Some of the best small business networking opportunities I’ve uncovered is by attending conferences. There’s nothing like that face-time to solidify relationships, gain new perspectives on an individual’s personality and create a deeper bond.
Do you have a perfect traveling companion?
I always dreamed of traveling the country with my dog. They don’t talk back, don’t insist on too many (or too few) rest stops, let you control the radio and get really excited about being included.
Gatsby was an awesome co-pilot. He was rather opinioned about how he did – well, everything – but sure was easy to travel with.
In the car, there was no backseat driving with him. His place was on the passenger seat, except, of course, when I left him in the car to run errands. Then he was in the driver’s seat. Wish I had some photo captures of those moments – and the reactions of parking lot travelers.
When driving, his head would tower over mine and toll collectors, drive through employees and passengers in nearby cars would exclaim ‘It’s the RCA Dog’ or ‘there’s Petey’ or ‘Spuds MacKenzie’. He was black and white (in his thinking too) with an eye patch. People didn’t seem to notice he was much bigger than his namesakes.
Now that Gatsby’s dead, I’m thinking it will be a long time before I have another good co-pilot candidate. Remi (the other adopted city pound mutt) doesn’t travel well. She’s stopped blowing chunks, at least (and surprisingly, never developed an aversion to car rides), but freaks out when left alone for even a moment to pump gas, get cash or run a quick errand.
Still, someday, I hope to find another Gatsby now that so many hotels/motels are offering pet accommodations. Traveling can be more fun with a cohort.
Trips can offer unforeseen perks
During younger years, I was quite active with a number of national organizations. Although my business was local, the contacts I met at national events were incredible and still serve me today.
When you’re a business owner considering every outlay against the hard work it takes to bring in revenue, it can be tough to justify the cost of a trip. With the right mindset, it’s so worth it.
After seeing the impact big-picture thinking (mostly pro-bono national small business advocacy work) had on meeting the right people, I’m a believer in investing in travel to remote events. As I’m getting back on the road, I’m finding it’s still the case today.
Surprises come with national small business networking opportunities
I never saw myself as a paid public speaker. After attending a few national events, though, a number of people approached me to do just that.
Once I realized people would pay me to talk to prospects while introducing me in a way that helped create clients, I was sold. What I fun it was being part of a mix comprised primarily of much more seasoned speakers with my contrarian style! Real wasn’t in vogue then. I’ve never been one to pay much attention to fashion.
A decade later, I launched a book publishing company (never saw that one coming last century). Many of the entrepreneurs I met and built relationships with were suddenly ideal author candidates for this venture.
Somehow it seems, no matter the cost to be there (which, truth-be-told, I tend to eliminate by getting on the speaker roster), far more is gained from the connections made attending.
If you’re serious about making your mark as a small business owner, consider attending events that seem a bit out of your reach.
The key is making contacts, not selling. If you show up expecting others to dump business (or knowledge) in your lap immediately, you’ll be disappointed. Better to go with an open mind with an eye toward connecting with the most influential and respected people there (the 80/20 rule).
Most conferences are promoted around an educational theme. Expecting these sessions to be engrossing and enlightening (particularly if speakers are there pro-bono) is wrong-minded.
Alternatively, national meetings are billed as networking events. People leave disappointed when clients don’t instantly land in their laps. Most don’t realize it’s not about what you get immediately, but what you give so you’re remembered by the notables attending.
What’s next for you?
Business travels with Gatsby probably would have been more like a ‘Marley and Me’ thing, but fun just the same. Regardless, I’m excited about repeating a strategy that worked well. How about you? It’s amazing how motivated and creative you can become when stretching financially to be there. Are you ready to hit the road with a bigger perspective on the future?