To The Millenials: Come, Learn, Stay

The path to anything you want is worth the journey. You may be tempted to shy away from the journey and the waiting and move on to the low hanging fruit. But I’m here to promise you that if you stay on the higher path, there are just a finite number of steps you need to take to get you where you want to go.

You can know for certain whether we are a good fit for you by asking yourself these two questions: How many people do you know today who understand your business and the type of customers you need? How many of those people are committed to going out of their way to help you grow your business?

If that number is less than thirty, then you should look closely at joining an NIA® group.

As you come to NIA® and allow yourself to integrate into our culture, you will become a master at networking. This will set you apart from your peers. You—who understand how to apply the law of the farm and build meaningful, mutually profitable relationships in every area of your universe—will be in a better position than your competitors in business and in life.

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To The Millenials: A Purpose

We also want to help you find your dream and your purpose. We will do that by first lending you ours. You will find that the best way to find yourself—your passion, your drive, your vision—is to first lose yourself in service. Your unique talents and passion for helping others will in turn help others who may be less fortunate.

We recognize the value of service, which is why we create service opportunities for all of our group members. Other networking groups don’t have time or even an interest in community service because they are so absorbed in the volunteer labors of managing their groups. Community service isn’t even on their radar. But with NIA®, this is the core of our culture—giving back to the communities that have been so good to us. It’s about making an offering of our talents and gifts, while also understanding that what we put out there comes back to us a hundred-fold.

As we thoroughly discussed in Building Your Community Through Service, every group is required to do an annual community service project. Every group has to find something to get behind in order to give back to their community. You will have an equal say within your group as you come up with ideas of what to do. The group members themselves are responsible for selecting their cause because we understand that you already have causes that are close to your heart. The first gift we ask of you is that you share that cause with us and let us get behind it with you.

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To the Millennials: A Learning Opportunity

This is what networking is truly about. This is why we make it such a high priority to first set these expectations with our members and to teach them what true networking is all about. Most groups don’t teach networking. Honestly, I can’t think of a single other group that does. You just have to show up and perform the best you know how. At the end of the day, it’s a game of survival of the fittest. You sink, or you swim. However, networking is not a game of luck. It is a game of strategy.

At NIA®, we will hand you the playbook for successful networking practices. Your group leader will work with you, one-on-one if necessary, to help you master the techniques that will bring you success. This is not some vague concept of success, either. Your success in NIA® is first measured by the minimum ROI that you and your group leader have agreed you must have within your first year. That success is our guarantee.

We will teach you about the importance of relationships and the law of the farm. We will show you the ins and outs of successful networking so that you can easily grow your business and your network. It’s imperative that you learn these skills—not just for your sake, but for ours. You are the next generation of leaders! There are nuances to leadership and relationships that you can’t learn without being steeped in that culture. At NIA®, we want to be a part of your growth.

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To the Millennials: Planting Seeds

I had a young guy join one of our Houston groups who worked for a telecommunications business. He was very socially forward and made friends fast. People warmed up to him and he warmed up to people easily. After being in the group about four months, he changed companies and wanted to drop out of NIA® because he didn’t think it was a good fit for him anymore. He wanted to spend his time exclusively with owners of large companies who had “multiple phone lines and needed massive telecommunications needs.” So, he was looking at the people in the room and saying, “These people can’t help me.”

I told him, “It works for every industry, but it doesn’t work for every person.” That means that every industry can benefit from networking, but not every person knows how to make that happen. He didn’t understand that he wasn’t there to get business from the pest control guy or to be hired by the CPA. He was there to gain access to the hundreds and thousands of people they knew within their churches, communities, families, and schools. This is a mistake that a lot of people make. They don’t understand that these relationships are the doorway to the real harvest. He was only focusing on the low-hanging fruit. He also failed to realize how much he, personally, had to offer the group.

He couldn’t be persuaded to stay, and we do not chase our members. You either get it, or you don’t.

Within ten days of his leaving the group, I bumped into him. He mentioned to me that his wife had been out of work for over a year. He’d been struggling with his mortgage, his two car notes, and meeting the needs of his beautiful daughter. However, his wife had just gotten a new position that was introduced to her by a member of his NIA® networking group. Because of the relationship of trust he’d formed with another woman in the group, she had gone to bat for his wife and helped her find a job. Now, that’s a heck of a return on investment! Even though he didn’t give it enough time to reap the kind of customer he was looking for, those contacts were life-changing for his family.

There is no way to rush these types of relationships. You just have to keep showing up and showing up the right way. If you’re not finding the success you hoped for, then you have to look in the mirror before you start pointing fingers at the group. These are proven strategies and techniques across thousands of individuals and every single industry on the planet. If something is off, it may be your approach that needs adjusting. If you are practicing the techniques, then trust that the time-honored tradition of building relationships will have a payday.

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To the Millennials: Relationships

We want to be at the forefront of teaching you, the next generation of business owners, about networking and the importance of sound business relationships. We coach you on how to build relationships that last a lifetime. In order for people to be comfortable referring to you, they have to know you, trust you, and know you’re going to take care of their family and friends. As a referral, you are an extension of their reputation, and they’re not going to put their hard-earned reputation at risk for a stranger they barely know. You can’t build that kind of relationship of trust by glancing down at someone’s name tag a few times a month. You can’t do that over a cup of coffee at Starbucks. You can’t do that when you’re just waiting for people to stop talking about what they do so that you can tell them more about yourself. No. Meaningful relationships take time and consistent deposits into the relationship bank account.

This is why world leaders get together for extended periods of time. Things happen when you spend time with people. There’s a long history of adversaries getting together because that one-on-one time opens you up to seeing things in a new way and with a new perspective. Leaders of the world go to Camp David to spend time together or they gather on the golf course because they understand that deals, alliances, and treaties don’t come from strangers. They come from people they like and trust. They come from relationships. Regardless of where you are right now in your career, it can only be improved by coming to understand the importance of relationships.

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To the Millennials: Introduction

Now I need to have a not-so-private conversation with the millennials. First, Network In Action has a place for you, too. Second, this organization is going to stretch you a little bit, but in a good way. And finally, when you succeed here as a member of our group, you will be prepared to succeed in every other aspect of your life. So, I invite you to come, learn, and stay.

You are a master of this fast-paced culture where everything happens for you in an instant. You don’t have to wait on food, mail, relationships, transportation, or information. Something this culture is not equipped to hand you in an instant, though, is a purpose. I know you crave that. I know you want to make an impact on the world around you. I know that you hunger to be seen and acknowledged for what you have to offer. I know that you want to contribute in a meaningful way. You are surrounded by people who tell you that you can be and achieve anything you want. However, what is often left out of that conversation is that in order for you to be and to get, you have to do. And it’s not about taking a certain number of steps, it’s about taking the right steps.

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Networking Dos and Don’ts: Learn the Trade

Be patient with yourself as you learn the trade of successful networking. Some people are natural networkers. They can walk into any room and they’re comfortable. For other people, it doesn’t come as easily. However, they can still be great networkers. At NIA®, we challenge you to come as an active participant, and we create avenues to help you do so more naturally. From the way that we arrange the room to the activities we choose, our aim is to help you successfully network, even if you’re not already an accomplished networker. We gently put you in a position to naturally stimulate your networking skills. To take full advantage of that opportunity, you need to come with your game face on and be ready to go.

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Networking Dos and Don’ts: Be Prepared

You need to have a focus prior to coming into the meeting. Just as you wouldn’t walk into a sales call, a webinar, or any other presentation without being prepared, you shouldn’t walk into a networking meeting without some kind of preparation either. Sometimes that’s just as simple as looking in the mirror and having a meeting with “the board of directors” and deciding that you’re going to make this the most valuable time of your week or month because it has the potential to increase your business.

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Networking Dos and Don’ts: Use Your Business Card Appropriately

The number-one mistake I see most often is people not carrying a business card, not having a card that appropriately represents their brand, or using the business card as a way to avoid making an adequate connection with other people.

Bringing business cards sounds so simple, but even I sometimes find that I didn’t bring enough cards to an event. However, you absolutely need to have a professional business card that represents your brand. It amazes me when I meet people who understand the value of branding, spend large amounts of money to brand themselves, and then throw together a business card that’s unprofessional, doesn’t represent their brand, or don’t even carry a card with them.

Others may have an appropriate business card, but they don’t know how to use it. They immediately stick the business card in people’s hands before they’ve even had the chance to make eye contact or some other form of emotional connection to get the person to remember them. Giving out a few business cards doesn’t mean you’re networking, nor does the number of cards you give out serve as an appropriate measure of whether or not you had a successful event. Yes, you want business cards. Yes, you want them to be professional. But you don’t want to simply let the business cards do the talking for you.

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Networking Dos and Don’ts: Avoid Cliques

Most networking groups are full of cliques, though that is the last thing you want when you’re paying to connect with all the members. This isn’t just true for those who may be left out of cliques—this is also true for the “in crowd.” Each member in your group comes with unique gifts to offer. Don’t limit your association to just a few select members, or you will miss out.

You’re not likely to see cliques in our groups, even if you have a tendency to move toward them. Our leadership is armed with strategies that guarantee you’re not going to see a clique for more than one meeting. We train our franchise owners to be on the lookout for them. Because we move around in every meeting, we can move people who are in a clique to another spot to participate in another activity with other people. No one in the group even knows it’s happening. However, one of the things that I’m told most often by guests is, “I’ve never been to a networking group where I was so welcomed and felt so little pressure to join.” I’m often told by members, “You know, one of the things I love about Networking in Action is that there aren’t any cliques.”

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Networking Dos and Don’ts: Check Your Mood at the Door

Be sure to check your mood at the door. There’s no one in the group who is going to listen to you go on and on about the drama in your life and then feel comfortable referring to you. If you show up and only want to talk about your children’s problems and how they’re taking you away from work, or how you can’t focus because you’re getting a divorce, or how you’re taking care of a sick family member and you’re taking time off to deal with that—why would anyone want to refer someone to you? And yet, people do just this all the time.

We had a member a couple years ago who represented a local dental office. She came to every meeting and bashed her employer the entire ninety minutes. After two or three meetings of this, I finally pulled her to the side and said, “Do you think there is anyone in this room who wants to send their family members or friends to your office for dental work when you’re bashing all of its business principles and questioning its integrity? Nobody’s going to refer to you. You’re wasting your time.” After another month or two of the same type of attitude, we replaced her.

Bringing drama into a meeting does not give people confidence to refer to you. It’s not a place to go to dump your problems and your attitudes on the other members. They’re there to learn about your business—and you. If you want others to refer to you, refrain from airing all of your or your company’s dirty laundry. Treat the opportunity professionally and check your drama at the door.

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Networking Dos and Don’ts: Send a Sub

When you can’t be there in person, it’s important that you send a substitute. We understand that things come up—an opportunity for a big sale, client fires, or a personal matter that requires immediate attention. That’s going to happen to you, as it happens to the best of us. However, when it happens, send someone to attend in your place.

If four people are getting together for a campout and they each agree to bring one of the four meals that weekend, what happens when only three people bring food? The whole group is going to have to skip a meal, and you can bet there is going to be some animosity towards the person who didn’t bring his share. It’s the same thing with networking. If thirty people show up when they all could have been doing something “more important,” and yet they still make the sacrifice to come, and you don’t, what you’re screaming at them is, “My time is more important than yours.” That’s the last thing you want people to feel when you’re trying to build trust.

People often don’t realize how important it is to send a substitute. However, those who value networking and value relationships will take the time to find one. And honestly, finding substitutes for an NIA® meeting is not nearly as painful to find as it would be for those traditional meetings. At our meetings, they are going to be treated to real networking, a beer or wine, a nice appetizer, and the meetings are full of great business owners and decision makers.

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Networking Dos and Don’ts: Show Up – Mentally and Physically

Showing up physically is important for obvious reasons. If you’re not there, you’re not networking, which is a sure way to ensure that networking isn’t going to work for you. So, first and foremost—be there!

People join networking groups and sabotage themselves all the time by thinking they just have to sign the check and walk through the door. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

When you take the time to be there in person, make sure you’re also showing up with your attitude, heart, and mind. I have seen people come into other meetings and sit down in the corner and pull out their laptops and start doing work instead of mingling. As previously stated, networking is like a sandwich—what goes on before and after the meeting is just as important as what happens in between. So, if you’re there working on your computer, what are you saying to your fellow members while they’re walking around getting to know each other? You’re screaming at them that you’re socially uncomfortable, your work is more important than theirs, or that you just don’t care about learning more about them. So why would they want to refer to you? These are all great ways to keep members from getting comfortable with you. Put away the distractions and be present.

We do our best to create an environment that will help you do that. We know 100 percent of the people in our meetings have cell phones, so after checking in on Facebook at the beginning of the meeting, giving yourself pavement points for attending, and putting your next Network In Action meeting and any coaching sessions you have coming up onto your calendar, the franchise owner requires everyone to put their cell phones away. It’s just too tempting to be distracted when you have your office right at your fingertips.

In many of our groups, the group leaders have instituted a rule that if someone is on a cell phone at all during the meeting, then that person has to buy someone else in the group a drink at the end of the meeting. Whatever the rules are from group to group, at the end of the day, we’re creating an environment where people want to be there, and they are committed to making the other people in the room the most important thing for the next ninety minutes.

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Networking Dos and Don’ts

Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, said, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.”

The value of creating and maintaining your personal network can completely transform your business. However, there is an art to it, and if you’re doing it wrong, you’re lucky if the only consequence is no business as a result! In the typical networking meetings out there, you may be able to get by even if all you do is sit back and watch because the meetings are designed around the guests. You can go to most traditional networking groups and sit there very passively with an attitude and still get some value out of it. (However, most weekly networking meetings leave little time to truly network.)

To become a master networker, however, you need to adopt the best networking practices. This takes mindfulness and intention. You will be most successful when you take time to prepare yourself for each networking meeting you attend. If you were going into a meeting with someone who is building your website, you would be prepared. You would be focused and know the purpose of that meeting before you ever walked through the door. That is the same way you should treat any networking meeting. Be prepared by knowing what to do and what not to do.

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Learn the Right Questions

When you meet people and ask them what they do, be prepared to ask a few follow-up questions, such as:

  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What needs are you currently looking to fill in your business?
  • Who is your ideal contact, or who is already working with the kind of people who are your ideal clients?

Not only are these questions going to better position you to find qualified referrals for the people you’re connecting with, but your sincerity and genuine interest in serving them will open the door to a reciprocal relationship.

It is also important to learn the right questions to ask your friends and family members to see where you can help fill their needs with your extensive network. One of the things we do in our meetings pretty early on—and the reason we do it is to help everyone in the group to understand the value every single member brings—is an exercise in which you leave the meeting, not with a sale, but with three qualifying questions from every member and business in the group that you can ask your friends. If you know the questions to ask, then the answers will help you dictate who to refer to. In addition, you are able to better meet the needs of your friends and families by leading them to the people who can help them with their relevant and timely needs.

Qualifying questions may include:

  • “Who are you currently using for your pest control?”
  • “When was the last time you checked to see if you are getting the most affordable car insurance?”
  • “Have you had your HVAC serviced lately? It’s important to do that before the change in seasons.”
  • “What’s one habit you feel is keeping you from allowing you to be as successful as possible?”
  • “Do you feel like your team members are working as efficiently as possible and are committed to your company’s objectives?”

As you can see, these questions are aimed at revealing the real needs of the people who are already in your life. When you are able to connect the two parties, you have served everyone. These questions are powerful tools in creating more value in all of your relationships and are on each one of our members' profiles on our website. This is also true for you. When you share your own qualifying questions on your profile, the other members are able to become spokespeople for you as well.

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Come to Serve

In order to be successful in networking, you must first understand what networking is really all about. It is about creating relationships, and the only way you’re going to build a relationship is by positioning yourself as a giver who can be trusted. When you walk through the doors, let your biggest question be, “How can I create value for the people I meet?” When you start out with that giving attitude, you will naturally attract people to you. That is what lies at the heart of networking.

Even when you meet someone who is not a good fit for the product or service you offer, you can be thinking about who you know who is the best fit for the person you’re talking to. When you are sincerely listening and sincerely care about the needs of others, you are positioned to help fill those needs in some way.

Fundamentally, at the end of the day, the biggest difference between NIA® and any other networking group is that our whole model is crafted to ensure we are adding value to our members and not meeting to impress the guests. We are meeting to serve you.

When you go to network, remember that you are there for a reason, which is to try and learn as much as you can about other people’s businesses. For NIA® members, this includes their families, what they do on vacation, what drives them as business owners, and their personal challenges and victories. That is the kind of relationship that facilitates deep and meaningful connections. When you know and trust each other, you will refer to each other. That kind of depth requires you to be somewhat vulnerable and open. If that vulnerability doesn’t come easily to you, or if you aren’t a natural networker, you will have a period of time where you have to overcome a measure of discomfort to get there. It helps to be prepared with the right questions that will immediately show your readiness to connect and offer value.

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Owners vs. Employees

Business owners seem to better understand the fact that when you build relationships, multiple sales will follow. They understand that this takes time. One of the accidental consequences of Network In Action’s model of holding monthly instead of weekly meetings is that we have more business owners in our group than sales people. This means we are able to assemble groups of people who understand these principles from the get go.

In addition, there's no pressure on the business owners to run back to the office and say they got a sale. But if you're the sales person in the group, you're typically there because the business owner doesn't want to attend a weekly meeting. You have to go back to the sales manager or the owner and tell him what you've done every week, and you want to be able to say you got a sale. The very nature of the weekly meeting creates an environment where there are more people there who are interested in selling than networking.

Let go of the popcorn mentality that you have to leave with a sale. Instead, keep the mentality that, no matter what happens, at the end of the day, you have amplified your reach and now have more people who are able to talk about your business with others than you ever have before in your life.

For some people, this understanding comes easily. For others, they just can’t get there. And if you can’t get there, you are not going to find networking to be an effective way to grow your business or bring meaningful business to others. This will lead you to find fault with and criticize the leader, the model, the industry, and everyone in the group when, in reality, you didn’t go there with the right purpose in the first place.

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Be a Value Creator

You have people who mistakenly come into a group who think that the concept of networking is that you go into a group and say, "Hey, open up your Rolodex and show it to me, and I will pick who I want out of there in order to get new business." I call that the popcorn mentality—the idea that it's going to happen fast and be a simple two-step process. You join and BAM! You have a new list of leads to call.

That’s the opposite of networking, which is very much the art of developing relationships. The old adage that anything worth working for takes time and commitment is true. Once people trust you, they will open up their heart and introduce you to the people they know who can help you. It has been said that networking is more like the law of the farm. You have to plant your seed, nurture it, and wait for the harvest.

Seasoned and skillful networkers understand this. They know that if they show up in a sell-only mode, they will alienate themselves from the rest of the group. It is counterproductive. I often see guests and novice networkers who just want to come to the group and sell. They might as well have a scarlet letter on their chest because in short order, the real networkers in the group will avoid them like the plague. In networking meetings, these types earn a reputation. Members see them coming and quickly find someone else to engage with.

If you have a sales-first mentality, you are forgetting the first premise of networking. Not only are you going to offend a lot of people, you’re never going to have the opportunity to cross the initial barrier of trust and gain access to referrals. If people don’t feel important to you beyond the sale, they certainly aren’t going to send people they love and respect your way to get the same treatment. You really have to be cognizant of the fact that you’re going to a networking environment first and foremost to build relationships.

Making the Change

At NIA®, we welcome the seasoned networkers as well as those who are excited to learn a better way.

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Building Your Community Through Service

At a Network In Action meeting North of Houston in the Woodlands, there are small groups of people scattered around the room busily discussing what charities and local service projects they want to get behind. During the discussion, it comes out that two of its group members have children with juvenile diabetes. One of those members volunteered just a few days before to head up this year’s Juvenile Diabetes Gala. The night he agreed to do that, he lay in bed with his eyes wide open, wondering where he was possibly ever going to get all the volunteers he needed to pull off that gala. However, when the NIA® group hears that two of its members have children with this disease, the entire group volunteers to work the gala in the fall. His problem of recruiting volunteers is over!

The gala ends up being a success, and today, that group is still heavily involved with raising money and participating in this annual event.

This emphasis on service and giving back is at the core of who we are as a company. It’s not separate from our culture—it is our culture. As we continue to grow the company and continue to make this a requirement, we want this to be our hallmark.

My last business was very lucrative, easily bringing in seven figures annually for a number of years. I always talked about creating a foundation, but never did it. It’s one of the great regrets of my life. We didn’t start where I felt we needed to first—which is to be socially responsible and conscious of those who aren’t as blessed as we might be. I decided when we started NIA® that we would not make that mistake again. With NIA®, we put first things first. We decided from day one that every one of our franchises would participate in some kind of community outreach project each year in order to give back to the communities that have been so good to us.

Therefore, when we sit down with prospective franchise owners, one of the things we always ask is, “What are you doing charitably?” We ask that question prior to the disclosure that heading up these projects is going to be one of their responsibilities as an owner. We want to make sure the seeds of that service are already there. It’s at the core of NIA®, how we choose our leaders, and how we choose our group members.

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Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

Our platform is geared toward creating actual relationships with other group members. As you take the time to form meaningful relationships with each member in your group, you will be able to do more than just pass along a phone number. When you refer a member from any industry, you’ll be able to honestly say, “This is a good guy. You’ll like him,” or “This is a trustworthy woman. She will bring integrity to your project.” You can say that with confidence because you can trust that the franchise owners have done their job and properly vetted the member.

These kinds of details make a difference, especially in our culture. They create an immediate emotional connection, which makes your prospect more likely to call. Research shows that people make decisions about whether to buy with their emotions first, and then use logic to justify the decision they’ve already made.

This is not only applicable to the referral or referee scenario. It is applicable to your relationships with the people you refer as well. If other members sincerely know and like you, your name and company are going to come to their minds much more readily when it’s time to pass it along. Your fellow group members will be able to refer you as confidently as you are able to refer them.

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