By DANA DITTMAR, CEO, SunCity Center Chamber of Commerce
My mother used to call it the Art of Good Manners. In business, it’s called the Art of the Deal. No matter what you call it, there are unspoken rules of etiquette that will take you far in this world. I think it’s time the rules were spoken out loud.
Remember the line “You get more things with honey than you do with vinegar”? It’s true. Here are some thoughts on increasing your circle of friends, allies and business partners.
How often have you been someplace where not everyone knew everyone else? Why not develop the habit of introducing people. Connecting people who have something in common is a powerful way to enhance your own network.
There’s no need to feel awkward or uncomfortable; it’s actually quite easy. Do you know two people who enjoy reading the same type of books? Or like the same sports team? Or work in the same industry? Just introduce them by sharing their common interest. They can decide if they want to pursue the relationship further. The upside of this? You become known as the person who knows everybody!
Next, focus on being friendly and helpful. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? This is the number-one tactic you can use to build your network. All you have to do is spread information in a friendly and helpful way. Are you using something that would help a friend with a project they are working on? Email it to them. Building your network is the same as building friends. Be interested in what they are doing and offer friendly suggestions when you can. (This is not the same thing as offering unwanted advice. Just saying.)
Let’s say you’ve met someone at a party or function who could be very helpful to you. Start this relationship off by not requesting assistance. Unless you have a mutual contact who is putting you in touch for a specific reason, it’s best to avoid asking for anything when you meet for the first time. Don’t ask for favors, advice or even to meet up for lunch or coffee. Begin with a compliment, no matter how small. Nice tie. Great shoes. I love the way your office is decorated. After they respond to the initial contact, you can begin moving things toward a more beneficial outcome.
Also, you don’t need to know the most people, just the right people. There is no need to shotgun your business cards across the industry or to pepper everyone with emails. Instead, focus on finding people who are relevant to you. As time goes on, you can decide if the interests you share with someone are worth pursuing further. It’s better to have five people willing to work with you than it is to have 500 who simply know your name.
And finally, sometimes the best networking opportunities involve real work! Volunteer for events, committees or projects that will have interesting people working for them. Working on a project or task with someone is one of the best ways to develop a true relationship.
Call it what you will, good business etiquette is crucial to good business … and good friendships!