Recently a woman told me that she didn't want to be a part of my community because it wasn't large enough. While at first I felt very "small", I then thought, did she reach out to any of the women who are there? Did she establish contact? Is it really about quantity or more importantly about the quality of who we connect with?
I'm seeing a frenzy within Twitter and Facebook to "amass" friends. Yes, it's nice to have great groups of followers. However, how can we really touch these "friends" personally? With how many do we end up forming a true connection? I've found that one truly significant connection means more to me--and my business success--than hundreds of surface connections.
Here’s a personal story I’d like to share...
A few years ago I wanted to reflect in a grateful place on where the great women I'd met in my life had come from. I created a "networking tree" and discovered that almost all of my local connections originated from one person.
Almost 10 years ago, after just moving to CT, I was working on developing leads for my direct sales business and periodically purchased "internet leads" of people interested in business opportunities. I contacted a man named Dave who lived close by. We spoke a bit, I had a good gut feel, and in an atypical fashion I asked him to meet me in person. After coordinating my children in the morning, getting myself to Starbucks an hour away, I showed up... but he never did.
I refused to get disappointed and assumed there was an honest explanation. I discovered later that he'd sent me an email (which got caught in my Spam filter) explaining that after some quick additional research, he decided he wasn't interested in my pursuing my company and wanted to cancel our appointment.
For some reason, I felt a real connection with Dave and did something that's completely "Kim" but NOT "by the books" of how others do things. I wrote him a heartfelt email sharing with him a little bit about my background, how I got to this place in my life, and why I sensed that he was worth meeting. I left the ball in his court and pressed send. I had no attachment to what happened after that.
Fortunately for me, he responded immediately, hearing something in my words and asked to reschedule our coffee date. During our time together we really clicked, said we'd stay in touch and I knew we both meant it. While Dave is an amazing guy, to date we have not worked together. However, based on his comfort with our connection, he introduced me to a special woman named Victoria who ran a very dynamic local networking group.
At my first Victoria meeting she connected me to Julie, another woman with a great sense of business and creativity. A month later Julie connected me to Krista, a boutique owner in CT, who needed some help on a creative project. Friendships blossomed. Between Julie and Krista, an entire community of great women in CT began showing up in my life. Continuing on, these local relationships led to my hosting a monthly "Great Women's Gathering" to share the women I was meeting with each other.
This then, and this is HUGE, led to my brainstorm to create my first online business, Metromom, a place where I can share great women with each other and provide them with lots of value. Dave was the seed that began my local networking tree, and gave me the gift of my business. From the beginning our relationship was based in truth, honesty and me doing business in a "Kim" way.
The reason this connection had value was because I took the time (and vulnerable leap) to open my heart to him and establish a real relationship. Could I put a dollar value on Dave? No. Yet his value to me, my business and my life is enormous. I feel gratitude for him daily. I'm blessed for who he is in my life and for who he brought into my life.
Connecting with one person, when it's the right person, can be the beginning of a relationship that blossoms and grows. These relationships are invaluable and require the right intention to grow. I prefer the "farmer", versus the "hunter" approach in networking. A farmer has a patient, highly visible approach to networking desiring collaboration and development versus the hunter approach of hit-and-run prospecting that's more focused on closing and acquisition.
In today's business climate, people - especially women - want to buy, but don't want to be sold to. The farmer approach is an excellent long-term strategy if you want to build a loyal customer base. It allows you to watch the seeds of connection grow and blossom.
If you question the value of connection, ask a farmer. She'll probably share its value with her own story of the seed she planted that blossomed into her own networking tree.