Who Gets the Rose?
I confess…I am a closet “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” watcher.
Yes, I publicly admit it. In fact, I am even using it as a metaphor for making business connections. For those of you who have more refined tastes than mine, here’s all you need to know…
Throughout the season, the show has two kinds of dates – group and one-on-one. On the group dates, all the women (or men) compete with each other for attention. The one-on-ones will either result in the date getting a rose or packing his/her suitcase and getting sent home immediately.
The networking scene here in the “Valley” (as they call the Phoenix/Scottsdale area) has been sort of like that for me this past week. Although it hasn’t involved a romantic helicopter ride or intimate moments in the Fantasy Suite, I’ve been making some tough decisions about which business relationships will progress and which people/groups will be sent off to find connections elsewhere. As on the TV show, sometimes the contestants opt-out. It’s not always one-sided.
This week in the Valley was a true meet-and-greet-palooza. I went to four events and had four one-on-one meetings. I have a few more on the list for next week Although that may seem like overload, my goal was to get as much exposure – in as short a time as possible – to the business community here and start to build my circle.
Knowing which business relationships to pursue is always a tricky thing. Intelligence, creativity, innovative thinking, connection to the outside world, kindness, humor, and curiosity are among the qualities I look for. A mutual belief in business karma is important too. Some of the best relationships in my 14-year entrepreneurial career came from random meetings with people at events. One of my fave examples is my meeting Sharon Rowe at a women’s business networking event. It led to a true “tipping point moment” in my business when I got her product in front of Oprah.
Some of the high points and realizations from this week:
- Big networking events can be a great way to get a handle on the business landscape. I met everyone from media folks to bankers to tech-types to non-profits to the organizers of the State Fair at the Phoenix Business Journal’s “Book of Lists” party. I ran into two people I had met before. I guess I am becoming a local.
- Lots of events happen during daylight hours and evening events start early. It’s a much more relaxed business environment than New York, which I’m enjoying. I don’t have to spend my entire day/night transacting.
- Being a newbie in an area is a big advantage. It provides immediate conversation fodder. People recommend restaurants and concerts, as well as offering business guidance.
- Managers who bring young team members to networking events need to provide some context and training before the event. I often feel sorry for recent grads who are brought to these events by their supervisors. Although the senior people think they are providing “exposure,” they rarely teach their apprentices what to do once they arrive, so these recent grads wind up looking lost and confused and shy. (If you see one, engage him/her in conversation!)
- Going to big events with friends can be fun. At one event, I met up with my networking “wing women” Lela and Gilda (also new to the Valley) and we compared notes on who was interesting to speak to.
- In any environment, some people simply are uncomfortable talking to strangers.. Please don’t stick a card or brochure in my face before you’ve had a “getting to know you” conversation It’s like pleading to go to the Fantasy Suite on the first date. I have taught a workshop in the past on networking skills and may find a venue to do it in AZ. I was a super-shy kid and young adult, so overcoming ones fear of talking to strangers is the first step.
- Many of the men here (largely in their 50’s and 60’s) have yet to realize that women can be business leaders too. I wanted to speak to one professional technology group leader at an event and he kept introducing me to his wife (who was very nice, but wasn’t in a field that interested me.)
- Apparently, a new trend in event attire called “business slutty” has taken off. Ewwww! Shame on you ladies for showing up at events in skin-tight cocktail dresses. We can’t have it both ways – if you want to be taken seriously, dress like it! It brings back memories of Tess in Working Girl. The ‘80s are over! Read the memo, sisters!
- The print on nametags needs to be much larger.
As for who’s getting those roses…you’ll have to subscribe to my blog and keep reading about being “the new kid” after 40 working years.