Networking- Putting it in Perspective

Guest Post By Sharon Inetas

You attend a networking event and there is a sea of business professionals that you do not know. In your mind, everyone already is paired up or mixing with a group. Your heart is pounding, you really do not want to just walk up and chime in. What will you do?

Networking- it brings excitement to some and instills anxiety in others.  In the business world it is a necessity to grow a business.  Whether your business is based on a giant platform, or you are at the “conjuring a thought” stage, you have done some form of networking.

I thought this was a great quote that encompasses Networking,  “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” — Keith Ferrazzi

Networking is building relationships.  In relationship building a few key components are genuine interest, being an effective listener, building trust, and the desire to be a support system.

One technique to the scenario above:  Take a good look around the room. You will find someone who is alone that is feeling the way you feel.  That is the first person you will want to introduce yourself to.   You have already found a common thread of interest.  Once you find a common thread of interest, the magic of trust begins.  It is so much easier to communicate and listen to someone when there is a common point of interest.

Do you consider yourself a “giver”?  Networking is a perfect environment to satiate that desire.  Some networking organizations build their foundation on the philosophy of giving.  When you give back in someway whether it is to an individual, a group or to an organization personally, do you think they will forget you?  Most likely you will be rewarded two-fold besides the reward of feeling fulfilled to do something meaningful for someone else. Believe me, your bottom line will be rewarded as well.

Come prepared to build, “industry expertise”. Those who are entering the workforce struggle with finding common interests.  One way to build those common interests quickly is to become an industry expert. What business owner does not love to talk about their business.  In my banking life I was terrified to talk to clients in industries I had little or no knowledge about. I was thinking how I can talk to them intelligently and recommend products that would be a fit. I realized along the way, I needed to ask one question- “Can you tell me about your business and about your industry?  I love to learn about that type of business.”

Let us take this concept in another direction. As an industry expert which industries can you pair up together that can give to each other?  When you are an industry expert, you can recommend solid industry referral partners. Often your pairing may not have been a niche market the business professional had thought of.

For many years it had never dawned on me that Landscape Architects project manage outdoor kitchens. I thought of landscaping as mowing lawns, planting bushes, weeding, and trimming trees. Once I learned about that industry through networking, our Marble & Granite company has added that component as a niche market besides adding an outdoor grill and a water feature in our showroom. Those two features will be ways I can give business back to the Landscape Architect.

Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. It takes courage in networking to ask for guidance or admit when something has gone array. It is okay to let your colleagues know you nor your business is perfect, but you are always striving to improve. It is reality! You will find trust and respect build much more quickly.

At one point I wanted to learn about commercial trades bidding. At an event there was an individual who was a Vice President of a large commercial construction company. After initial introductions and all the courage I could muster, I let him know that I was looking for a mentor to teach me about the commercial world, that it was a next step I wanted to take for the company. I asked if he would be willing to take on a student of learning. I will admit he was a little surprised, but he did mentor me and it turned into a wonderful business relationship that still exists today.

Here are some other valuable networking tips.

Set networking goals-Why are you networking in the first place?  Letting others know you started a business? Getting the word out in the community about your business?  Educating yourself to become better at your profession?   Do your research and see what networking opportunities line up with your goals.

Do not categorize or make assumptions when networking– Benefits for your business can come from anyone in the room.  You do not know what they know and who they know.  Some of the best sources of business are from the person you might think is the least likely to give you business.

Follow up is key- Make sure you keep to your promises. If you promised to do a cyber intro, do a cyber intro.  If you promised to give a piece of information needed, do it.  If I am virtually networking, I take notes and save the chat file for contact information.  In person I will make notes on the business card. For a big Wow you may be able to help your network partner right on the spot.  It is prudent to have a large contact list on your phone.

The more you network the larger your sales force becomes and the more resources you have at your disposal.  Networking offers the opportunity to build a large outside sales force.  How nice is it to have others marketing your business, letting others know you are the “go to” person for industry expertise and service?  It can turn your business into a referral-based business.  That saves on marketing dollars, enhances your internal sales force, and broadens your geographical footprint.

You become part of a community-There is no better way to meet and get to know your peers than by networking.  As the saying goes, “It can be lonely at the top”.  It is quite easy to stay inside the doors of your business day in and day out.   It is also easy to lose touch what is going on in your industry and your community.  Networking keeps you up to date.  I find I learn about pertinent information useful for my business before the ground has broken.  It makes me ahead of my competitors.  If you, as an owner, cannot network, then make sure you have an employee who can represent the face of your company well.

Here are a couple of links for additional information on networking.

Books   A classic that still holds true today. Dale Carnegie author  Matthew Pollard author


About the Author

Sharon Inetas is a native of Fairfax County. She has a daughter Dr. Lisa Kachouee, who is Assistant Professor of clarinet at Oklahoma City University.

Sharon pursued a degree in Elementary Education at George Mason University.  She was the first women General Manager for a national restaurant chain, Beefsteak Charlies incorporating sixty-five units in 1978 at the age of twenty-two.

She has owned multiple businesses in the industries of hospitality, pet services, and construction.  She has been an executive in banking, construction trades, and financial services.  The highlight of her business career culminated in managing three large divisions of a student loan company that grew from two hundred million to three hundred and forty billion in one and a half years, besides developing a corporate training program for the entire company.

Sharon partnered with her husband and started Flintstone Marble & Granite LLC in 2005.  After the second year of operation Flintstone was awarded the Retail Business of the Year by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and a finalist for overall Business of the Year two consecutive years. It was also awarded the New Business of the Year by the “Best of Loudoun” community poll.

Currently, Sharon is the Vice President of Sky Marble & Granite, Inc., with over 50 years of family experience in the industry. Sky offers supply fabrication and installation of multiple interior finish options including countertops, and cabinets for both residential and commercial sectors. Sky has recognition honors in craftsmanship through the Washington Builders Council, Best of Loudoun Poll, Loudoun Favorites, and Best of the Suburbs.

Sharon has published articles relating to entrepreneurialism and specified trades as well as being a featured speaker.

Sharon is an avid horse fan, loves to fish, and speed walking when she can.