Networking: Better than Sliced Bread

I give advice to small business owners often.  Sometimes it is from an email or a phone request through a friend. I’m happy to coach and help others to try and give back for the advice I received for many years. 

To me it is second nature to wonder if this new person I just met could be a helpful connection to someone I know. They are smart, skilled and well-connected in a specific field, how can I stay in touch with them?  And while I am fresh in their mind, how can I link us together? 

One thing is clear, most small business owners don’t naturally understand networking. They don’t practice it, they avoid it and in fact they may even be afraid of it. Sadly, they don’t quite see that networking is a core part of marketing. Networking is planting seeds for future sales and opportunities. It is expanding your range of possibilities and like any good habit, it requires to be integrated into every part of your day. And the key to all networking is that IT HAS TO BE AUTHENTIC. If it feels forced or artificial, it will backfire. There is nothing wrong with making connections and learning about how someone you know or meet may be helpful to you. Finding the balance of being genuine and strategic is the key. And by the way, it needs to happen online AND in the real world

An example to provide food for thought...

My daughter’s Wilmington, NC catering business called Fanfare Catering is now at the point where she needs to find new connections to help her grow. She has two revenue paths – providing picnic-style corporate lunches to businesses (B2B) and her entrees for families (B2C).  In both cases she has to find people interested in her light, local and healthy cooking. 

This past week I shared with her how important it is to understand that it isn’t who she knows who will help her, but who those people know.

So she must find multiple opportunities to connect with acquaintances and friends and to ask them for help.  I gave her several tactics and questions to keep in her back pocket. 

When she runs into someone at the grocery store who she once met, ask them what they are doing and where they are working.  Ask a targeted and useful questions where the information allows you to learn something new. Perhaps they work in an office that gets lunches catered. Don’t forget to also ask, “Where is your husband (boyfriend, significant other, room mate, sister, cousin, etc.) working these days?” If they have a family, don’t be shy about asking if they would be willing to chat, at a convenient time, about your home delivery of entrees for the purpose of getting feedback.  Emphasize that you aren’t trying to sell them, but you find input from others about your business very valuable.  Network to connect, learn and gain insights about your business.

When she attends a non-profit luncheon and meets new people for the first time, ask them questions about themselves first. Wait patiently for them to say, “And what do you do Fanny?”  Don’t start off by saying, hey here is what I do, are you interested in my business.  Ask them questions, let them talk first and eventually they will reciprocate with a question back to you. Since Fanny studied improvisation, she is good at keeping a conversation going. That is a powerful networking skill too.

Get connected with people who are very active on social media. Someone who has started a networking group can be extremely helpful because they have a vested interest in connecting people together. Maybe you and they can partner on a project together. In my daughter’s case, she can bring some snacks or samples of her food, to the next networking event. Look for people in your community whose name and business show up everywhere.  Good networkers connect with better networkers and get pulled along by their tail winds.

Every person you encounter each day is a possible link to a potential client. When she strikes up a conversation at the neighborhood bar or bistro with people sitting near her, she needs to always find a way to authentically connect with people and learn more about them.  Yes, your ultimate objective is to connect with them for business, but you might have products or services that can help and solve needs they have too. Handing out your business card by saying, you can reach me at this email address allows the new acquaintance a chance to get back to you. It’s like a link to your website in an online conversation.

Have a short, sweet and clever way to describe what you do. Fanny has been playing around with the phrase that she is an ENTRE preneur. (making entrees for people to eat at home). It is a memorable play on words and a conversation starter when someone says, what do you do. It is a powerful way in a few words to talk about her business. She also has focused on the phrase light, local and healthy cooking when asked to describe her food style.  Creating these short positioning statements that she can easily use in networking makes a big difference it getting her message across to new friends and potential customers. 

Networking is Like Vitamins, you do it every day
I have always used the vitamin method of networking. If I want to be a connected person, I need at least one new connection per day. My favorite way of doing this is that after meeting someone in a conference call, at a trade show or through a customer visit, I immediately send out a note via Linkedin to connect with them.  I never send a generic note but I tailor it to the recent conversation we had and that I appreciate meeting them and learning from their experience.  While it is fresh in their mind, I want to connect with them. 

The deeper and wider my network, the more I can help others.  I don’t worry about what it will do for me, but I do focus on what it may do for others.

Networking, better than sliced bread and taken once a day. 


Do you work, live or know someone in the Wilmington, North Carolina area? If you are willing to make the connection, how about introducing my daughter Fanny to them?  She can be reached at or through her website at 

How can I return the favor of your kindness? 

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