Networking: A Team Sport

    August 21, 2003

A couple of years ago, I was scheduled to attend one of my Business Referral Exchange breakfast meetings in a location about 45 minutes away from my home. I’m so used to getting up early to attend breakfast meetings, that I’m rather like a fireman ready to slide down the pole and jump on the truck. My clothes are laid out the night before. The alarm is set for 5:00 AM. The coffee pot is set up and only needs to be plugged in. I’ve got just the right amount of time for one cup of coffee and a quick read of the morning’s paper before I head out. I’ve done it hundreds of times. It’s always been the same…until one particular day.

On that day, my dog, Bark, was not well. In fact she was seriously not well. She was seriously not well all over my gray living room carpet. I won’t bore you with the details here, but I knew what the problem was and I knew that she would need about a half an hour before she would be her old self again, and that within that half hour she would need some TLC. I could forego the cup of coffee and the perusal of the paper and still make the meeting. I stroked her for a bit, and then jumped in the shower. When I came out, I put my contact lenses in, and YIKES! They had been soaking in the wrong solution overnight. They had been sitting in pure, unadulterated peroxide. Swell. I yanked the lenses out and rinsed my eyes with water. They were so sore and swollen, I knew I’d never get the lenses back in and decided to wear my glasses instead.

I lost some valuable time between Bark and the lenses, but I could still make the meeting if I hurried. I plugged in the blow dryer and it was dead. I reset the button in the plug. Still dead. Okay, I guess that’s what towels are for.

I kept checking on Bark and racing to get out of the house. I tried makeup, but my eyes were so swollen and puffy, nothing was going to stick. I took one look at my red eyes, frizzy hair, and naked face and thought, “Gosh Leni, all someone would have to do would be to slap a hair net on you, and you’d look just like one of those women from your high school cafeteria!” Just the right look for an entrepreneurial woman! Oh well, gotta go. I uncapped the mouthwash for a quick swig, and uh-oh, in my haste, I grabbed the wrong bottle. Instead of mouthwash, I had just swilled back nail polish remover! I was starting to get the feeling this was not going to be my day.

Stick with me. The part about networking will become clearer at the end. I promise.

I jumped in the car, put it in reverse and slammed on the brakes as I realized there was a pile of gravel seven feet high at the foot of my driveway. It was meant for the house next door and had wound up at my place instead. It took ten minutes for the workers to clear a path for me, and I was off.

I started to race for the highway as I was seriously late. I was THE speaker at the meeting, but my eyes were still swollen and teary. I reached over to grab a tissue from my purse. No purse. Oh boy. For the first time in my life, I started to think about the expression, “driving without a license.” What exactly does that mean, anyway? You don’t have a license at all, or you have one, but not on you? Hmm.

No purse also means no money, no plastic, no checks, no breakfast, no coffee. Amazingly, I arrived at the restaurant only ten minutes late, but frazzled beyond belief. I was still thinking about Bark, wondering if she was okay. My hair looked like I had stuck my finger in a light socket. My eyes were practically swollen shut, and, as I got out of my car, I slipped on black ice, thus tearing a hole in my panty hose and bleeding from one knee. As I picked myself up I saw that in my haste, I had put on one black shoe and one blue shoe. At this point, I was pretty sure I should have stayed in bed.

I entered the restaurant, and as I took my seat, I saw the waitress approach with a pot of coffee. Knowing that I had no money on me, I covered the coffee cup with my hand as a signal not to fill the cup. My timing was off, however, and she proceeded to pour the scalding coffee on my hand.

I had only been up for two hours and already a whole multitude of disasters had befallen me. Instead of my prepared speech on networking, I decided to stand up and tell my story to the group. As I looked out on the faces, I realized how grateful I was that these people were part of my network. I knew each one of them. We had all done business together. We had exchanged leads. We had become friends. I didn’t have to explain to them that I’m usually much better put together. They knew that. Instead of frowning upon my shortcomings that morning, each person fought over who would buy my breakfast AND we had a good laugh.

It was a fairly new group, started just about a month before. As I stood before them, I realized we had reached a turning point. What had, only a short time before, been a roomful of strangers, had become a team, a network of people who genuinely cared about one another. We had helped each others businesses grow. We were working hard at bringing in referrals for one another. Everyone there that morning was pulling together to help me in my hour of need, and that is truly the essence of networking. You see, networking is not only a contact sport; it is a team sport. Instead of taking care of just yourself, take care of the people on your team. They, in turn, will take care of you. Even on a bad hair day.

Leni Chauvin is a Client Attraction expert who has has been
coaching ordinary people to build and market extraordinary
businesses since 1993. The strategies in her Attract Clients
Galore System(tm) have helped thousands of solo professionals
get more clients without having to spend a fortune to do it.
Subscribe to Leni’s newsletter for tips to help YOU grow YOUR