Thursday April 2, 2015

Networking Is Just Befriending Neighbors

By Tom Hart

It’s easy to keep your head down and imagine work as a sprint to a distant finish line, grimacing through endless emails and putting off dinner until you pass hunger, especially when you’re a small business owner and the relationship between hours worked and the number in your bank account is so entwined. Work twenty-four hours a day and you’ll reach that far off goal of doubling your annual income, right? It’s an expensive mistake to ignore the quality of time in your working day, this is supposed to be a passion, not a chore, after all.

Treat your small business like a large one by imagining more hours will equal more success and you’ll soon realize you’re pushing a boulder up a hill in one, endless go. How would we ever find time for networking if we only see it as time better spent on the work we get paid for? Networking is a fad, no? Maybe it’s simply misunderstood.

Cynicism is easy when it comes to networking and for many small business owners it’s hard to distinguish from ‘notworking.’ As always, the secret to the trick lies in sleight of hand — networking is just befriending neighbors, think of it this way and that cold Thursday morning get together soon becomes a way to be with people you like, talking on subjects you’re passionate about, learning from people smarter than you. Making friends in business is as crucial as reading is to the aspiring writer, it nourishes your view of the world and replenishes the energy you have for it.

Reaching out to your peers and competitors — why can’t we be friends? — is essential in making smart progress in business but making acquaintances online is only a periscope, you’re still removed from the people around you — getting out and looking smart, funny, interesting people in the eye is the best way to make friends with your neighbors, putting faces to names and not thinking of them as outsiders.

Meeting the people who either do what you do or something complementary provides valuable insight into how you’re seen and what the landscape looks like outside the hole you inhabit for the majority of your hours. Aside from that, those people are just like you, they’ve all made the leap of faith to do something with their time, with their name, probably making less money than they deserve. These people are special.

There’s more than enough work to go around, especially for talented people willing to put their name to their craft. Every time we get out and talk with our neighbors we’re always reminded of how good it feels to share time together. Go make friends.