Collaborate (v.) – to work with another or others on a joint project
Network (v.) -to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally, especially in finding employment or moving to a higher position
I attend at least three professional netw
orking events per week on average. After having attended so many gatherings, I can gauge a room, scan body language cues and figure out the tone of the event in less than a minute. I know who is there for the food and drinks, who is there to bounce from person to person collecting as many cards or passing out as many as they can, and I also know who is there to truly build business relationships. After a while, meeting so many people gets stale and monotonous because few really take the time to learn the art of networking.
Every now and again I go to an event and after leaving with pockets and/or a purse full of cards I feel refreshed. Those events tend to be the ones where the networking is collaborative and mutually beneficial. I hate feeling like I'm there to meet someone’s quota of fishing for X amount of leads or as though I’m being force fed a pitch to join a network marketing company (nothing against MLMs, just not my style). When meeting people, I like to ask, “what are YOU doing and how can I help YOU?” By leading with the other person in mind first, it not only takes the pressure off of you to spill out a lifeless 30-second elevator pitch, but it also subconsciously forces you to think outside of yourself, your business and your issues for just a moment. It levels the playing field because no matter if you’re talking to a novice entrepreneur or someone who operates numerous multi-million dollar companies you realize you can help everyone in some way.
Collaborative networking allows you to build relationships, not just gather contacts. It's easy to decipher those who aren’t used to doing business this way because they clam up or seem uncomfortable. Their attitude and body language says they’re not open to being a resource to others. But that’s perfectly fine because those aren’t the types of people I want to do business with. I help those who help me. I do business with those who do business with me. And this really is the way business should be done.
There is more than enough territory for everyone to stake their claim without being territorial and predatory. There are always people in the room who do what I do (there’s no shortage of social media marketers in the world). But their secret sauce or their niche isn’t mine and vice versa. And if someone else builds a relationship with that person and wants to collaborate with them, so be it. If we can help one another, that’s even better because now we can learn from one another and refer business to each other. But the point of collaboration is to help each other build. No one builds a business alone. And I feel sorry for those who are so competitive they shark their way around. Business can get lonely and eating everyone in the pond only makes it that much harder.
Do you attend networking events to grow your business or career? What do you think of collaborative networking? Leave comments below. And if there’s any way I can help you, please let me know what you’re having trouble with. If I can personally help, I will. If I know someone else who can, I will refer you.
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