Ask and Ye Shall Receive

I was at a business development meeting at my company Monday morning. We were discussing what accounts in town we were going to target that we hadn’t talked to yet. One company name came up in the conversation. We all looked at each other in amazement that no one at the table had any solid connections there.

Three hours later, I was at a lunch with three long-time Richmond, VA, residents discussing business in the city. I said, “Boy, if anyone has any inroads at COMPANY X, I’d really appreciate knowing about it.” One guy said, “Hey, I know a Mr. Sorta Big over there. Use my name.” We called him and set up an appointment.

The moral of the story is that you are about two degrees of separation from anyone you need to get to. I’ve sent emails to 10 people saying I need to get in touch with someone specific. I usually get at least two responses that someone knows that person well. A personal reference is always preferable to a cold call.

The moral of the story is ask for help. Usually, you’ll get it. I’ve only been in Richmond since 1994 (another 350 years, and I’ll be considered a native). I’m constantly amazed at how many people know each other from grade school, church, and civic organizations.

People love to play matchmaker. There’s no better feeling than setting someone up for a job interview or business appointment that turns into something good. Even if they don’t get the job, you’ll be known as someone who is a connector — a valuable title, especially when you’re looking for a job or a leg up in your organization.

A very large part of the creative and marketing world is people. Sounds obvious, but if you think about people you enjoy working with, I’ll bet a lot of it has to do with personality rather than technical skill. I’d much rather work with someone less skilled with no attitude than the reverse.

Become a good connector. If you see a job opening that might fit a friend or colleague, pass it on. If you have a day that isn’t too busy, find three people at different companies and have lunch. Find out what’s going on at their companies and play the name game. If you’re new in town, it’s a good way to meet people in different companies.

If you’re the type who sits in a cube all day interacting with nobody, it may be time to rethink that. Business is composed of relationships. The better you are at networking, the better chance your name will be at the top of someone’s mind when something good comes up.

I’ve had many emails from people asking, “I’m new in my town. How can I get to the right people to get connected?” Simple: Volunteer, and you’ll find what you need. Besides the good you’ll do for a charity or nonprofit, you’ll meet the movers and shakers who know the town, know the real economic climate, and know where the jobs are. Do good work on a committee or board, and your name will always be on the short list when someone is looking to hire, or just to brainstorm.

I Have Just 12 Questions for You…

In my last article I asked 12 survey questions. Over 200 people from around the world responded. Thank you. Each week, I’ll share some of the more interesting answers to the survey.

What book(s) on writing, art, or creativity have been your best resource for inspiration?

“Some are not directly related to art/creativity, but they are among my best sources of inspiration: ‘Princessa, Machiavelli for Women‘ by Harriet Rubin; ‘The Prophet‘ by Kahlil Gibran; everything by Dr. Seuss; ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto‘ by a gaggle of renegades; anything by Mark Twain; [and] Communication Arts–AnneMarie Joseph, Canada

“Bill Gates’s ‘Business @ The Speed of Thought,’ ‘The Humane Interface‘ by Jef Raskins, [and] ‘Content Critical‘ by Gerry McGovern and Rob Norton –Tony Ford, England

“I bought this art book, ‘Modernism,’ by Richard Weston, published by Phaidon Press Limited in 1996, at a used book store in Philly a few weeks ago. This book is the greatest resource for all things modern and deco. It’s a huge hardcover book with great color photos of vintage prints, old buildings, architecture, etc. from the late-1920s [through the] 1960s. It is so inspiring.” –Chrissie Bonanni, USA

“‘You Can Find Inspiration in Everything* (* and if you can’t, look again!)‘ by Paul Smith (British clothing designer).” –Jean-Christophe Gombeaud, Paris

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.