In the know

Published:  January 18, 2010
In the know

Some years ago, a close colleague made the observation that ‘it is not who you know, but who knows you’. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing in the value of your online ‘contacts’ or the size of your business card directory. The truth is that the real value lies in your details being part of diverse databases outside your own. So – my friend is right! It is who knows you that will make the difference to an expanding reputation, and ultimately your bottom line.

Building a dynamic professional network is key to establishing and growing your client base, or starting out if you are completing your design qualifications this year. Get cracking now and make yourself known to potential clients, industry associations and businesses. Join a range of professional ‘design for business’ organisations, such as Design Vic. I also suggest you start by visiting this website to find a comprehensive list and descriptors of networks that you can build into.

Networking is part of the modern credo of doing business, and the conversion of networking into business activity requires discipline and a tactical approach that will translate into a sound professional reputation. This will take effort, enthusiasm and the challenge to introduce yourself and be known, as well as being in the know. If you say that that you will catch up at the end of a meeting, then do it.

Same old faces
Have you wondered why we spend time and money on so many coffee and croissants style events? The answer for some is to get out of the office and meet new people, come face to face with innovative approaches and be confirmed in current practices. For others, the reason for ‘getting out’ is evoked by Edvard Munch’s lithograph, The Scream, and at times the routines, the physical environment and the same old faces can condemn the individual and the organisation to death by familiarity. No matter how well we relate and work with our colleagues, sometimes we need to remove ourselves from them. It’s important to get out and get into fresh social and business networks. It is, indeed, crucial for those of us who spend huge amounts of time at the desk, somewhat isolated from social buzz.

Minding your business… cards
Let’s be honest. How often do you find business cards – not your own – tucked into side pockets of computer bags or business diaries? Lack of follow-up may be a lost opportunity! If you accept a business card you have a responsibility to respond. Make sure that you follow up within 48 hours, otherwise the trail will be cold and the dynamics will be lost. Once the email has been sent, diarise a further action if you think the lead will be valuable. If you don’t have a business cards scanner then file the cards in logical order. These contacts may well be fundamental to your database.

Be interested, not interesting
How often do you meet someone at a lunch or a bar and find that you are left with an empty glass and a one-way conversation? It’s good to reflect on how we behave and who we are being when we’re in company. Don’t be the person who others wish to escape. Concentrate on being interested rather than interesting. How do we do this? Ask questions, explore backgrounds, think through possible synergies as the conversation develops. Talking about yourself is deadly, and unattractive, and is not the way to expand your business acumen.
Networking in a room of strangers can be daunting. One of the best strategies is to be interested in the people around you. Network ice-breakers are great to have up your sleeve, especially if you are a bit shy about speaking to strangers. Asking questions works. Questions lead to building relationships and new opportunities.

Change your position, change your mind
Ten years ago networking was a face-to-face thing, but now online social networks are both an art and a science. Swarm theory is all about the dynamics of social need and new relationships, dealing with anonymity and the creation of people clusters. No matter how sophisticated the online technologies, the absolute reality of face-to-face interaction is essential even in this digital world of virtual reality and sometime absolute fantasy.
Changing physical environments is equally important to the power of networking. The benefits of human interaction are as essential as hitting the refresh button. Designers need to be stimulated in every possible way. Change your position and you will change your mind. Your imagination browser will continue to be refreshed by exploring contrasting and complementary environments in which people from different backgrounds hang out. Avoid sticking with the same crowd. Make sure you stray from the studio world and meet a range of people.

Di Fleming is the director of Accelerated Knowledge Technologies Pty Ltd, president of the Australia Africa Business Council (Vic) and board member of the Victorian Government’s Growth Areas Authority. She was also Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year (1998–1999). She believes that organisational success lies in releasing creative capital and leading by design.

Image Copyright chrisprayingmantis

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