Earlier this month, I was privileged enough to attend a business conference that was hosted by a major bank. This was a three day event that kicked off with business to business meetings, the main conference and a cocktail party. In attendance were foreign ambassadors, business delegates and senior executives from government departments. Our organisation had been allocated a number of complimentary slots and I managed to mobilize some of our partners to attend. Most of them understood what they stood to gain from networking with other business people and thus they derived much benefit from the event.
At some point during the networking event, I had to use the ablution facilities and as I walked towards them I saw a tall man who had been stationed just outside the gents room. His uniform told me he was a security guard and as I passed him, I exchanged a greeting with him. It was his warmth that subconsciously registered in my mind.
It was a simple greeting, but he was humble, welcoming and had a great attitude. We had set up our table within his view so when I went to the gents room for the second time, we greeted like old buddies and it was then, that he asked me what our organisation does. I told him we grow small companies into large organisations. He asked me a bit more and I explained how we help companies formulate strategies and support them throughout the implementation. I then offered to give him our brochure on my next return and left.
So we went about the business of the day and on my third return I remembered to carry one brochure. As I handed him the brochure he, told me he had a sound system and was hiring it out to people but needed some help structuring it as a profitable business and thus, our services were of interest to him. I then wrote my personal number and name on the back of the brochure and offered to give him a free consultation as I contemplated helping him pro-bono.
I paid no mind to our interaction… after all, he was just a security guard. The next day when I returned he confidently greeted me by my name and I remember thinking his memory was good. I hadn’t bothered asking his name when we first met and so I did. This time he told me he was a comedian and how he had done some shows in South Africa and his girlfriend had leaked some of his material and people had loved it. I still didn’t pay much attention to it and took it as friendly banter.
It was only Later when I went to use the facilities that I got there and there was another executive, talking to him and the conversation was similar to ours. He had asked for business cards and the guy replied, “I don’t have them right now but I’ll get you one when I come back.” It was only then, that I realised the security guard’s networking genius. He was tactfully pitching his public address system and services as an M.C. whilst building relationships to leverage on later.
Start where you are
Despite being stationed outside the toilets, he did not allow this to deter him. This became a strategic networking point for him. Over the course of 3 days, everyone in attendance was bound to walk past him at some point and he had prepared his 20 second pitch and was collecting business cards and contacts. In actual fact, I have no doubt that he collected more contacts than a great percentage of the people in attendance.
Be strategic- plan ahead
In pursuit of his goal, which I’m assuming was primarily building his network, he first built a rapport with the people he encountered. He created a friendly space that allowed one to accommodate him in spite of the fact that he was part of the often unnoticed event staff. As I handed him my brochure, l searched my pockets for a pen. As I fidgeted, it was clear I didn’t have one so he put his hands in his pocket, handed me his pen and said “there you go sir, I’m always prepared for anything.” He had planned ahead and it was evident that he was aware that the people in attendance could help him in many ways and he had deliberately come up with a plan to utilise the opportunity as a platform for growth.
Have a pitch for all occasions
He knew that the people visiting the loo aren’t particularly the most patient and had prepared a pitch in little sound bites that one could easily digest. It only dawned on me later that he had actually given me his pitch and enough for me to know about his business. Telling me about himself as a comedian was him adding flesh to the foundation that he had initially built up in a light hearted moment.
Determine your own worth
Whilst the other security guards conformed to their role and stayed obscure, this one seemed driven by a bigger vision and a purpose for his life. He made deliberate efforts to network with the kind of people he needs around him. People that will ultimately become key partners, links or customers in the future. Your Network Determines Your net worth.
When he said he had a sound system that he hires out, he automatically moved himself from security guard to fellow business peer. He was not asking for a favour and in turn offered something of value that I might require. Through his witty jokes he had managed to show that there was more to him, regardless of what his uniform might have said. He is a man with a vision and more importantly a plan. He did not withdraw into a shell and was unapologetic. So you might be a student, an employee or a start up. You are legit.
Nothing beats a smile
In his book The Secret Kingdom, Pat Robertson talks about the law of reciprocity. Smile at the world and the world will smile back. You will meet nice people wherever you go, as long as you are nice. Being humble, respectful and tastefully cheerful are qualities that reflect back to you and oftentimes, the reflection shines brighter. Smile at people and find something nice to say and bring a smile to their face as well. This can be a complement, a pointer or a simple tip.
I hope this inspires you in some way and you will get even more lessons on networking from it than I have highlighted. More importantly, take action regardless of your station in life. Networking is an important component and contributor towards the success of any entrepreneur. It is one that should never be looked and whose impact could mean the difference between your current situation and the realisation of your dream.
As always, I wish you much happiness, health and wealth. Remember to download our app. We post a lot of helpful stuff and have so many opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs coming up.