My Parents’ Refrigerator

My mom and dad each owned a tiny business (they’re now retired).  My dad was a piano tuner and my mom was a lawyer.  They both, over time, became wildly successful at what they did.  They both built their businesses largely through networking.  They networked at networking events, trade organizations and through their church.

Do you know how you could tell they were great at networking?

By looking at the front and sides of their refrigerator.

In fact, if your fridge gets to the point where it looks like my mom and dad’s fridge, you will know that you also have a wildly successful business.

What in the world do the front and sides of your refrigerator have to do with succeeding in business?

If you saw my parents’ fridge, you’d understand.  Their fridge is always covered with invitations and announcements of weddings, babies, graduations … and, yes, funerals … from people in their network.

That being said, my parents would never actually call their network a “network.”  Instead, the people represented on their refrigerator were, first and foremost, dear, dear friends … who also happened to do business with them.  They weren’t strangers.  Instead, they were a real part of each others’ lives.

Relationship vs Transactional Networking

I believe there are two types of networking – relationship and transactional.

In “Transactional Networking” you share leads and make referrals because you are obligated to do so.  With this type of networking, you have a contractual obligation to bring leads to get leads.  It’s quid pro quo / mutual back-scratching all the way.

And guess what?  There’s nothing wrong with Transactional Networking.  It can be fast and effective.

Transactional Networking does, however, have its limitations.  It’s biggest drawbacks are that it stops when the contract stops … and the number of referrals don’t really grow over time.  Why?  Because it’s a contract rather than a relationship where you genuinely know, like and trust the other person.

With “Relationship Networking,” you build deep and real relationships with people as human beings.  You go out of your way to get to know them personally and do whatever you can to help them as you can, both professionally and otherwise.

OVER TIME, Relationship Networking leaves Transactional Networking in the dust.  It builds and builds and builds until your phone is constantly ringing from referrals coming from every direction.  And it never stops until you decide to retire!

But Relationship Networking is hard because it takes time and genuine effort.  In fact, my mom, from lots of experience, thought there was a 3-Year Rule for starting any business.  She thought it took 3 years to build a strong enough referral network for a person to have a solid business.  She thought it took 5 years to get to having a thriving business where you could really build some wealth.

This makes sense.  “Knowing, liking and trusting” aren’t merely words.  It’s impossible to become known, liked and trusted by visiting four or five networking events.  It doesn’t work that way because we’re all human.  And humans take time to truly connect.

To earn your referrals requires consistency and investing your time in helping make your community a better place.

So the questions are:

  • Do you have the patience needed to really succeed?
  • Are you willing to be consistent and help make our community better with your unique personality and gifts?

If you are willing to do those things, someday your refrigerator will look like my mom and dad’s.

So, what do you think about Relationship Networking?  Have you had, or seen others have, great success through Relationship Networking?