Wouldn’t it be awesome if everything you ever wanted for your business just magically appeared at exactly the right time?
It’s a very potent fantasy (and one I admittedly indulge in, occasionally.) But it is just that - a fantasy. If you’re a business owner (or manager of a business you love), most of the good things that happen will come to you because you work hard and have a steadfast belief in what you are a part of creating.
There are two types of work that we do every day. The first type is what I think of as “in the moment” work - attending meetings, having calls, dealing with crises, maintaining infrastructure, etc. The second type is “background” work - things that you’ve invested in so that they can bear fruit in the future while you’re working on in-the-moment stuff. This is the popular “working IN vs ON your business” practice.
For me, the “ON vs IN” activity that carries some of the biggest ROI is networking. And this year, more than ever, I’ve come to appreciate the extraordinary value of the vast network of connections I’ve made and maintained over the decades as a member of many professional industry organizations (such as APDT, IBPSA, NAPPS,PSO, and 1871 Chicago).
Every single organization to which I actively belong offers something different that helps nurture my personal and professional growth. Not coincidentally, I choose to spend the most time with the organizations that also include the people I like the most.
In other words - find your tribe.
Once you’ve found your tribe - be they dog trainers, pet business owners, or tech entrepreneurs - a wondrous alchemy takes place and you start to make real, honest connections that help lift you up body, soul, and… profit.
Making those connections can be a lot of work up front (especially if you aren’t a natural extrovert), but I promise that once you’ve made them, they can be maintained with a little decency, consideration, and simple human kindness. No matter how bad your day has been, or how justifiably provoked you may feel, don’t give in and verbally blast someone out of the water. It’s not worth it. Not only will you lose the trust of the person in question, but you’ll also lose the goodwill of people who hear about the incident third- or fourth-hand, and who don’t feel like wasting actual or emotional capital on someone with a less-than-judicious temperament. (And rightfully so.)
If you’re new to networking, I suggest starting out with conferences like IBPSA orNAPPS - they have great educational resources, are welcoming to newbies, and attract some of the best in the business as speakers and attendees. The big trade shows can be fun - so many shiny new toys! - but they can also be exhausting and overwhelming if you don’t have particular goals in mind. In addition to in-person networking, check out the various Facebook or LinkedIn groups (public and private) for your areas of interest.Small business meetups in your area can also be very helpful - they may not be pet-specific, but they’re good resources for navigating business issues like employment, taxes, and legal structures.
One last thing - networking is, by definition, a quid pro quo relationship. You have to give to get, and you should be willing and able to return favors such as introductions, coffee dates, presentation rehearsals, and a shoulder to cry on when needed. No schnorring!