Tag Archives: Networking

Charlotte 2020

Charlotte 2020: Grow Your Business in the QC

If you live or do business in Greater Charlotte then you already know there’s a whole lot to be excited about in 2020 and beyond. The opportunities here are incredible, the city and state of NC in general are growing at a crazy fast pace and receiving all sorts of recognition nationally in “Best Places to Do Business” type articles. You can see for yourself (here, here, and here). Figuring out where to get plugged in or get more involved can be overwhelming, so I wanted to give you a few quick initial steps (4 to be exact) to take in the new year to kick things off, and I’ll elaborate and expand on this further throughout Q1.

Whether you’re new here, haven’t arrived yet, grew up here, or have been here for years now I highly recommend investing your time getting to know other professionals who are doing big things in business. Networking here has led to a substantial ROI for me and my businesses and I can’t encourage it enough. There are tons of organizations and resources with which to leverage at various price points and time commitments based on you and your company’s needs.

Personally, I’ve been involved in various capacities at board and committee levels with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance (formerly the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce). I’d highly recommend it as a great place to start and get involved. However, to be fully transparent, after merging with the region’s economic development entity the organization’s mission and day-to-day focus are shifting pretty substantially.  Rather than solely focusing on greater Charlotte, The Alliance now has 15 counties across both NC and SC in its purview. Needless to say, that while it’s a positive shift overall that provides incredible opportunity, the scope and reach has shifted dramatically. Serving that wide an area comes with new challenges as well however, so clearly the day-to-day operations needed to change with it.

While I still very much intend to remain involved as a member and hopefully more, it would be a disservice to you if I didn’t say the new mission has simultaneously left a pretty sizable void for those with a more narrow focus of making an impact in greater Charlotte and don’t have the resources to have a target market that expansive. Again, yet another opportunity

This is where the Charlotte Business Group comes in. (Full disclosure: I recently joined the board in 2019 because I knew this transition was happening and wanted to prepare accordingly.) There are still a ton of business professionals who just have the capacity to focus on Greater Charlotte (it’s hard enough covering the Lake Norman to Rock Hill/Fort Mill area as it is, let alone a dozen plus other counties). So we decided to step in and do just that. We’re providing networking opportunities with our mixers, educational opportunities with our panel discussions, and we recently launched a membership program to be able to ramp up additional opportunities in the community (as well as with more focus on fostering referrals and connections but much more to come as the year rolls on). The focus will remain greater Charlotte, but everyone who wants to do business here is more than welcome to get involved. If you and your organization wants to align with that mission please reach out to me to set up a membership or sponsorship and we’ll get you plugged in.

Next up is another really non-negotiable if you’re serious about Charlotte. You need the Charlotte Business Journal in your life, by way of subscription (print and digital), attending their events, and you NEED the Book of Lists.

Charlotte Inno (formerly Start Charlotte) with their newsletter and PitchBreakfast events among others are also truly invaluable. Whether you want to learn about local start up success and origin stories, or see what other events are coming up on the horizon (they host many incredible ones themselves as well) you at least need to sign up for the newsletter and take it from there.

 

We’ll leave it here for now, as that’s 4 invaluable steps that you need to take in the new year if you haven’t already. But I’ll be adding much more with respect to the specific Charlotte focus moving forward (including a non-profit edition). Would love to hear your feedback on what organizations you’re involved with, what you’d recommend and to continue the conversation as it’s one that’s a major priority for me.

navigating networking

Navigating Networking

Recently at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s 2nd Annual YP Leadership Convergence: Navigating the Career Jungle Gym (#YPLeaderCon) I moderated a panel about networking. This break out session was one among many others, along with some incredible keynote speeches and a great day full of, well networking.

The panelists I interviewed were:

Since we received such great feedback from our session, I wanted to share a few of the key points with you to highlight some of the primary takeaways.

Be authentic and a real person. People can spot a fake pretty easily and know when they’re just being sold. Begin a conversation with cultivating a real connection by being transparent.

Get to know people for who they are, not just their job. Yes, it’s common that the first thing people often ask in a networking setting is, “What do you do?” But you’re allowed, and encouraged, to take a different approach.

The elevator pitch: Yes, you should have one, but know when to use it. When to use the elevator pitch often comes much later in a conversation, and typically when it’s prompted by the other person. You should be able to comfortably speak about who you are and what you do naturally of course, but generally you can keep the elevator pitch in your back pocket.

Add value to others and give back. Every interaction doesn’t always lead to a sale or referral right off the bat. Rather, those often take time (roughly 5-7 touch points on average). If you focus on adding value to others first and going out of your way to help them it’s more likely that will be reciprocated later. That’s not a guarantee that it will. But trust us, just try it and see how well it works out for you.

Be strategic about where you spend your time. We all have a limited amount of time in the day. Be thoughtful and which events you plan to attend in order to get the most value for your precious time. Further, when you do commit to attending an event make sure to bring your best self and be present.

Leverage technology, (i.e. your phone, Outlook, LinkedIn, a CRM system, etc.). It’s pretty much impossible to remember every single person you meet, who you’ve made plans with, or where you met them, among the infinite amount of information we consume each day. Create a system and make sure to use it. If it’s in real time the better. Add their contact info into your phone and send the calendar invite right then and there (when appropriate) to maximize efficiency.

Follow Up! This is by far the most important tip yet so many people fail to do it. As they say, “the fortune is in the follow up”. Try to do so in as timely a fashion as possible to ensure you continue cultivating the relationship.

There are plenty of other networking guidelines to adhere to, what are some of yours?

 

For additional context on the YP Leader Con conference’s theme this year the description was: “The career path for a young professional often looks more like a jungle gym than a corporate ladder. During a full day of learning and exploration, you’ll gain insight from a diverse array of speakers with varied career and leadership paths.” It was a dynamic day packed with incredible content. If you live in, or near Charlotte make sure to sign up for next year’s conference!

reconnecting with your network

Reconnecting With Your Network

4 min. read (too long? Scroll down to the bottom for the bullet points)

You did it. You went dark.  You ghosted. Pulled a professional Irish Goodbye.  You haven’t spoken or been in touch with the majority of your network for some time.  Could be a couple months, or even over a year.  I know I’m guilty of it.  You change careers/jobs, move to a different part of town or new city, or experience a major life-changing event like a new relationship, marriage, or have your first child.  For one reason or another, you lost touch and some people got left behind.

 

This is completely normal.  Things happen, and priorities change.  But what do you do when you want to reconnect to some, or all, of your old network?  Well realizing you want to reconnect is the first step.  We went around asking others who have been in that same predicament, what they did that worked for them.  Below we compiled a list of the steps they took to warm up their own networks and get “reintroduced to the wild”.

 

  1. Just do it.

Sometimes we over think things, and talk ourselves out of doing something that will ultimately benefit us.  Maybe you only reach out to a couple people you still stay in contact with, or you limit the amount of outreach when trying to get back in touch with your network.  Ultimately, those who want to stay in touch will respond to your efforts, and those who don’t will ignore the effort.  Save yourself the time and worry and reach out to everyone.

 

  1. Get Active

Now this can be vague, but its actually really simple.  Get active in the same circles as your old contacts.  Whether its posting more on social media, attending the same networking groups, or professional organizations.  Getting active will put you back in front of those people. We need to stay in front of those we want to keep us top of mind.

 

  1. Own up to it (but not too much)

It’s been a while since you’ve spoken.  Odds are, you won’t be able to just pick up the conversation where you last left it like nothing happened.  A brief acknowledgement of the passing of time will add some context to the rest of the email.  However, be careful not to sound overly apologetic.  Include any pertinent information, like a change in career, major move, or family addition.  Avoid anything that sounds overly apologetic like “I’m so sorry I haven’t been around.” Or “I hope you’ll reconnect with me again.”

 

  1. Be Transparent about your motives

This one should be rather straightforward; you want to reconnect.  Make sure this is in the message somewhere.  Whether you haven’t spoken in a while, you changed careers or positions, or whatever the reason.  If you want to remind them of who you are, it would be smart to include your previous position, place of work, or where you were when you first met.

 

  1. Don’t sell anything or ask for a favor

Clearly there is a reason you want to reconnect with this group of people, but this isn’t the time to ask.  Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said it best,

If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to.

If you haven’t spoken to these individuals in some time, odds are you don’t have the trust built up to ask anything of them.  Use this as an opportunity to give something of value.

 

-Ask them what you can do to help them.

-Congratulate them on a recent accolade.

-Offer some information or research that may be useful to them professionally or personally.

 

Sharing with them something new you’re working on is ok, but stop short of asking them to buy or become a client.  If they’re interested, they’ll ask you for more information.  This is the first step of a marathon, building a relationship doesn’t happen in a sprint.

 

  1. Write like a human/ Make it personal

You’re trying to reconnect, which means putting yourself first and actually connecting.  You may represent a brand or company, but people connect with other people.  Greet them by first name “Hi Christy,” or if you don’t have their first name a simple “Hi!” or “Hi there,” will be ok.  Keep the tone conversational, as if you were talking to a friend.  A rigid tone can be confused for bulk email, and make it seem impersonal.  Lastly, avoid any banners, images or special fonts.  Plain Text works best, as that’s the default look for most of our personal emails.

 

  1. Follow Up!!!

Congratulations!  You did it! You put in all the hard work and reached back out to your network.  When you get responses to your message, thank them.  Gratitude goes a long way to keeping the relationship going.

Now you have to keep it warm.  The fortune is in the follow up! Stay consistent with your outreach and keep in front of them using whatever platform works best for you.  Keep active in whatever in-person groups make the most impact.  If you join a non-profit, make sure its one you have a genuine interest in (we can tell if you’re faking it or using the group for other reasons).

 

General Do’s and Don’ts

 

Do

-it.  Seriously, just put an email together or even just walk into an event.  Do something.

-Be transparent and own up to the lapse.

-Remind them who you are and where you met.

-Give something of value.  Real value. Try to benefit them personally or professionally.

-Keep it friendly and personal.

-Be genuine in your efforts. We can all spot a fake.

-Use plain text.

-Follow Up. Stay Consistent. Show Gratitude.

 

Don’t

-sit on your ass.

-be overly apologetic.

-assume they remember you.

-Sell them something or ask a favor.  I cannot over emphasize this enough.

-give them anything cheap.  People recognize and appreciate value.

-send a bulk mailer with fluff (fancy borders, fonts, images)

-let another year go by before you reach back out again.

 

Hope this helps get you back out there!

 

If you liked this, sign up for the newsletter and keep an eye out for the next posts in this series:

Email etiquette: Anti-Spam and keeping out of Junk folders & Networking: Following up with a new connection.

Charlotte

Doing a Charlotte Deep Dive this February

While I’m fortunate that my business often takes me all over the country, every now and then it’s crucial to do a deep dive into my own HQ city, Charlotte, NC. I’ve made a lot of progress with growing my network here, but it’s still far from where I want and need it to be. And I don’t have nearly the client base that I’d like here yet either, and building it is one of my primary objectives for 2018.

Over the next couple weeks (while simultaneously continuing to run the business) I’m going to be back on the local networking grind with a vengeance. Below is the scheduled itinerary with links if you’re interested in joining me. Also, if there’s any events/organizations I’m missing please let me know!

February 7th; 6:00 pm – StartupGrindCLT

February 8th; 7:30 am – Bisnow’s 8th Annual Charlotte State of the Market (Commercial Real Estate)

February 9th; 8:30 am – Monthly BIG Ideas Exchange: Big Data (BIG – Business Innovation Growth)

February 14th; 8:00 am – PitchBreakfast

February 14th; 11:30am – Charlotte Chamber YP’s (CCYPs) Non-Profit Luncheon (Volunteer Matchmaker)

February 16th; 12:00 pm – Skookum TechTalks: Blockchain Technology: Uses Beyond Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

February 22nd; 4:00 pm – NextGen Charlotte Business Journal – 2018 Money Management

If you’re in Charlotte, and planning to attend one of these, I hope to see you and to get to know you and your business better!

2018 Call to Action

Happy New Year! I’ll save you the “new year new me/new year new you” talk (even though I’m always a sucker for self-improvement) and get straight to the point. You already know this is going to be your best year yet or you wouldn’t be reading this. And you KNOW it’s going to be my best year yet too. Now for the important part, HOW are we going to do that? This is OUR call to action!

Now I’m not some business guru, I’m still closer to the beginning of my come up, building the foundation of my future empire just like most of you. But I often have people reach out to me beginning with something along the lines of, “I’ve been meaning to reach out to you.” Or “I’ve been following/keeping tabs on you for months now and planning to hit you up.”

The reasons and motivations usually vary, it could be about entrepreneurship, marketing, CRMaugmented reality, blockchain/cryptocurrency, etc. My point in all this is to explicitly say, THIS is your invitation to reach out to me. Don’t wait another 3 months until your life gets less complicated (it won’t) or less busy (it won’t) before doing it. Now is as good a time as any.

It’s obvious we’re all ambitious people grinding our asses off to continue building our businesses and to add more value to our clients and prospects. If there’s a way we can help each other to do just that it’s very much worth at least a conversation.

Further, even if you’re not ready just yet, there’s a good chance I’ll be reaching out to you soon regardless. I will always make sure there’s something valuable tied to it though. But in 2018 I truly want to connect people in a way that helps them grow their businesses and networks. People ask me to make introductions/referrals to professionals in my network often. If it’s a connection that doesn’t make sense to you, you are more than welcome to say no thanks (or ignore it like some do). But keep in mind that on the flip side I’d probably make the intro for you too.

When the dust settles this time next year we’ll all have just got done celebrating the best year of our professional lives and strategizing on how to make 2019 even better. As my boy Tony Robbins says, “If you want to take the island, burn the boats!” I’m ALL IN on 2018 and I know you are too, so let’s get to work already and make it happen!

P.S. I’m always looking for new clients, investors, partners/collaborators, etc. so if there’s someone you think it would make sense for me to talk to please don’t hesitate to answer the call to action!

Unsolicited Insights From The Minority at the #BlkTechClt Event

First let me start with the description of the event that I, aka “the minority,” just attended:

ThePLUG Daily (make sure to subscribe) presents Charlotte’s first interactive event designed to immerse black tech entrepreneurs, professionals, and enthusiasts in the Queen City’s local startup ecosystem. This new monthly after-work event connects you with Charlotte’s most notable innovators and business leaders over drinks and appetizers while getting a sneak-peak at new products and an opportunity to share your area of expertise.”

Next, let me offer up a few disclaimers:

  1. I’m well aware that this event does not need, nor is seeking, validation from a random white dude whatsoever.
  2. Tito’s Vodka was one of the sponsors (I wrote this immediately upon getting back to my office after the event so pardon the tone…)
  3. Said random white dude’s writing about said event may have un-implied/privileged undertones despite the many clichés of his whole background and existence, i.e. growing up in an “urban environment” and having lots of black friends, etc.

Ok, now after that unfortunate introduction that hopefully in the future won’t even need to be written prior to such subjects because race won’t even be a factor in life whatsoever, let’s get to the key point of all this: random white dude attended the #BlkTechClt event and had his mind blown.

First of all, not like I’m surprised by this at all, but I saw a truly passionate and capable community of brilliant minds, both young and old, male and female, all coming together to empower and encourage one another to do whatever it takes to succeed. There were lawyers, bankers, financial professionals, coders, scholars, hobbyists, dreamers, artists, and just about every type of person you can imagine together sharing ideas, plans, business models, and projects they were working on and receiving feedback, insights, and suggestions from genuinely interested parties. It was an electrifying atmosphere.

Secondly, not only did I experience the reversed perspective of what it must (is? could?) be like being a minority attending a typical professional networking event, but I also noted that I was likely the only one that even noticed, or at least mentioned, the fact that I wasn’t black. Even though everyone embraced me without a second’s thought, the shear self-consciousness of constantly wondering, “Do these people not like me/ do they think I don’t belong/are they wondering why I’m here because I’m white/different” led to a perpetual awkwardness that forced me to bring it up and try to explain myself (note: this is never a good idea) even though I spent a great deal of time growing up in similar scenarios.

To say it was a cultural experience/awakening is an understatement. Because of my background, I tend to try and emphasize that race isn’t an issue to me personally whatsoever. Now I see however, that on the other side that “luxury” or perhaps “ignorance” isn’t even allowed to exist. Those subconscious thoughts stick with you ALWAYS, and are constantly nagging underneath the surface.

Lastly, I made some incredible contacts with potential clients, referral sources, and strategic partners. I would be so lucky to get a chance to work with and collaborate with some of these entrepreneurs that are destined for greatness. I can now only hope that my whiteness doesn’t keep me from consideration (ironic how the tables are turning isn’t it?) and that the new era of diverse businesses begins to thrive.