In our “must have it now” culture we have become used to demand and instant supply in many areas of our lives. We are bombarded with emails offering us instant wealth, overnight success, instant gourmet meals and the ability to write a best-selling book in just 5 days’. Similarly, many people who are new to networking often come with the expectation of instant sales; they may visit a networking event once, collect a big handful of business cards and expect the sales to start rolling in.
The truth is, as many of us have discovered, the greatest rewards often come from the things we’ve nurtured over a period time – the projects that we have blessed with passion, love, care, time and patience. And networking definitely benefits from the life-time project approach.
Image that your network is like a beautiful garden. When you first start out, it will likely be a bit bare and your first task is to start planning which seeds to plant and preparing the most fertile soil to plant them in. And just as nature doesn’t product an instant harvest a mere few hours after the seeds have planted, your network too will take time, effort, love and care to flourish and grow.
As your networking garden starts to mature it will be filled with many types of seeds, shoots, flowers, deep roots (and the occasional weed) at different stages of growth and maturity. It may look something like this:
- An area of newly planted seeds full of hope and optimism for the future
- Areas of bare soil with space for planting new seeds
- A flurry of new shoots emerging – the first rewards of your hard work and love
- An abundance of bright vibrant flowers providing energy, inspiration, joy and appreciation
- A cluster of deep rooted trees – solid, supportive, trusted and dependable
- A hybrid or two – where new and exciting fruits are born from the merging of different seeds
- A few party-pooper weeds – every garden has some unwanted weeds which can limit your harvest if you let them.
- And just like any abundant and desirable garden, your network needs nourishment and each type of individual requires a slightly different approach in order to keep it healthy and vibrant. Your networking garden requires:
this takes the form of a listening ear, a helping hand, a friendly chat, an inspired idea or a useful connection.
without support, even the brightest flower can wilt! Often cited as one of the key factors in joining a network is the support provided by other members. The more support you can offer, the greater your own harvest will be
Ongoing nurture –
just as a seeds needs food, water, care and attention to grow, so does each of your relationships. Just collecting a business card and adding someone to your mailing list is not enough. Stay in touch, be authentic, supportive and open.
Personal attention –
Just as each plant in your garden is unique and has its own needs and habits, each person (and their business) in your network will have their own personal needs and challenges too. Really getting to know the people in your network is where the most rewards are reaped, trust is built and referrals are made.
In each networking garden there will be those that bear more fruit than others, those that prove solid and dependable all year round and those that maybe die after a single season. And just as a great gardener knows how to create a garden that is vibrant and flourishing all year round, so a great networker knows how to sow the seeds for a great network and nurture them for long-term success!
Does your network reflect your garden?!
About the Author:Jenny Littlejohn. Jenny specialises in helping small business owners (especially service professionals) who are stuck, confused and frustrated with their marketing and business development efforts. Jenny helps her clients to define precisely who their clients are and how they buy in order to develop and implement an individually tailored marketing program that makes them stand out from the crowd and attract their ideal clients. She loves blogging and writing articles as a way of sharing valuable knowledge and inspiring women to try think in new ways and try a different approach. Check out her blog the inspiredpreneur