Lessons learned along the way – #2 Building an effective network

This is part two in a ten part series of lessons I have learned along the way…

“Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But uh, until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.” Such were the words from Don Corleone to Bonasera in the movie “The Godfather.”  While “The Don” was a fictional character based on a criminal whose ethical and moral compass was badly askew, Marlon Brando’s character was practicing one of the basic premises of networking – the law of reciprocity.

Great networkers understand that what you provide for someone else often comes back many times in return.  In simple terms, I do something for you and perhaps you can do something for me.    Too often aspiring networkers head off to that Chamber of Commerce after or before hours, or that business leads group, in the hope of meeting more people to sell their products.  The more folks they meet, the more opportunities they have to sell.

Effective networkers build relationships, they do not sell products.  It is a process based on communication and trust.  Imagine you are building a home – a home which sits on a firm foundation of integrity, built brick by brick.  Our relationships are built much the same way as we create a lasting relationship built with each contact, each single communication one instance at a time.

In 1993, I was hired at my first Chamber of Commerce in the low country of South Carolina.  My Chamber Chairman Gene King imparted on me at the time, “It’s not how much you know or for that matter what you know, but who you know that will open doors of opportunity for you.” 

Gene King

While I agree with that statement, I’ve always thought it might also be who you know, that trust you, that may can connect you to someone else who opens that door of opportunity for you.  You want to create a network of people who champion your cause and that too is made possible by strong relationships.

Gene King was also aware of another basic premise of networking and that is the law of expectations. The very best networkers, those who excel in the life skill regardless of their vocation or hierarchy in their business, understand what happens when we give without expectations of receiving something back in return.

Quite simply, it’s not what we gain by our acts of charity or assistance, but what we become when we help others achieve their goals and their personal best.  Certainly King, from Holly Hill (SC), worked to make his community and the region a great place to live and work.  He sought to inspire and motivate others and was the driving force in creating the Tri County Region Chamber of Commerce impacting a great many lives today.

Over the course of my career both in civic service and two decades in the Chamber of Commerce field, I’ve observed some of the very best networkers.  They are masters of their craft but each learn something new every day.  The lesson I’ve learned along the way is that true networking is not about how many people you can meet but evolving into the person that people want to meet and introduce to others.  You know you’ve arrived when “you” become the offer they can’t refuse!


Lessons I learned from Grandmamma Tillie – #3 “Putting others First”

The following is the third in a ten part series of: “Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way…”

Putting others first

Grandmamma Feemster Mother's Day 2009

In 1994, I joined the Santee Rotary Club while I was Executive Director of the Tri County Regional Chamber of Commerce. It was there I was exposed to the club’s motto “Service above Self,” the underlying premise behind one of the world’s largest service organization with 31,000 clubs in 166 countries.  Today, I am a member of the North Mecklenburg Rotary Club which has a profound impact on our region.

However, long before my membership in Rotary, my Grandmother Feemster taught me to put others first through her limitless compassion and service. Grandmamma was the oldest of six kids and spent her days looking after her brothers, sisters, and later her children and grandchildren.

Early in her life a family member nicknamed her “Tillie the Toiler” and the name Tillie stuck. Toiled she did, working in a textile mill like many in rural South Carolina. Later in life she spent countless hours behind a sewing machine creating dresses and garments for her daughters, close family members, and friends.

Rarely did she ever sew anything for herself. It was a pretty safe bet that pretty little dress or sleek pants suit was for someone other than herself.

As a child, I spent most of my weekends in McConnells (SC) with Grandmamma Tillie while my grandfather went fishing with his buddies. On Saturday mornings, we would go into town, as she referred to it, where she would always buy me a little “pretty.” Then we spent the rest of the day with her looking at the latest designs and styles so she could buy the pattern and sew someone a “pretty” of their own.

Regardless of how well she felt, Grandmother would be the first by the bedside of a sick relative and the last to leave. She took to heart the verse in Philippians (Chapter 2 Verse 3): “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Too often when we meet folks for the first time, our thoughts are what do they think of us rather than what we can do for them. Many often seek out the credit rather than sharing the credit with others. Some of us learn too late that when we put others first, that is when we truly get ahead ourselves.

In February we lost Grandmamma Tillie. She was with us for 93 glorious years and taught me a great deal about life. My mother asked that I speak at the funeral and I shared a conversation I had with grandmamma when I asked what was her favorite hymn? Without hesitation, she replied, “In the garden.”

I can still hear her starting to softly sing the lyrics on our way to church that morning. “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the son of God discloses, and He walks with me…”

Grandmamma Feemster - (Tillie) Taken around 1962

I know that my Grandmother Feemster stands in the garden today. Surrounded by the brothers and sisters she cared for so much in life. This time though, she’s wearing a new dress of her own…. stitched in love and sewn by the hand of God.

Her lesson of compassion, putting others first, is one more lesson, I learned along the way.