Archive for the ‘networking’ Tag

Specificity in business

There’s an old fashioned notion still strongly prevalent in small business circles, one that works against success in today’s economy. But people cling to it like a right and priviledge of which they’re proud. And the issue relates directly to all my previous blather about specificity.

Newly established as a small business, and needing to make my presence and services known, I joined a couple business networking/referral groups. It’s been useful and fun so far, and I’m happy to contribute. But there’s a dyed-in-the-wool rule these networking groups abide by that deeply turns me off: no two businesses of the same type can be members simultaneously. So the group has one realtor, for example, and all others in town are barred. The thinking is that in referring business to one another, there will be no conflicts.

It used to be that one realtor in town could cover the needs, and if another set up practice, that meant dividing the spoils. But any aware person nowadays knows no one organization can answer the needs of our mushrooming population. There is plenty of room for the energies and innovations of all of us, and the more we open up channels of communications, the better off we all are.

A small business distinguishes itself through specificity. An individual business becomes successful through careful identification and cultivation of individual strengths, always unique, always useful in some way, to some people. Realtor A is not inherently better than Realtor B. If they have both precisely identified and defined the specifics of their services, they’ll each find more-than-sufficient markets. And in the meantime, they can help one another to self-define, if only they’ll open up communications!

I would love it if other virtual assistants were in my networking groups. I prefer to see other people in my field as friends, not competitors. In a global economy, competition retards growth, while cooperation makes clear the specific offerings of each.

So far, however, I see no cracks in their armor, and raising this issue with the groups to which I belong is not likely to happen anytime soon. The pride and paranoia are impenetrable! But I’ll chip away behind the scenes, perhaps, because change is inevitable eventually.

Focus on others

I’m a member of a real-life (i.e., not online) networking group of business people.  While the group allows only one member per industry, and thus is competitive in that way, it is dedicated to the cooperative support of members in offering warm sales leads to one another.  Making these referrals and introductions is required of each member on a regular basis. 

It’s an old fashioned idea, still in full force.  And it reminds me of a fundamental rule in performance improvisation: Be responsible for your partner.

The way this works on stage is thusly:  one may think that one’s cleverness and charisma are called upon to stand out when in front of an audience.  But the secret to successful improvisations (as well as to any enactment) is to make the other guy look good.  Rather than asserting his own prowess, the actor  who is solely focused on cooperation with his partner has the most power on stage.

Success through focus on others.  This is contrary to common practice.  But consider the online emphasis on social networking and blogs; consider the fast-growing clout of Open Source; consider the increasing reality that before you can make sales (at least online) it is becoming necessary first to give something away.

Try making this significant switch in your thinking.  What if, rather than worrying about your sales, you deeply concentrate on making your customer look good, or on making your neighboring business look good, or on making your community look good.  Your own success will naturally follow along.