Hmmm. The answer should be one!
I know people who are hopping around town visiting as many networking meetings as possible. Based upon what I know, that strategy is not very productive. It may feel like it however, most of the time it’s just you keeping on the go.
Many of you know that I started the Tulsa Business Connection when I lived in Tulsa, OK. We had a strict rule that if you wanted to become a member of TBC, you could only be a member of TBC. We grew from a core group of 5 to – at our peak – 67 members and was the most popular weekly networking group in the city. Membership was by “invitation-only.” We had a waiting list of people wanting to fill a business classification as soon as it became vacant, which was very seldom. Once admitted to TBC no one wanted to leave because of the group’s dedication and loyalty to helping each other. There were 67 different business classifications – only one classification per business, e.g., one banker, one plumber, etc. We had a residential Realtor® and a commercial Realtor® who were from the same company and worked together in separate divisions.
We were successful as a group because we were in constant communication with each other in and out of the meeting! We planned activities outside of the weekly networking meetings at least quarterly and some more often. All members were held accountable for regular attendance.
The leaders modeled behaviors we expected from our members. We were intimate friends who provided an extra level of attention, class, generosity, and follow up. Members were known as providers of reliable information, insights, connections and valuable resources. I started the group with rules that held members accountable and there were few complaints because everyone understood the “why” behind the rules. Those who did complain usually left the group after a couple of weeks because they couldn’t sell anything to anyone. They never learned that networking is not about selling… it’s about giving!
Why have such a rule of belonging to only one networking group? To me it’s simple… it’s a matter of loyalty! Loyalty goes hand in hand with trustworthiness. Loyalty unites and that’s a good thing. With a group like TBC, you didn’t need to join more than one group.
Let’s talk about loyalty. Let’s say you belong to two networking groups. What happens when you come upon a referral that could be given to a plumber and you have to decide which of the two plumbers to give the referral to? Some would say both. I say, to whom do you owe your higher allegiance? The question becomes who deserves your loyalty? Honestly… you shouldn’t have to choose. The solution is to belong to only one group.
I will say that even though this rarely happens, there could be a plumber in your group that hasn’t earned your respect and loyalty who may not receive the referral. In rare instances, I would say that if there is no trust present with that plumber, give it to a plumber outside of your group. The Tulsa Business Connection didn’t have people like that. Each new member was carefully screened, reputation checked, integrity level, length of time in business and if only one member of the group voted “no,” the application was not approved. If a member was found to be a member of more than TBC, they would forfeit their TBC membership. Some would say that was also a strict rule. I would agree, AND it worked.
Of the many networking groups around the Greater Phoenix area that I have visited, many of them – in my opinion – could benefit greatly by having more structure and by holding their members accountable for fully participating in the group. In line with our mission of providing quality educational opportunities, a part of each TBC meeting was 10 to 15 minutes of networking training. An organization devoted to it’s members will regularly provide quality networking training either from the leaders or from a networking expert from outside the group.
Large networking events are different. Usually hundreds of people attend and it’s hard to develop loyalty when there are basically no rules. People who attend these large groups are often not trained in the skills necessary to be successful at business networking. I often will visit these events to see who is there and to see if there might be one or two people that I meet that might fit into my network.
Why join only one highly structured networking group? It demonstrates your commitment to the other members and reduces your conflict of interest between referral sources; however, mainly because there is no evidence that joining more than one such group increases your referrals. When you focus all your energy on one networking group rather than many, you will find that the relationship you develop will prosper and the loyalty factor will increase as the relationship grows.
Larry’s NOTE: If your networking group need a kick in the pants, give me a call and we can discuss providing a 25 minute talk that will present a few ideas that might help. 480-205-3694.
Copyright © 2014 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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