Networking. Why does it always seem so lame? A bunch of people in a room trying to connect and figure out if they can help each other out. Receptions offer limited time, so your goal is to determine fairly quickly if talking to someone is worth your time or if you need to move onto the next person. It’s kind of like freshman year for adults—everyone’s a little awkward, except for that one guy who is totally running for Rush Chair of his fraternity (Eric Stratton, Rush Chairman, damn glad to meet you), and if you’re not careful you can pack on 15 lbs. from eating all that bad reception food and drink. So fun!
Unfortunately, networking and creating relationships are what business is all about. So, networking isn’t something you can skip out on. Building true business relationships isn’t done in 30 seconds while standing around with a drink in your hand. There’s got to be another way …
There is! I heard about a program called, Leadership Winston-Salem (Click here to learn more), from my business realtor and after learning more, decided to apply. Yep, you have to apply, have a reference, and be accepted. Your employer also has to agree to the extensive curriculum and giving you the time away from the office to participate. Luckily there wasn’t too much red tape to get approval from my employer—the perks of being your own boss!
Leadership Winston-Salem takes about 60 leaders in business around the city and helps these individuals to learn more about their community. The official mission is “educating, connecting and energizing leaders to serve and improve the community.” The year-long program is all about “building strong, lasting relationships with other leaders, learning more about the community than you ever thought you could, and being inspired to make a difference in the community.” Now this is more in my networking wheelhouse.
So far, we’ve had an opening retreat and our first day of speakers and activities to learn more about the history of Winston. I don’t want to give out any details—in case you decide to participate in the program yourself. But already I have a big takeaway.
We meet about once a month and each day has a specific leadership principle to keep in mind. Yesterday’s leadership principle was …
A good leader “looks forward and prepares for possibilities.”
And I really needed that reminder. Being a business owner is all about the grind. The day-to-day. Doing the same things over and over, so that eventually those little things add up to something pretty big.
But as the leader of your business, you have to plan ahead and think about the future. Where do you want your business to go? What is your ultimate business goal? If an opportunity presented itself, would you be ready to take advantage of it?
I’ve been thinking about starting another business in addition to my two Pure Barre studios. This year, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out if I would open another franchise or develop something on my own. I’ve even looked at buying an existing business.
It’s been a slow process and a bit tedious at times. Coming up with the idea is fun. But there’s this whole other behind-the-scenes list of To-Do’s—like talk to attorneys and accountants—that no one really talks about. Not to mention securing a website, building it out, and branding. Oh yeah, and writing a business plan and assessing risk. I might be on the verge of starting something great. Or I might crash and burn.
All the more reason to remember that a good leader “looks forward and prepares for possibilities.”