Invest your social capital

Posted on Nov 9, 2009 :: Networking
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

It’s
been roughly 10 years since our last recession in the United States.
For the most part, the U.S. economy has been strong and business has
been good since then. However, the economy goes through cycles and
business has slowed for many people. Successful business professionals
learn from the past. Many of us have already survived at least one
recession. So, what did we learn from previous economic downturns that
can help us now?

In the early ’90s, in the middle of a nasty
recession, Dr. Ivan Misner, a best-selling author and the founder of
Business Network International, was at a business mixer in Connecticut.
Throughout the event, the favorite topic of discussion was how bad the
economy was and how things were getting worse.

Misner was
introduced to a real-estate agent. Given the decrease in property
values in the state, he was leery of asking the agent the standard
“How’s business?” question. What Misner heard was that this gentleman
was having a great year. Naturally, Misner asked the real estate agent
how he was doing so well, given the conditions of the economy and the
stiff competition. The agent reached into his pocket and pulled out a
blue and white badge that read: “I Absolutely Refuse to Participate in
the Recession.”

“That’s your secret?” Misner asked.

“That’s
correct,” was the answer. “While most of my competitors are singing the
blues about how bad business is, I’m drumming up a ton of business
networking with my contacts and generating referrals by talking about
the great opportunity to purchase real estate that exists right now.”

If
you want to do well in business, you must understand that it does
absolutely no good to complain to people about how tough things are.
While you are unable to control the economy or your competition, you
can control your response to the economy.

During the last
recession, thousands of business people grew and prospered. They were
successful because they developed their networking skills, built
relationships and learned how to build their business through word of
mouth. You can do the same now. Here’s how:

» Diversify your networks. You need breadth and depth. Participate in different kinds of groups.
» Get away from being a “cave-dweller.” Be visible, put yourself in play, get out and meet people at business events.
»
Learn how to work the meetings you attend. That is why it’s called
Network. Learn networking systems and techniques that apply to the
different kinds of organizations you attend.
» Prepare effective introductions and presentations to give to other business people at networking events and meetings.
»
Develop your contact spheres – groups of business professionals who
have a symbiotic or compatible, yet non-competitive relationship with
you.
» Most importantly, understand that networking is more about
farming than it is about hunting. It’s about building relationships. If
you want to get business, you have to be willing to give business to
other business people.

A bad economy can be your excuse for
failure or it can be your opportunity to succeed. If you believe it’s
“what you know,” or “who you know,” that is important, understand that
it’s “how well you know people” that really counts. In a tough economy,
your social capital has the greatest value. Make good use of it and you
will thrive while others struggle.