the far corner, a cat box. Fitting isn’t it?

                All the work cleaning, sorting, and shredding did not improve our office one bit it seems. Out in the garage is a four drawer file cabinet. It is stuffed to the limits. We are not sure that we want to know what’s in it. There might even be a copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls deep inside for all we know. And we don’t want to know. Let the kids deal with it.

Ya’ll quit

I was going to write a scathing rant on the inability of some people to have a rational discussion of opposing viewpoints without resorting to name calling and generally boorish behavior. I was going to rant and rave about our unwillingness to have civil conversation and to remind folks what Grandma told most of us years ago, “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all. ” I’m not going to because this column is supposed to be about the everyday stuff we see and hear.

But we see this kind of incivility on a daily basis. Is it possible that there is somebody in these United States that can have an adult conversation without threats, insults, and / or a frequent use of “THAT” word? Why are we seemingly unable to agree to disagree? Is this maybe the result of a society that has been over exposed to the self esteem movement? Maybe we have been told we are special too many times and have internally decided that we are right and everybody who does not agree is unworthy of oxygen and should not be allowed to vote. This column is not the place for this discussion. I will leave it to wiser people than I.

Instead, I will tell you what Augie told me the other day when this topic came up. (You will remember Augie from a previous article – he is my life long buddy from Army days and is a hog farmer today). He reminded me of the aforementioned wisdom from Grandma then told me about his Daddy. His Daddy was also a hog farmer but he was better at it than Augie. His Daddy once told him and I quote, “Don’t you ever talk bad about anybody to their face or behind their back. The Bible teaches against it.” Augie’s dad wasn’t educated but he was a pretty smart fellow. I don’t recall him ever saying anything bad about anybody. Augie hasn’t either so far as I know. He told me once if he ever did talk bad about somebody his Daddy would come up out of the grave and get him.

We’d all do pretty well to listen Augie’s dad.  I would not want to see Augie’s Daddy come up out of the grave either.