By Gay Gaddis.
There is nothing like a 4th of July parade in small town Texas and this year’s parade in Johnson City (home of Lyndon Johnson) was no exception. It was a patriotic display that was genuine, from the heart and very homegrown.
As we sat in folding chairs watching it all go by, a young boy caught my attention. He was walking through the crowd, approaching strangers and handing out a simple small piece of paper that said, “Tim’s Lawn Service. Hard work at a fair price!!” A couple of lollipops were attached to sweeten the deal along with his phone number. I was impressed; this took guts.
So I called him and found myself asking him questions about how he grows his business. He told me that his way of getting business was passing out flyers door-to-door, or in my case, the parade. Tim is 14, and one of five children trying to make some extra money this summer. He lamented that he started off with friends, but sometimes they didn’t show up or complained about the work so he resorted to just doing things himself. I asked if he wanted to run a bigger business someday and he said, “probably so.”
Tim reminded me of the basic rules of networking. Apart from the Woody Allen quote that “80% of success is showing up,” here is what I have done with the other 20% to grow my network and my business from a regional player to the national and international arena.
Follow up is imperative, but easier said than done. When you meet a person who you think will strengthen your business, you should be in touch at least once a quarter. Send something relevant and of value to them. This takes planning, discipline and creativity. Eventually you will be on their radar. If I asked your top five prospects, “Who wants your business,” and they cannot name you or your company, then you will never get their business.
Realize that a very strong code of reciprocity is involved. I will help you and when the time comes you will help me. The silver bullet is if I can do something for your child—even if it’s just a call or coffee. Nothing endears you to a person more than helping their daughter or nephew to get a leg up in the business world. Nothing. Period.
I think the reason that young Tim caught my attention is that I had my first job in a small town in Texas when I was 13. At 14, he is already on his way to learn and build his network. Work ethic, taking risks and sheer determination are essential for entrepreneurs. Good for Tim. I will be watching his future success.