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The best networking tip I’ve ever gotten in my life

The best networking tip ever came from the most boring networking event in history, and changed how I received referrals forever.




Chinese throwing stars, knives, singing, and networking

I went to a networking event 10 years ago and was bored out of my mind. There were speakers that droned on about industry stuff and overdressed professionals with stacks of business cards in their hands like Chinese throwing stars I knew were about to be thrown at my face, whether I liked it or not.

These professional networking ninjas were intimidating to this fresh-faced college graduate, I mean, they had on pantyhose and blazers in the Texas heat – these people weren’t playing around. After the speakers finally ceased, we said like the Pledge of Allegiance, sung happy birthday to someone, and did the drawing for a set of knives (notice a theme?), it was time to network.

You’d think a bloody turkey leg had just been thrown into an overcrowded pond of piranhas – the frenzy was on. Shallow platitudes were passed, “hello, my name is Debbie and I am an insurance agent. Here are 14 copies of my card, please send my information along to your friends and family and I’m never to busy for referrals, and now I have to go give 20 copies to that prospect over there who looks like they might send me more business than you, byeeee!”

It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I was in grown up land, so I had to act like it, even if I refused to wear pantyhose.

Back when I sucked at networking

I met a “professional networker,” whatever that means. He gave a brief introduction of himself and offered me a card. I dug through my purse to find my card as I told him that (remember, this was a former life) I was in multi-family property management. Then, he asked me what kind of referrals I prefer.

“People looking for an apartment?”

He asked me to be more specific. “People looking for an apartment that aren’t criminals and can afford more than $X per month?”

I was being coached. I could tell. He said, “I will keep that in mind in case I come across someone like that. I make most of my money from public speaking, so if your company is ever looking for someone to keynote at their corporate meetings or you hear of an opportunity in the multi-family industry, that is my favorite type of referral.”

Then, he said, “if you can think of a specific type of prospect you’d like referred to you, you have my email.”

Well, thoughts of Fair Housing laws swirled through my mind. I can’t say “yeah, please send me native Texans who love Jesus and have a fat bank account and skinny butt.” That’s not right.

And here is the best networking tip ever

But it got me to thinking. I could say that many of our residents tend to be people relocating to Austin, often involved in technologies like semiconducting, so if he hears of anyone about to move to town, that’s a slam dunk for me, or if he has any great HR connections at semiconductors, I’d like to connect with them so I can make a deal with their relos.

The best networking tip I’ve ever gotten in my life was indirect, but it was that I needed to be specific about what type of referrals I prefer – to this day, I know that this guy wanted to keynote or speak at multi-family events, a very specific niche. It was a concise description that planted a specific memory in my mind – had he said, “I’m a public speaker,” I would have filed that under “okay, who cares?”

When networking, do more than stalk people like a ninja with a stack of cards – nail your pitch and more specifically, be able to tell people exactly what kind of referrals you love.

“I’m a Realtor who loves working with first time buyers considering living on the north side” is much more actionable than “I’m a Realtor.” “I am a dog groomer and specialize in long hair dogs which are tricky” is much more actionable than “I’m a dog groomer. “I sell insurance” is easy to file under “doesn’t everyone?” but “I love connecting entrepreneurs with affordable business insurance” is much more intriguing.

Give people somewhere to mentally file your skills and there is a higher obligation level for people to refer – our brains are wired to make connections, so make the connection for them!

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  1. Me

    August 8, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Small typo in the above “and I’m never to busy for referrals” should be “too” not “to”.

  2. halffiction

    August 8, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Great advice. When I ran networking events for ad professionals, there was this guy I called “Old Orange Man” an old copywriter desperate for work. He would literally come to my events and paper everyone with his orange business cards. “Take my card!” he’d say, not even saying who he was or what he did. Often he’d hit more than one event in a night if he could. One thing I learned, it’s better to receive than to give when dealing with business cards. I follow up with people – always. Giving someone my beautiful business card? I try not to waste the paper.

  3. rolandestrada

    August 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Great post. As I’ve been driving my tail off lately way out of my area, I started to think I could make a great living just focusing my attention to just one or two cities near my office instead an entire county. As they say “Work smarter, not harder”.

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Business News

Survey indicates that small businesses are optimistic despite COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Facebook survey captures tumult of spring 2020 on small and medium business, with a dash of optimism going into the summer.



small businesses logo

This story contains information that probably will not evoke shock and awe by now, but is nonetheless upsetting. Stop now and check to see if you need a news cycle break before ingesting more garbage depressive news about the economy – but if you can wade through it, I promise it ends on a high note!

Though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is running amuck in the political world like one of those signs at restaurants that say “unattended children will be given ice cream and a puppy,” Facebook continues to effectively build an online community of more than 2.6 billion people worldwide – including more than half of the population in the United States. Given their audience and ease of access to business owners, they decided to use their powers for good for once to survey small and medium businesses.

The survey returned responses from 38,078 business owners and managers, 39,104 employees, and 8,694 personal enterprises in the United States (total of 85,876 respondents). Respondents’ industries spanned manufacturing, retail, services, logistics, hospitality, construction, and agriculture. Thirty-three percent of businesses were urban, forty-two percent were urban, and twenty-five percent were rural.

Here’s where it gets depressing: thirty-one percent of businesses reported closing in the last three months, with 71 percent of those closing since March 1. For personal businesses, 52 percent are closed. Of those businesses still operating, 60 percent reported a reduced workload, and 60 percent also report struggling with finances. Employee wages, bills, and rent were the top areas of financial concern.

So how is this important segment of the economy surviving the crisis? Forty-one percent of business owners and managers said they could pull from personal savings, but 45 percent said zero-interest loans were the most helpful option to subsidize lost business.

Unsurprisingly, 79% of businesses say they have made some change to operations to accommodate their customers and keep things moving, like using digital tools and delivery services.

The survey found some interesting geographical differences, for example, that businesses in the Southeast have made slightly more physical adjustments to business like offering curbside pickup and home delivery. They also found differences in strategy by leadership gender: “Businesses led by women are more likely to be using digital tools, particularly with online advertising (43%) and digital payment tools (40%), compared to just 37% and 34%, respectively, of businesses led by men.” And the differences don’t stop at the strategic level. More women owner-managers (33%) reported that managing life in a pandemic at home was affecting their ability to focus on work than men (25%).

Amongst all the chaos, people are optimistic about the future. In fact, 57% of owner-managers are optimistic or extremely optimistic about the future of business. For employees, the results were surprisingly similar. Even though only 45% of SMB owner-managers and 32% of personal businesses reported that they would rehire the same workers when their businesses reopened, 59% of both the employed and unemployed were at least somewhat optimistic about their future employment.

And now for a quote from President Barack Obama’s 2008 New Hampshire Primary speech amidst our last recession, without a smidge of tacky irony or liberal preaching: “We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: ‘Yes we can.’”

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Business News

Who will get to work from home once COVID-19 stay-home orders are over?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Many large tech firms review and update their work from home policies. This could be presented as THE biggest work perk of 2021.



work from home

The large tech firms that we all know and use frequently are making big announcements on their timing and policies for their employees to work from home as updates on COVID-19 come in.

Square and Twitter have said many employees will work from home indefinitely – even after states begin to open back up. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have all extended dates on returning to offices. You can read more details here on The Verge.

Let’s break down some pros and cons – especially if this means that working from home will become the hottest recruiting tool in the future. Like ping pong tables and Friday at 4pm beer carts once were.

Some high-level things that contribute to why people love (or tolerate) their W2 jobs:

  • They like the PEOPLE they work with
  • They have a feeling of purpose, and genuinely enjoy the work
  • There are miscellaneous perks (gym membership reimbursement, free cafeterias, personal development workshops, tuition reimbursement, travel opportunities)
  • Their employer helps to pay for healthcare benefits, and makes 401K contributions
  • Their team rotates, and they get to work from home once in a while*

*This is nice to allow some flexibility. Employees can choose to treat their morning how they would like (maybe wake up a little later, or enjoy their coffee at a coffee shop). It allows them to not rush out the door to sit in traffic, or on the bus or train. They can take the day off of wearing real pants, and work in pajamas. Heck, they can even save time on Saturday or Sunday by doing the laundry on their work from home (WFH) day. It could also be a great opportunity to fit in doctor appointments, or have real quality focus time – missing less of the work day.

This is NOT an implication that people work less that day, in fact working from home, you usually work more because there are not things that force you to break up the day like the commute, meetings, or lunch with your colleagues.

Some high-level things that might contribute to the desire to be an entrepreneur:

  • Your work is a main piece of your identity – usually being a product or service that YOU created, and it leverages a perfect marriage of your talents, skills, and passions
  • You likely get to be your own boss, and make your own creative decisions
  • You constantly have the opportunity to learn, and this can be great for those who love the constant change and challenges
  • It’s just never really worked out for you to work for someone else, or for a corporation
  • Something drives you to build something of your own
  • Working from home* in all its glory

*A common misconception of the entrepreneurship or freelance lifestyle is that you work from home or a coffee shop, and it’s oh so very sexy and freeing, and you get to do whatever you want whenever you want. While arguably, yes, you do have more control over your schedule, and there are perks to your own business; likely you are working 24/7, and wearing every single hat from the Producer to Customer Services to Finance to the Accounting department. This requires you to be really open to learning or knowing what you don’t know, and possibly hiring experts.

So, moving forward, will the “you can work remotely! From wherever you’d like” become the hottest recruiting trend of 2021? Here’s why we predict that may not be the best way to move forward.

  1. People are social creatures. Working from home sporadically vs 100% of the time are two completely different things. You could possibly lose the momentum with your teams if they no longer know and trust one another. Plus, no doubt there will be turn-over, and when there are numerous parts and teams, it can be helpful for them to have in person experiences together.
  2. Does this make sense for the commercial real estate industry, and the leases that have been signed? It’s unlikely that many large corporations just perfectly timed their leases that align with COVID-19. Many will likely want to bring people back just for that fact.
  3. All of this takes an enormous amount of money, additional tech support, and infrastructure, (not to mention mailing costs for all office equipment, etc.) and it’s not possible that only the most profitable firms will prevail and be able to do this.
  4. How would large cities (read: high cost of living) like the Bay Area be able to retain talent, and/or why would you pay to live there if you can live anywhere. This could drastically shift urban planning and development.

We just don’t see it moving all the way to the extreme of all knowledge workers working from home indefinitely. If you want to see how people are feeling about working from home, you have to check out this Buzzfeed article, “Zoom Fatigue is Real, And You Probably Have It If You Relate to These 16 Tweets.”

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Business News

Weight Watchers lays off 4K employees on a brief Zoom call #cold

(BUSINESS NEWS) WW fires thousands of employees over Zoom, no questions asked or answered. So much for Wellness that Works, live up to your motto.



WW homescreen

WW International, formerly known as Weight Watchers, fired thousands of employees on a 3-minute phone call on Thursday, May 14. The call was muted so participants could not ask questions. Employee emails were closed by the weekend.

It is unclear exactly how many employees were let go, with some reporting up to 4,000. WW has declined to report the number. Laid off employees were both part-time and full-time. Some had been working for WW for more than a decade.

WW has been slowly shifting its services online, including building a comprehensive app for users to track their food. Founded in 1963, the weight loss company has come a long way from paper-and-pencil weight tracking. In 2018, the company changed its name from Weight Watchers to WW, adopting the slogan “Wellness that Works,” in a move to fully embrace the trendy wellness and self-care movements that have gripped younger audiences.

CFO Nick Hotchkin said, “It wasn’t practical to have all of the conversations be one on one.”

WW has staked its claim on empathy. They have cultivated a community of people motivated to lose weight, and support others on the same journey to also live a healthier lifestyle. Many WW employees are former customers who were so committed to the mission they wanted to join the community as a coach or meeting leader. The company offered many part-time roles that fit the schedules of full-time mothers, their primary demographic of clients from its inception.

Firing swaths of employees over Zoom calls is the latest form of cruelty in the employment chaos that the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on the economy. But companies can make choices – especially international mega-companies that bring in more than a billion dollars in revenue annually.

Has WW no sense of irony? Just two days before this call, WW announced a free, four-week virtual experience led by Oprah Winfrey, a WW investor, client, and champion.

“Now, it’s more important than ever to be and stay well and strong. Together, let’s reset, refocus and find clarity in what matters most,” Oprah said of the program. Apparently, thousands of employees are not considered an asset to the togetherness of this occasion.

Of course, WW like many other companies has a right to let go employees in anticipation of changes in business. But if caring for your employees, and conducting layoffs with empathy, grace, and compassion is not on the list of “what matters most,” then WW is sorely lacking mission alignment. It is severely disappointing to see a company driven by a compassionate mission act in such a callous way.

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