Business Networking and Culture

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By Gail Stolzenburg

Is networking enough?  In recent articles, we defined networking as making contact and creating credibility which results in referrals for resources and customers.  For example, let’s say we are at a business breakfast networking event and we introduce ourselves, ask questions, and decide if we want to explore a business relationship;  then, we meet again to learn more about each other’s business, capabilities, and reputation; and finally, we begin giving each other quality referrals and generating income.  That’s networking, but, there is another step – Culture.

Culture is developing a group with its own beliefs, ways of life, and way of thinking.  Networking is never enough!  We must build a community and develop a culture.  Founder of BNI business referral organization, Dr. Ivan Misner says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast any day”.  Cultures are necessary because it is human nature to want to belong and associate with each other.  That’s why we create masterminds, advisory boards, power teams, etc.  You can only progress so far by yourself.  A few years ago, I started a referral marketing business and became the highest ranking consultant for that company in Houston.  But, that was a far as I could go without developing a TEAMTogether Everyone Achieves More.  I had to develop a culture and a community.

How effective is culture?  I often hear at networking meetings that a member has generated more than 1/3 of his or her business from referrals made by members of their group.  This is because a culture has been developed using the law of reciprocity.  John D. Rockefeller said, “A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship”For example, I met the publisher of Small Business Today Magazine at a business function and afterwards we became friends.

One of the best examples I know of culture is social media.  Yes, it is being done every day.  It is called a TRIBE.  Who do you follow on social media?  I follow others because we share similar values and mission statements and, in turn, I have asked them to contribute ideas to my business.  Howard Partridge, exclusive small business coach for Ziglar Corporation, writes on culture and communities about GLOCAL, a concept I’m helping him develop where business owners meet weekly to discuss successes and problems in aspects of their business such as marketing, sales, operations, administration, and leadership.

Networking may lead to a culture but culture also affects networking.  I have a friend who is Japanese.  Because of his culture, he has a tendency to say yes every time he is asked a question, even though he is unable to understand the question.  Now, I always ask an open ended question such as, “Can you tell me what you need to do next?” rather than, “Do you understand”.  In Japan, business is only discussed after dining and drinking; in Thailand there is no shaking of hands, they just put their palms together and bow; in Malaysia they shake hands and then put one hand on their heart.  Each culture is different and how we adapt determines our success.

The reason networking groups are so effective is because participants experience the culture.  Recently, I was at the Zig Ziglar Corporation headquarters in Plano, TX for the first Ziglar Business Owner Workshop and this was my experience:  Every one of the staff made me feel like I was a member of the family.  It is an experience I’ll never forget.  Zig is famous for saying, “You are what you are and where you are because of what goes into your mind.  You can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” – Zig Ziglar

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Gail “The Connector” Stolzenburg’s new book,CONNECTIONS:  Contacts to Clients” was just released.  For more information, Gail can be contacted by phone at 281-493-1955, by email at Gail@GailStolzenburg.com, or visit his website at www.GailStolzenburg.com.

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