The Value of Participation
I am sure you’ve heard it all before; You get what you put out. While there is truth in the fact that you will reap benefits by becoming active in any facet of your life that you are looking to grow, I am here to tell you that participation is not only about “showing up”. There are several ways to “participate” and get involved but the most important hurdle you must cross is maintaining an open mind and becoming aware of all the opportunities that exist for you to expand your reach and achieve your goals in life.
In this blog article I will focus mostly on the value of participation as it pertains to growing your business, but if you think about it, all the principles I discuss are relevant for any area in your life you want to improve. Even if you don’t own a business, you may want to “tweek” the information so it can be more of use to you as you set your own personal/family goals.
How Does Participation Benefit Me?
If you have been a member of the Chamber for awhile, you know we put a strong emphasis on attending networking events such as coffees and mixers. Today I want you to understand that in order to find VALUE in attending a networking event, you will have to do more than JUST SHOW UP. Mixers are more than just shaking a couple of hands, and dropping your business card in the fish bowl. If you schedule time out of your day to attend a networking function of any sort make sure that you are CLEAR on what your OBJECTIVES are for attending that event.
SET REALISTIC GOALS BEFORE YOU SHOW UP
If you want to gain VALUE from attending an event; don’t just show up and socialize without aim or logic. I like to tell people to set a goal such as “Meet three new business owners and learn more about their business, ” or “Introduce myself to the mixer host and learn more about their business.” The two goals from above are simple and don’t require much work in advance. Mixers and networking events are all about relationship building and the first step to building a relationship is the introduction or the first meeting. You should be making an effort to constantly meet new people to expand your contacts.
STRATEGICALLY SELECT WHO YOU WANT TO MEET
This step requires work in advance, meaning you can’t just show up to an event and wing it. For this step, you will need to use your greatest resource, the CHAMBER STAFF! Take some time to determine who are some businesses you would like to meet. If you are a general contractor looking for leads, you may want to reach out to local realtors, or other businesses who come into direct contact with the consumer such as painters, pest control, or house cleaners. Why? They can turn into your best referral sources for your business.
Did you know if you call the Chamber and ask for references of other businesses in any industry you are looking for, 10 out of 10 times they will have names and contacts to provide you with? Taking this idea one step further, if I know who are the businesses you are trying to meet or make a connection with, I can facilitate an introduction at a mixer, or other networking event. All you have to do is ASK. Sounds simple right. As simple as this sounds, I can’t tell you how astounded I am by the lack of interest or initiative from business owners to reach out to me to facilitate introductions with other businesses. Your local Chamber of Commerce is one of the best resources you will ever have for your business because it can help you connect with all kinds of businesses, City officials, community groups, etc.
FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP
The title says it all. Your participation at any networking event means NOTHING if you don’t follow up with the contacts you make. Every time you meet someone at an event that you feel there may be potential for a lead, connection, or sale, you better have collected their business card or contact information and you better have it on your calendar to follow up with them in a couple weeks to reach out and schedule a separate meeting to further discuss your business. Not everyone you meet will be your next client, but they may turn into a great referral source for you or they may generate leads for you. It’s up to you to determine where the relationship will go. Continue to grow the relationships with the people you meet. You never know, they may not need you today but in 6 months they just might pick up the phone and call you!
RELATIONSHIPS ARE A TWO-WAY STREET
Now that you have decided you will begin participating and attending events; you set goals for the next event of what you want to accomplish; you reached out to the Chamber to help facilitate introductions, and you followed up with your new friend, you are on a good path to fostering new relationships that can positively impact your business. But, your work does not end here. The only way to maintain relationships as you know, is to nurture them. If you are a “me” person that thinks it’s all about you and everything you do revolves about only your best interest, you are not going to like what my last suggestion is. In order to maintain and nurture your new relationships, you have to go out of your way to support other businesses. You need to genuinely want to help other businesses succeed by sending them referrals, talking to others about their business, and using their services when you are in need. When you form a business relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties, you will find that referrals and leads will naturally come your way. The most successful businesses I have observed during my time with the Chamber have been the businesses who give the most and are willing to support others the most. I have witnessed the phenomena of “You get what you put out” and can honestly say with the “right” participation, you WILL see value and benefits!
-Sofia Valenzuela, CEO, Tracy Chamber, firstname.lastname@example.org