April 2019 Educate

Two Steps to Live Networking: Operator. Well Could You Help Me Place This Call?


Written By: Philip N. Kabler

Sometimes old school is just fine. Society (which includes the business world) would not be where it is today were it not for the past. And that especially includes building and maintaining professional relationships – which begin as personal connections.

We are all, of course, aware of the digital world with its many apps for connecting people. Personally, I have LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts, including on my cellphone. And a blog. So, despite my comments, which may make me appear as a Luddite, I am actually an active adopter.

Despite the existence of so many online resources, if you really want to establish true and lasting relationships, you must engage in actual face-time. (Which is quite different than FaceTime.) Nothing works better for developing meaningful and mutual understanding, together with trustworthiness and credibility, as actually being in direct proximity to a person. Which is Step 1 to a relationship.

That initial nearness leads naturally – even, in the end, for introverts – to sharing commonalities and differences. Add a touch of active listening, and the communicators will then be able to work together towards mutually beneficial outcomes. Which is Step 2.

One good thing that can emerge from one-on-one relationships can be that the initial communicators introduce their new friend to a new circle of reliable friends. And then to another. To unknown limits. And that, boiled down to its simplest terms, is networking.

This networking stuff works in the real world. Every day. I offer two stories of how it worked in my professional life.

First, with my position as a partner in a statewide law firm. At the invitation and encouragement of a commercial Realtor friend, I joined a well-established social club in our community. Yes, it cost upfront money to join, and then dues each year, and it took time. But, at one of the meetings, I sat down with people I did and did not know. One of the ones I didn’t know and I started chatting because we are both lawyers. My then-law partner was running for office, and I was concerned about being a sole practitioner transactional lawyer after the election. (All people have strengths, weaknesses and concerns. Avoiding being a sole practitioner is one of mine. Please understand – I have many friends who love that life, but it was not for me.)

The new contact asked me flat-out about the exit strategy if I ended up alone. And that started an extended conversation. Which ended up in my joining his law firm. And eventually being promoted to my current position as a partner. And all of that was because of a single one-on-one conversation from an ostensible networking organization. (PS, given the very high ROI from being in that organization, I loyally renew my membership every year.)

Second, with my adjunct faculty positions at the UF law and business schools. During a previous employment position, a colleague who taught at Santa Fe College asked if I could cover a first-year/second-year business law course for
a full-time professor planning a sabbatical.

I had co-taught a class in another department, so this new one seemed fun. I attended to that class, and the department chair and I hit it off. So, a one-shot deal ended up being a semester-after-semester course. And then an additional employment law course.

Roll forward a few years, and I was in the parent pickup room of a local dance studio where our daughter was taking classes. I saw a person across the room editing a business law book, so I approached him, and a conversation ensued. Later, that person needed his junior/senior business law course covered for a summer semester. Which opened that new chapter.

I taught the course a number of times (and occasionally still do, when needed), and – through other personal contacts – that class branched out into law school and then business school graduate level real estate-related courses. (Plus, a graduate business law class “cover” for a professor who was going to be away for a summer.) And all of that was from a chance conversation at a dance studio.

The point of all of that is not my personal story. I have absolutely been fortunate to meet people who help me break new ground, and I am grateful for each one. There is a different point I am trying to make – which is that networking actually succeeds. Above I mentioned a commercial real estate friend. Prior articles in this series have shown that I am a huge adherent of active listening. By actually engaging in that practice, that friend taught me that relationship-building and networking are 24/7/365, always-on activities. That is the point.

I appreciate the opportunity this particular article has given me to relate networking and relationships to my own narrative. I am sure I could find similar parallels from third-parties, but sometimes the most effective stories are the ones that come from first-hand experiences.

Mindfulness of new people, and the related potential for sincere and mutually beneficial relationships, are critical in business and are equally critical in life. James Taylor wrote a song called “Secret O’ Life.” Perhaps part of that secret is building and maintaining relationships across the entire scope of one’s life – the old-school, face-to-face way.

(With thanks, and citation to the late Jim Croce for the title to this article.)  

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For more information, call Philip N. Kabler, Esq. of the Gainesville office of Bogin, Munns & Munns, and P.A. at 352-332-7688, https://www.boginmunns.com/locations/gainesville/, where he practices in the areas of business, real estate, banking and equine law.

This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and readers should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding their legal matters, as every situation is unique.

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