Who is Your Network?
By Kathie Donovan

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I used to be allergic to networking. Having spent about four decades in the broadcasting business, networking was a one way experience for me. People either wanted to be on the radio or television and thought I was as good a route as any to get there. I used to joke, when people asked if I could put them on TV for no reason, that I’d see what I could do if they gave me $500.00 cash….for my time and effort of course. Nobody came up with the cash and my sarcastic comeback sure ended that conversation.

In the last six years or so, since leaving my full time job in television, I’ve had to reorient myself around this subject, really unlearn what I thought was true about networking. I’ve had to be courageous and say yes to events when the scared part of me wanted to retreat. I’ve investigated networking from as many sides as I could see and have concluded that networking is miraculous. The time and energy we need to invest to find our network is the tricky bit. It requires asking yourself what you want from a network and figuring out which network can offer what you need.

There are two networks that I love to support and am an active participant in. One is the Distinctive Women Community in Canada. It’s a group of vetted professional women from various backgrounds, who want to not only grow their business but connect with other high caliber women in business for professional and/or personal relationships. Some of my favourite women friends as well as some great business connections have evolved from being part of this brilliant collaboration.

The other is BOB Clubs International or Business Over Breakfast. It’s a mix of businesses, men and women, who meet once every two weeks to learn from and teach one another as well as refer business. What I love about my BOB meeting is the opportunity to polish my “elevator pitch,” to expand it, come up with other ways to explain what I do and to help other business people do the same. I love supporting dynamic business people and so far it’s an equal balance between giving and receiving wisdom and advice. I also love that we’ve introduced more women to our group, which I feel really balances out the energy.

I’ve learned some key points that I want to leave you with in the hope that they will serve you as a business person and networker. Some I’ve learned through observation and others through experience.

  1. Be who you say you are. We are people before we’re business people; if you don’t know who you are that’s a great place to start.
  2. Think about ways you can help others elevate their business. Networking should really be about how we can help others instead of what we can get from them. The later happens when we serve with the right intention. Plus we can all see through you when you’re only thinking about yourself.
  3. Always add value. My favourite business leaders are generous givers and I’ve learned that the more I give it seems the more I receive. Plus giving feels great and expands your heart as well as your world.
  4. Develop healthy boundaries. Not everyone is for you just as you’re not for everyone. It’s good experience to learn how to be around business people who don’t hold themselves to the same standard you do. It’s not your job to teach people how to have good character however it is your job to show them what it looks like to have good character.
  5. Be kind. Your constructive feedback will help others grow as a person and as a business person; your sarcasm and negativity is just not kind.

Thank you for letting me be part of your network.