How you can get the most out of the business communities you belong to
“Community” is a buzzword currently making its way around in popularity. It’s a good word with a good message; it implies our innate desire to forge deep and meaningful relationships. But how does that translate to our professional lives? Is it appropriate to seek to close-knit business community that goes beyond just a networking group?
1. Make real connections.
All too often, we meet people in passing and have every intention of following up with them only to fail making it happen. In those brief moments of meeting someone, give them your full attention for long enough to make a true connection. Find out the who, what, and why of who they are. If you get their contact information, reach out within 24 hours with an email, a LinkedIn connection, or a phone call. Find ways to reinforce to people the value you place on your relationship with them, which in turn builds a stronger foundation for a business relationship.
2. Be engaged.
If you’re part of a local networking group, chamber of commerce, or other business community, be among the first to jump in and offer to help out. Standing on the sidelines doesn’t put you in a position to build relationships. Be generous with what you have to offer. Whether it’s your time, expertise, or other resources, be quick to give of yourself. That kind of authenticity opens the door for genuine connections.
3. Be a connector.
People connectors are incredibly valuable relationships to have. As you make acquaintances, strategically think through who would provide valuable connections. The best relationships in business are often made based on referrals and introductions. Even if an immediate need isn’t on the table, introducing people who could be mutually beneficial to each other is a great thing to be known for.
A word of caution: be careful of wasting people’s time. Make sure the connections you recommend would truly be a value-add for both people.
4. Forget the finish line.
In other words: don’t be too competitive. An over-developed sense of competition will make you suspicious and untrusting in your business connections, and that’s no way to try and build solid relationships. Of course, guard your secret sauce and don’t be foolish, but remember the old adage: none of us are as strong as all of us. The right strategic partnerships can open doors you alone could never have unlocked.
5. Be real.
People hate fake. Being real means being genuine and honest in your interactions with people. It doesn’t mean over-sharing or being too transparent. You are who you are, and there’s no reason to try and be anyone else. Try to forget the stereotypes and expectations that might be attached to the group you’re involved in. Instead, genuinely and authentically be yourself. If it isn’t the right fit, you’ll find something else. But putting on a mask for the sake of fitting in will never give you the rewarding sense of community you want.
These are simple tips for getting the most out of the business communities you’re involved in, but they are strategies we’ve found actually work. How do you engage in the business communities you’re a part of? What are your strategies for building relationships and community with other business owners in your network?