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Archive for December 2011

Lifelong Learning

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“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” ~~Albert Einstein

We started to consider the skills and techniques of doubling the results of your networking efforts on the first Sunday morning in January and have continued every week throughout the year.  Thank you for staying the course.  I certainly hope you have found some value in the fifty-two sessions presented.

Although networking is the recognized leader in building business relationships that work, there is no ready college course on the material.  Hopefully, this information provides some illumination.  Hopefully, too, you have applied these principals and enjoyed twice the results this year than you saw last year.  You can do the same again in 2012 by following the same principals again.  One of the nice benefits of having completed every topic is that now you can now access all of the information at your own pace, rather than an arbitrary weekly rhythm.

Go back and revisit them all—in order—and speed through the areas that you are already proficient at and take your time in the soft spots.  Set your goals for the year (or shorter time frame) and set measurable targets.

Life is a continuous opportunity for further learning, so consider committing to continuous education.  There are many resources readily available and I present a short list of candidates for your consideration.

Endless Referrals Bob Burg

The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret Ivan Misner and Virginia Devine

How to Work a Room Susan RoAnne

Networking for Success Robyn Henderson

The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies Ivan Misner and Michelle R. Donovan

Unlimited Referrals Bill Cates

Let’s Connect Jan Vermeiren

Business by Referral Ivan Misner and Robert Davis

Build Your Well Before You Are Thirsty Harvey McKay

Building the Ultimate Network various contributors

Your action this week is to set your plans in motion for next year.  Start by reviewing each entry and define a method to polish the existing skills and augment the others.  Give yourself the gift of continuous learning and have a very Happy Holiday Season.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

December 25, 2011 at 2:03 am

Your Advisory Board

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“To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines.” ~~Steve Jobs RIP 10/5/11

You may have heard that business owners wear many hats.  This is very true.  It requires a lot of different skills and activities to keep an enterprise humming and thriving.  We all bring various competencies to the equation—both business-related and personal.  For example, one person may be a good marketer, excellent father, decent driver, and terrible golfer.  They can’t sing but write well.  This composite individual has strengths and weaknesses.  In your business (as well as in personal relationships) weaknesses can be crippling and even fatal.  Understanding that, you can appreciate the value of an advisory board.

This is a group of peers—fellow-business owners—that gather regularly and discuss pertinent issues.  They bring expertise and experience into areas you are lacking and you can offer the same to them.  Theoretically, seventy-percent of all business is the same while most of us only think of the thirty-percent that differentiates them.  You would hardly think of an auto repair business, financial planner’s office, and chiropractor have much in common but they all deal with finding new customers, servicing accounts, billing, tax preparation, hiring, insurance, website selection, and countless other similar details.  When someone has already mastered the process of accepting credit cards, for example, the other members can benefit from that knowledge.

In some cases you can join an existing advisory board.  In others you can start your own.  A good middle ground is a mastermind group.  These are similar to business networking groups except that the focus is on sharing ideas rather than mining for referrals.

The best advisory boards will challenge your pre-conceived ideas and highlight soft areas.  They can be uncomfortable yet invaluable.  Some are very hands-on while others are more visionary and big-picture-centric.  Some meet monthly and some meet quarterly.  Some meet in person and others in more virtual settings.

Ivan Misner in The 29% Solution quotes business strategist Geri Stengel regarding ten effective tips for creating an advisory board, summarized below:

  1. What is the objective of your board?  Will this be an industry-specific group or more generalized?  Will it be a hybrid (business-to-business or homeowner-centric, for example?)  Will it be regional, national, or larger?  Will it include customers?
  2. How do you choose the right people?  Understanding the purpose is one thing.  Further defining the level of expertise, business size and maturity, etc., is another matter, as well.  Whatever metric you define, be certain to consider “people skills” as well.  Look for willingness to share, problem-solving ability, communication proficiency, and so on.  Some boards love to recruit celebrities and a big name adds some allure while also opening the door for powerful introductions but don’t just gravitate to that if it is not a fit in the other areas, as well.
  3. What are your expectations?  Be clear about time commitments, responsibilities, desired results, and all the rest.  The clearer you are about the strengths and weaknesses of your current board make-up, the surer you will find the right person for the right reason that will stay.  If your board will consider private matters have a confidentiality agreement prepared.
  4. What is the compensation?  Certainly involvement has its own rewards.  Decide on food, expenses, stock options, and cash payments, if any.
  5. How will you maximize the experience?  Carefully consider the logistics and prepare agendas ahead of time.  If prior knowledge of a topic is needed, deliver that ahead of time.  End every session with a recap of the action plans and facilitate the process.  Ideally, recap each meeting for all attendees (perhaps all members.)
  6. Honesty is the best policy.  As mentioned above a strong advisory board will be challenging.  Every member should share their own mistakes, especially in the early formative sessions.  This builds rapport and provides a framework for trust.  Honesty may put you in an uncomfortable situation as the probing questions uncover what you don’t know, never considered, blind spots, and so forth.  Keep the conversations frank and yet not personal attacks.
  7. How will you deal with the time/distance gaps?  Meeting often drives momentum yet can burn members out.  Meeting less often can lead to drift.  Defining these expectations and finding suitable methods of between meeting communication is important.  Emails, wikis, listserves, shared websites, and so on provide useful ways to move ideas along erratic schedules.  Some members will access this late at night, for example.  It is also useful to assign sub-committees who meet on specific topics at their own schedules and report results at the regular sessions.
  8. Will you respect the board recommendations?  Everyone’s time is important.  Do not monopolize the floor, for example.  Conversely, when something needs to be said—do so.  Listen to the advice given and consider your own actions.  You will ultimately live with any decision, so there is no need to rush.  That said, respect the advice, share your decision, and share the results.
  9. How will you keep board members informed?  You may in time find the advice was correct and now will be talking about how to repair and restore.  You may find that new areas of opportunity or concern have cropped up.  You may simply find that things are moving according to plan.  Briefly updating your advisory board is important.
  10. How will you deal with problem members?  Set a structure up that enables you to deal with the inevitable issues that arise.  Be certain to consider legal challenges, as well.

Who might you want to seek out for an advisory board?  Here are some areas to consider:

  • People in your profession.  This includes current professionals as well as prior specialists.  There are benefits from both areas.  Active experts have current technology, contacts, regulatory knowledge, and more.  Former wizards bring different depth, too.
  • Outside observers.  These can include regulators, authors, and business consultants.
  • Members of similar or related professional organizations like trade group people.

This is a large, significant area and sets the tone for your 2012 focus.  Your action this week is to start planning your advisory board.  I am including a link to Geri Stengel’s website here as an idea factory.  Start fleshing out the answers to the ten questions above and solicit feedback from those you respect.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

December 18, 2011 at 2:03 am

Make a Difference

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“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” ~~John C. Crosby

Mentors provide leadership, guidance, and support.  Their interest in our success may be unexpected or actively sought.  It may be provided with patient step-by-step counseling or delivered in more fleeting, sometimes cryptic teaching moments.  No matter the method it is offered in a sincere desire to help and received—when fully understood—gratefully.

Mentorship embodies the “Giver’s Gain” philosophy.

By serving as a mentor you have the chance to make a significant difference in someone else’s life.  Less apparent is that a mentor has a golden opportunity to sharpen their own skills.  In teaching we learn.

Think of your mentors.  They took some time to help and made a difference.  What feelings do you have for them?  Gratitude is the most compelling emotion.  If they called and asked for some help you would set other things aside and give this effort the attention it so fittingly deserves.

We have been together for fifty weeks and it is time to begin paying it forward to others while deepening your personal understanding, as well.

Here are some key characteristics of beneficial mentoring.

http://sonic.net/~mfreeman/mentor/mentchar.htm

Characteristics of a Good Mentor

All successful business people do not necessarily make effective mentors; certain individuals are more effective in the role of developing others. Whether or not an individual is suited to the role of mentor may depend on his or her own stage of development and experience. For example, a fairly successful individual may have had a specific, or limited, background and may not have enough general experience to offer. Prior to entering into a mentoring relationship, the protégée should assume the responsibility of assessing the mentor’s potential effectiveness.

The qualities which are essential in an effective mentor include:

  • DESIRE TO HELP Individuals who are interested in and willing to help others.
  • HAVE HAD POSITIVE EXPERIENCES Individuals who have had positive formal or informal experiences with a mentor tend to be good mentors themselves.
  • GOOD REPUTATION FOR DEVELOPING OTHERS Experienced people who have a good reputation for helping others develop their skills.
  • TIME & ENERGY People who have the time and mental energy to devote to the relationship.
  • UP-TO-DATE KNOWLEDGE Individuals who have maintained current, up-to-date technological knowledge and/or skills.
  • LEARNING ATTITUDE Individuals who are still willing and able to learn and who see the potential benefits of a mentoring relationship.
  • DEMONSTRATED EFFECTIVE MANAGERIAL (MENTORING) SKILLS Individuals who have demonstrated effective coaching, counseling, facilitating and networking skills.

Your action step this week is to assess your own mentoring potential and seek suitable candidates that deserve your attention.  In some cases you may need to break the ice and inform these candidates of your intention and availability.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

December 11, 2011 at 2:04 am

Hub Firm

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“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” ~~Jack Welch

Just as no man is an island, no (or almost no) business transaction takes place in a vacuum.  There is usually a preceding and following event (or three.)  In the book The World’s Best Known Marketing Secret the author, Ivan Misner, refers to the concept of a hub firm at the center of these events.

Hub firms take time to develop and rely heavily on trust and competence.  In the hub firm model, one company has the relationship with the client and coordinates business across other companies in order to assist the client with those other transactions.

Hub firms cover a wide-range of situations—towing to a repair shop, power-washing before painting, and cleaning up after construction are a few everyday examples.  These are simple partnership arrangements while the true hub firm is more complex.  Let me give you two examples of these.

Consider the Financial Planner who works with a variety of clients.  Some of these are people who are staring a new business. A typical Financial Planner might recommend that the client find some resources and may have a few loose recommendations.  The savvy Financial Planner, however, has already aligned herself with a CPA, a business attorney, and a business banker, for example.  These professionals can all meet the client at once and map out a cohesive startup strategy.  Certainly, any member of the team can drive the hub relationship for their clients, as well.  This team approach provides competitive advantage and can save the client time and (usually) money, as well.  At the right point in the process they can introduce web designers, graphic designers, advertising specialists, and so on.

A second example has to do with a hub firm Realtor.  In this scenario, we have a home-owner who is listing their house.  The Realtor can mobilize a carpet cleaner, moving and storage company, and interior designer as follows.  The moving and storage company gets “clutter” and bulky items out of the home and into storage.  The carpet cleaner freshens up the floors and the painter does the same for the walls.   The landscaper improves curb appeal and the interior designer stages the home for quicker sale.  The Realtor coordinates these efforts and can utilize these pros, as needed.

Both of these identify the power of the hub firm model.  Not every client requires all the members of the team.  The hub firm “quarterbacks” those efforts.  Building a hub team takes time and commitment.  These trusted partners must maintain the integrity of the whole team with each project.

Your action step this week is to begin to build your hub team.  Consider some of your best clients and what needs they have and who you know that can help.  In some cases you will need to coordinate existing relationships.  In some cases you will need to replace existing relationships.  In still others you will need to establish and develop new relationships.  The effort is well-worth the trouble.

© 2011 by Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Stephen Hand of Triangle BNI.

Written by bniguy

December 4, 2011 at 2:37 am