The Power of Connections

Do You Know the Right People? And Do the Right People Know You?

By: Marci Malzahn

Connections are powerful. I love to hear the stories of business partners who start by saying, “we were buddies in high school” or “we’ve known each other since we were in elementary school” or “we were roommates in college.” From the moment we start relating to people in Kindergarten we start making connections. Some last a lifetime. Others, we only have for a season in our lives. Nevertheless, each person we meet, each connection we make, can help us in the future and we can be of help to them as well.

Every relationship we make throughout our lives is significant. Unfortunately, some relationships leave a negative mark in our lives. But most of them are usually positive. We hope to influence others in a positive way and to help people along the way throughout our life’s journey.

As you grow in your career, you will want to start building a network of other professionals and colleagues whom you trust. You can have different networks of people. There are people you want to have in your network because they could potentially employ you in the future or vice versa, you could hire them to work for you. You may have a separate group of people you network with to brainstorm ideas about your company or the industry you’re in. You will need to be strategic about who you know and also to ensure the right people within your organization and in your industry know you.

People want to do business with people they trust. The best way to get new clients is by word of mouth and a personal referral. Regardless of the situation you’re currently in, I encourage you to grow your network and nurture your existing relationships. Nurtured relationships become more than a connection. Those people can become lifelong friendships, trusted advisers, and future business partners.

Here are some tips to maximize and nurture your network:

  • Find ways to connect with the people you already have in your network. Truly get to know them and take an interest in their personal life. Learn about them.
  • Listen to people’s stories if they’re open to share and respect them when they don’t want to share.
  • Always be willing to share your story. You never know when your story will change someone’s life.
  • Connect people from your network to others. Connections you make will bear fruit. People appreciate being connected and will keep you at the top of their list when they have an opportunity to connect you to others.
  • Schedule time to nurture your relationships. Yes, it takes time to build connections but it’s worth it. You are investing in people’s lives.
  • Be strategic. Plan ahead and find the right people to connect in an organization—whether you are connecting to make a sale or to be hired.
  • Connect people in your network with others. Be willing to share your connections.
  • Invest in creating a professional profile in your LinkedIn account. This is part of your personal brand.
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities in your company, industry events, and conferences.
  • Be genuine. People know when you’re not interested in them.

There are many things you can do to improve and nurture your network of people. It takes time and effort but you will always reap the rewards. Also, the satisfaction of connecting two people who end up working together, starting a new business venture, or simply forming a new friendship is very fulfilling. In business, always remember to make the right connections and ask yourself the question, “Do I know the right people? And do the right people know me?” The answer is within your reach.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic, a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. You can contact Marci through her website at http://www.malzahnstrategic.com, and for speaking engagements please contact Preferred Speakers at http://www.preferredspeakers.com.

Profile of an American Medical Traveler

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAZRAAAAJDZiYjQ5YjMzLTY5ZGQtNGQ5Ny1hODk3LTU0NjA1NWVjNzYxZQHave you ever wondered what the typical medical traveler is like? Or wondered what motivates them to travel for medical care? The answers can be quite varied – and often depend on the circumstances the individual is coming from – but there are some trends that we can observe overall. Here’s a look at the most common traits you might find in an American medical traveler.

 Profile of an American Medical Traveler

Which Americans would be most likely to travel for medical procedures? There are actually quite a few groups of people who would benefit.

For example, an American medical traveler might be someone who does not have medical insurance at all, such as someone who is self-employed and cannot afford to purchase insurance individually.

Or it might be someone who has insurance, either through an employer or individually, but needs a medical procedure that is not covered by their insurance plan. There are a lot of common procedures that often aren’t covered by regular health insurance, such as:

  • Plastic surgery
  • Fertility treatments
  • Stem cell treatments
  • Dental procedures
  • Vision procedures
  • Non-emergency cardiovascular procedures
  • Bariatric or weight-loss surgeries
  • Other weight loss programs
  • Substance abuse programs

Another possible profile of an American medical traveler is someone who has insurance, and could get the procedure done at home, but the insurance plan deductibles and/or total out of pocket costs are so high that it’s still advantageous to travel for the procedure to save money. This person may be simply looking to save money overall without sacrificing quality of care. And they get to travel abroad at the same time!

Or it might be someone who needs a procedure that is not yet FDA approved in the US. For example, a new procedure that’s not yet available in the US is the PneumRX Coil System—a new treatment for emphysema that is available in other countries, but not yet in the US.

Or it could be someone who is looking for an expert second opinion. This cohort is quite small because often would-be medical tourists will seek a second opinion closer to home, but with growing trust in international facilities – especially those who specialize in specific procedures – it could become more common over time.

Or it could be as simple as someone looking for provider accessibility, convenience, and quality in their healthcare. In some countries, it’s more common to have a more personal touch with medical care, even speaking with surgeons on the phone when you have questions. It’s also common in some medical tourism settings to have everything covered and planned out in advance, such as transportation to and from everything—the logistics scheduling alone is a big benefit that some people are realizing may be worth the cost even if the procedure would have been covered at home. Additionally, post-operative care is usually included in the package price, whereas at home it may be on top of the price of the treatment, making the at home total cost higher than anticipated.

Last but not least, an American medical traveler might be someone looking for a faster turnaround time. While waitlists are not as common in the US as they are in Canada, it’s certainly not unheard of to have to wait weeks or months for non-emergency procedures. For certain groups in the US this is a growing concern. One such group is war veterans who are served by the Veterans Administration (VA). With limited VA healthcare facilities, long waits are becoming much more of a problem for this cohort. For those who can pay out of pocket, it can be beneficial to skip the wait by traveling for the procedure.

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

24 Hour Rule 

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAX5AAAAJDk0MDNhZGQyLWI0NjgtNDlkNi1iYmJlLWYyNjI1MDZhYTBkOAOne lesson I’ve tried to passed along to others, was one that I had to learn myself, and sometimes the hard way – the 24 Hour Rule.

Throughout my leadership journey, I realized I was a bit reactionary. If I was a poker player, people could easily read my cards with just my body language. I had to learn how to not be so reactionary and allow myself time to reflect and then make decisions. That’s why I instituted a “24 Hour Rule.” With this rule, if there is a client or a boss that is upset, I would ask for 24 hours to look objectively at the situation and get back to them with an appropriate answer. The key is to avoid escalating the situation.

The “24 Hour Rule” is sort of a “time out” whether in a business setting – or a personal one. This rule has saved me so many times from over-reacting to something that really wasn’t as critical as I might have thought. It has changed me to a more active leader rather than a reactive leader and provided me with the tools to be a calm and collected leader that can solve problems effectively. I have taught this methodology to others, and it often comes back to me in stories of how it helped someone else!

So to my younger self, I wish I had this pearl of wisdom at my disposal as I do now. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so quick to respond to many small situations that seem major at the time. My advice is to find a way to process information and really allow yourself time to make decisions. As someone, like many professionals, who can think quickly on my feet and make good, sound decisions – I sure would have benefited from the ability to sit back and look at things from a bird’s eye view.

Perspective is everything. Problems that seem earth shattering from the ground are often minuscule from above.

Published in EncourageHer Network Magazine. Check out the latest issue here: https://encouragehernetwork.com/magazine/current/

Starting 2016 Well

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After the feast comes the reckoning, the saying goes.

Every New Year many of us analyze what we must change to improve our life quality.  The two categories that almost always top the list for health reasons are increasing physical activity and eating healthier.

Focusing on lifestyle rather than on exercising and dieting, is often times more effective and everlasting because lifestyle has a positive effect as it implies a change for life.  The diet of the Latin cultures includes many alternatives that include all food groups that makes tweaking your diet in a wholesome direction easier.

You may ask, how do I begin?  A simple way is by steps.  Making small gradual changes is easier than changing a whole system.  For instance, making an effort to switch from whole milk to skim milk and drinking water instead of soda contributes to consuming lesser calories.  Every step counts.

If you like salads, a quick way to dress them is using just lime or lemon juice and pepper plus a little salt, if desired, or using a seasoned vinegar instead of a processed bottled dressing.  Grilled, griddled, or roasted vegetables simply drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh chopped herbs and a few chile flakes or fresh chiles are exquisite and acquire a gourmet touch.

Focusing on leaner cuts of animal proteins and removing the skin of chicken and fish and the visible fat of chicken, pork and beef, has compounding benefits as fattier foods contain three times the calories of regular foods. Venturing into vegetable proteins and learning to pair them with other foods to make them whole can lead you to discover new ways of eating healthier too.

For a delicious treat after a heavy meal, fruit instead of a decadent dessert is also a better option with lesser calories and better nutrition.  To celebrate the New Year below is a recipe for a quick and easy Fruit Cocktail.

And lastly, eating fresh and artisan foods and food free of hormones, chemicals, preservatives, and mysterious ingredients will make your heart and taste buds dance too!

 

5 Tips for Facing Your Networking Fears

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It’s odd to think that all the skills you used when you were in middle school and high school and maybe college to navigate the lunchroom and parties hold true in business. Yet, they do.

Imagine you are a new student, walking alone into a middle school lunchroom. You might wonder where to sit, who will ask you to join your table, and whether you will be able to keep up on the conversation.

Or maybe these thoughts never crossed your mind. Maybe you always just walked into a lunchroom and owned it, or sat off to the side and watched what was going on. At parties, were you the last to know about it, or were you the one who was welcoming others in and setting up all the activities to make it amazing?

After one of our first networking events together, my client, Harvey Mackay, No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, told me, “You’re a pretty good carpet sweeper.”

I looked at him, confused, and wondered whether it was a compliment or an insult.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

Harvey said, “You did an amazing job of meeting everyone in the room and getting their business card and a few facts about them.”

I was still confused. That was my job! Plus, I only had two hours to meet all 50 people, or at least 80 percent of them.

Here are five tips to help you the next time you face your networking fears:

1. Know why you are in a room or at an event

What do you want to accomplish? If you’re not sure, don’t go. It’s hard to be purposeful and prepared with what you will say about your business if you don’t have clear goals for what you want to get out of the event, or if you don’t know how you can help other people advance their goals.

Bring your business cards and your best smile. But keep your hands free so you don’t look like a fumbler as you take the other person’s card.

2. Arrive early

The beauty of many of the online event lists is you can see who is going to the event before you arrive. And many industry events send out attendance sheets ahead of time so you can make notes of what you can do for the other person or how they might be a helpful relationship to nurture. You want to know who is in the room and be able to speak intelligently to them about their business.

But if you weren’t able to see the attendance list ahead of time, arriving early lets you review the name tags and see who you would like to meet.

3. Go with another person

Yes, it’s back to the high school lunchroom. It’s easier to get the most out of an event if you go with someone who can introduce you to other people.

And it doesn’t hurt if you can be the one to introduce them. I recently guided a friend around an event and connected him to six people that will help advance his business relationships. It was a great feeling to know that he made relationships and it made me appear to be well connected, confident and capable of speaking about his business. We walked out of the event together and were able to recap how the event had gone and how productive it had been for both of us.

4. Survey the room and mingle

People always clump together. I like to start at an event with the group of people near the front of the room or the bar, as they are often the lively ones. I introduce myself without being rude. I do it by being curious about what they are talking about, and speak up when an opening presents itself.

People want to get to know you, but don’t be the one who talks incessantly. If you’re not sure how to engage in conversation, consider the book How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. A Toastmasters group might help you to practice your speaking. Be able to talk to people on the outside of the room or that are in a small group. Welcome others into your circle and always be positive. People will remember you if you are pleasant, polished and not too upbeat.

5. Know what you are going to say

This sounds easier than it is, but it’s hard to be able to speak intelligently at an event in a loud room when the pressure to connect is on. So practice. Be clear on why you want to meet someone when they say they are a project manager or an executive or prospect. Preparing ahead of time makes you more confident to do the job that you are meant to do: meeting new people and expanding your network.

If your goal is to get more done, you need at least 25 people in your network to make this possible. Whether you start from the inside of the room and work out, or from side to side, see if you can sweep across a room of between 25 and 50 people and meet at least 80 percent of them. Be sure to follow up with them if the conversation gets that far.

Sweeping a room can be tough, but it is part of doing business. Just remember that the rewards outweigh the work it takes to make these contacts. Meeting people can be one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of an event.

Vendor Management: Do You Really Know Your Vendors?

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I would like to continue my post from last week on the topic of Vendor Management and how vital vendors are to the success of every organization. If you missed last week’s article, you can find it in my LinkedIn Posts: “Vendor Management is Key to Staying in Business—Any Business!” Through the years I have worked with many vendors of all kinds and I’ve had the opportunity to form long-lasting relationships with many of them. As a best practice and one of the strategies I used when starting the DeNovo bank back in 2005 was to obtain bids from at least two to three vendors who offered the same services so we could choose the right one for the bank. This strategy served us well and we were able to choose, almost 100% of the time, the right vendor for the product or service the bank needed.

In addition to doing due diligence with each vendor to ensure they are the right fit for the bank, to know they will exist long-term, and that they will keep the bank’s data safe, it is also important to form a good relationship with your vendors. As the CFO and COO of the bank, I dealt with all the vendors, which included reading and signing every contract, learning about their services, and protecting the bank at every level. I took that responsibility seriously and considered getting to know the vendors at the personal level of great importance. I dealt with the sales person initially but I also got to know other key people in the company. This proved to be a great strategy when sales reps left the company or my lead relationship manager was promoted to other positions. For example, with the financial auditors, I formed a long-term relationship with the relationship manager/partner, the lead auditor, and some of the staff auditors who came to the bank each year to do the work. I did the same with the compliance auditors at a different firm, the IT auditors, and even with the regulators for the State chartered bank.

It is also very important and a great vendor management strategy to diversify your vendor base. For example, even though I made relationships with various local accounting firms who provide similar services to banks, I chose separate firms to conduct the compliance audits, IT external audits, financial audits, loan reviews, and tax return preparation. This strategy works great when it’s time to rotate firms so they don’t get too familiar with your bank. It is also a best practice for checks and balances within the bank.

As a business owner it is extremely important that you establish professional relationships but also getting to know your vendors at the personal level. Remember they are people too. By having these relationships, you gain favor with them and grace during the hard times. You can also form partnerships when a vendor wants to roll out a new product, for example. You can be a beta test site and get their product for free or at a reduced cost for a while. They may also give you free PR when marketing their new product.

Now as a consultant myself I have reaped the rewards of having all those relationships and, in some cases, friendships. My goal is to provide my bank clients with several options of vendors who provide bank services (with no commissions or hidden agenda from my part). I simply want to be a resource to my clients so they can then choose (like I did when I started the bank) the right vendor to meet their needs. In order for me to recommend vendors to my clients, however, I need to know them and trust them that they will take good care of my clients.

So if you are a banker or business owner, get to know your vendors at the personal level and form long-term relationships because it will pay off. You will benefit from referrals from your own vendors and your clients will benefit as well when you refer vendors to them by having the opportunity to choose the right vendor to meet their specific needs.

At Malzahn Strategic (http://www.malzahnstrategic.com) we work with banks that want to increase their profitability by improving their operational efficiencies. We focus on Strategic Planning, Enterprise Risk Management and Talent Management. Vendor Management is part of Enterprise Risk Management and we can help you establish a solid, yet simple, program. We strive to be a resource to our clients and, therefore, have relationships with many local and national vendors that provide complementary services to ours. Also, visit Marci’s personal website for speaking topics at http://www.marciamalzahn.com.

New Year’s Resolutions for Leaders

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It’s that time of year again, when we resolve with best intentions to do things differently in the new year. As I look forward and think about our growing organization, I thought I’d share some of my leadership resolutions with you. Read, adopt, adapt or recycle—it’s up to you.

  1. Manage by wandering around. As an introvert, I will hole up in my office if left to my own devices. In the coming year, I will try to get out of my office and wander down the hall (a short walk) and check in with folks.
  2. Seek input from others. It’s easy to get caught up in my own thoughts as I consider new strategies for growth. I resolve to ask others for input and ideas, engaging in the healthy dissension and debate necessary to ensure the best possible outcomes.
  3. Listen more and talk less. Enough said.
  4. Encourage others. As a leader, it is easy to fall into the trap of being critical or giving advice (solicited or otherwise) when sometimes all someone needs is a little encouragement. I will be more mindful of those opportunities to simply reinforce the direction someone is headed (I’ll do this with my kids, too!).
  5. Build my external network. In a service-based business, it is easy to focus attention on those you know, but the reality is that the next engagement might come from someone you haven’t yet met. By reaching out to new people, I will keep things fresh and be exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking.
  6. Communicate proactively about changes in the business. Keeping others informed is critical to the success of transformation and growth.
  7. Take more risks. Get out of my comfort zone and try new things while being open to opportunities that present themselves along the way.
  8. Ask others for help. Recognize that requesting help is not a sign of weakness or ignorance; it is a hallmark of strength and confidence.

I could add many more to the list but will stop here.

What do you resolve to do as a leader in 2016?

This is Why Your Team is Struggling

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You think you’ve done all the right things.

Set up the right systems to make the work easy.  Hired the skilled people to do the work and meet the standard.  You’re the right kind of leader; encouraging, motivational, supportive.

But your team is struggling. Why?

The inability to resolve conflict.

Don’t poo-poo this. Conflict comes in all shapes and sizes and impacts individual success more than you think.

It’s not likely that you have your own version of the Ultimate Fighting Championship going on in the office.  We’re talking more about the teeth-grinding, pulling-my-own-hair-out kind of conflict.

Conflict is almost always about communication.

Imagine this scenario: Bob is not a details guy.  He just wants to reach the goal. Fred is a details guy.  He manages those details so that the goal can be reached.  But if they can’t understand how the other needs to hear and/or receive information, it will cause conflict.  That conflict might be frustration and misunderstandings, which might lead to lost time and efficiency.  It’s even possible you might not reach the end goal.

Here’s another picture: Bob and Fred can’t swim in the open water by themselves and be part of the team.  They need to be in the same ship, crewing together using their unique advantages to be successful.

Resolving conflict means learning to understand the languages within your team.

Optimizing your team’s success is syncing up the ship’s crew for smooth sailing. Even in choppy waters, this kind of crew works together as one for an easy ride.

 

My Biggest Accomplishment as a Manager – It’s Not What You Think!

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As the end of the year approaches and the New Year is about to begin, we find ourselves going through our accomplishments and making new goals for the next year. I usually ponder on my previous year’s accomplishments and their significance. I ask myself, did I make a difference in the lives of others last year?

When people ask me to share about “my accomplishments in life,” I surprise them with my response because it’s not what they expect to hear. When accomplishments are usually measured by successful companies that a person starts, how many degrees you have attained, or the titles you hold at work, I don’t consider my biggest accomplishment to be any of that—even though I helped start bank successfully, published two books, and have held several C level titles during my career.

As a manager and mentor, the first word of advice I give to first time supervisors is: “Get to know your employees.” Employees are people with feelings, not machines that need to produce to increase the bottom line. When you take care of your employees and get to know them at the personal level, the rest comes by itself. They will perform consistently beyond your expectations. I have a high expectations for myself and for those who work for me. I strive for excellence at every level and try to be an example to my employees in everything I do so I can expect the same of them. And they follow. Because my employees know that I care for them and their families, they don’t want to let me down—I even learn their pets’ names!

In the past twenty years of management, I have laid off employees, fired a few for non-performance, and also promoted all my employees at some point, without exception. I remember, one time I had to lay off an employee who was very nice but we had to eliminate the position. Because the rest of the staff knew how much I cared for the employee, they felt sadder about me having to do the job than the poor employee who was being laid off! But they knew I was hurting for that person. The separation went extremely well and there were no hard feelings. The same situation happened again when I had to fire an employee because of not performing the job well. I was so sad to have to do it but had to because it was the best for the organization. Sometimes we forget that the Human Resources professionals have feelings too and that they (most of them at least) do care about people. That is probably one main reason why they chose the HR profession to begin with.

So, one of my biggest accomplishments in life—and my biggest one as a manager—is that I have never lost an employee because of a bad relationship with me. My secret? Again, get to know your employees as individuals. Invest time in them, nurture the relationship, and have high expectations of them. Believe in them and trust that they can do the job they were hired to do. At the same time, I firmly believe in providing employees with the tools and training necessary to do the job. That is the company’s responsibility to ensure success. If in the end, you do have to fire an employee because of incompetence, at least they will leave knowing that you cared about them. Those employees will leave with no hard feelings which can protect the organization from potential lawsuits. Another thing to remember is, of course, to take all the steps according to the law and ensure proper documentation is completed prior to letting an employee go.

Enjoy being a manager. You have huge potential to influence your employees’ lives in a positive way. Take advantage of that opportunity and develop your employees. Train them and give them career opportunities. Brainstorm with them as to what else they would like to do and promote them if you have the power to do so. They will follow you and will work with you to accomplish the vision of the company.

Improving management skills is part of Talent Management. At Malzahn Strategic (http://www.malzahnstrategic.com) we work with banks that want to increase their profitability by improving their operational efficiencies. Talent Management is a key area we focus on as well as executive coaching. By having happy employees, your become more efficient because they’re not wasting their time complaining or looking for other jobs. In the end, good management skills do improve the bottom line.

Happy New Year!

5 Ways to Ask Your Network for Help

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAXpAAAAJDk2YWViOGY4LThjOTUtNGIyOC1iMWIwLTZlNjcwMTQzZDIwZQOne of the most interesting aspects of my work with business owners is to see extremely talented, smart and accomplished leaders hesitate to ask for what they want from their network.

And I use the term “network” loosely, as it could be people they’ve worked with for years or people they just met yesterday.

Yes, it’s human nature to be cautious and to consider carefully what you are asking for. You do not want to overstep your bounds.

I know I personally used to hesitate from asking, but I now only pause, since I have figured out how to ask by sharing my expertise — which I know will help other people reach their goals.

Here are five ways to reach out:

1. Make a specific request

Many people I work with want to do more speaking. Ask people in your network if they are on the boards of associations or organizations and might need a speaker. Tell them what you are doing and that you have the experience to be able to give a great speech or that you’ve spoken to a Rotary already and you want to do more speaking in 2016. If one person in your network introduces you to one person, then you have expanded your network.

2. Ask for an introduction

This sounds so basic, but we don’t do it. And I don’t care for the LinkedIn introduction feature. I prefer to ask my network directly by phone or email if they will connect me to a person that I know they know. I tell them what I am looking for and I ask them to introduce me. I always give them the opportunity to say no, but almost every time they say, of course I will connect you. This is using your voice to reach more people.

3. Ask for exposure to their networks

Many people work in organizations or associations where they post weekly or monthly blogs. Ask to be a guest author and post your content in a newsletter that goes out to your target audience. People read emails from their associations, but may not read an email from an unknown person. By posting a blog you are stepping out and saying what you stand for and can share your expertise. Again, a great way to increase your visibility.

4. Ask for a new client

You’ve probably been asked about your ideal client. Can you answer the question? Can you answer it quickly? Can you be specific? This is a great question to ask your network. So for example, if you’re meeting with your accountant, you can say, “I’m looking to expand into the manufacturing space, do you know anyone who runs a business that I could call to learn more about the industry?” So, you didn’t ask for the account. You asked for more info and that makes it easier for your accountant to make the introduction. In fact, he or she might want to join you for a lunch or a quick meeting.

5. Ask what you can do for them

People talk about reciprocity in networking. To deepen the relationship, take the time after a meeting or a networking event to call the person who made the referral to find out more about what he or she does. Ask, “How can I help you, and what do you need?” Often, people are so startled that you genuinely want to help that they will ask you what they can do for you. And then you ask for an introduction or for them to keep you mind if they hear of anyone who needs your services.

Starting a conversation is one of the easiest ways to expand your network. Add value, add your expertise by sharing one or two items of interest that will make you memorable. Ask for what you want, and please be polite when you ask.

© 2016 -TeamWomenMN