Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Networking Audit" Helps Firms Conserve Budget

You only get rewards from being involved in organizations if you participate. Signing up for membership in networking groups, Chambers of Commerce, industry groups, etc... do you no good if you do not participate.

Professionals all over the country think that spending money to join groups will help them build their brand and cultivate new client relationships. However they do not put in the time and effort necessary to establish relationships inside these groups. They spend large amounts of money, and much of it is wasted.

Others regularly sign up to attend meetings, and then make it to the event. They have pre-registered and there are no refunds if you skip out (these groups have to guarantee attendance numbers and pay the catering bill regardless of if you show up). Companies have no idea when they are reimbursing employees expense accounts that they actually attended the event. The paperwork simply shows the date, time and cost of the luncheon.... nobody ever is asked if they made it there in person.

I have been working with several law firms and other companies on conducting "networking audits", where they are reviewing the money that is invested in memberships and event costs for professional organizations to determine if they are throwing money down the drain. They are creating discussions that are keeping in check the balance between paying random dues and registration fees, and funding legitimate relationship building activities.

Business owners and managers are often surprised at the amounts of money that is spent on useless activities. They want to encourage their people to be involved in the community, but do not realize how rarely the members of their team are actually participating in the groups they join.

Dealing with this issue does not involve anyone becoming the "networking police". Companies do not need to develop rigid policies to curtail much of this useless spending. Creating open dialogues about networking groups and professional memberships with all employees will allow the situation to self-correct. However, this has to be a regular part of their business operations, not just a one time chat.

Establishing a "networking culture" takes a commitment at all levels inside an organization, but it will increase visibility and reduce wasted budget dollars. When dues and fees are talked about openly, people will tend to waste less money. Accountability is greatest in the daylight.

Is it time that your company conducted a "Networking Audit"? Reviewing all your networking activities will help everyone prioritize which organizations are valued and which ones are not worth your time and money.

Have A Great Day.


Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Okay To Be Crazy

Really. It's okay.

Several months ago I met Sean Adams. Those who say that "Twitter is a waste of time" are often missing the opportunity to make connections with others in their local communities. If it had not been for the micro-blogging site I might have missed this intelligent and motivational individual.

Sean lives in the Austin area, but our paths had never crossed before Twitter. I make it a habit to follow the "tweets" of those who live in my community (I can't follow everyone on the planet, but if they live in my city, I have much higher odds of meeting them in person at some point).

In the past I have written and spoken on panels about the real power of Twitter having a 30 mile radius! When you invest the time with Twitter to follow interesting people, it can jump start a conversation at a later date when you can have a deeper conversation (one that goes beyond 140 characters).

One day Sean, whom I had never met, reached out an invited me to coffee. We had a great conversation and he gave me a copy of his book It's Okay To Be Crazy. I have had the book in my car for months, and yesterday I decided to dive in and read it. This small book (I am a fan of small books!), which takes just over an hour to read, is a gem of wisdom.

Sean quotes his father in the beginning of the book (and thus shows the source of the title):

His father always said, “Every time somebody tries to lift their head and do something special, there’s somebody else there to call them crazy.” You have to be a little crazy to be successful. You have to be crazy enough to believe in yourself when nobody else does. You have to be crazy enough to do something you’ve never done. In fact, you have to be crazy enough to believe in a dream that nobody may see but you. Finally, you have to be crazy enough to take big risk. Taking big risk not only shows that you have confidence in yourself but it shows you can deal with and manage failure.

Throughout the book he encourages the reader to take ownership for their actions and forge their own future. No excuses are allowed, and it is clear that Sean has followed his own advice.

My favorite line in the book comes from Colorado Football Coach Don Hawkins. "There are two types of class: First and No". Ponder that one for a few minutes: First Class or No Class. It is clear that Sean Adams is First Class!

Since I began working for myself nearly a year ago I am always amazed at the number of friends, family members and others who ask me if I am looking for a job yet. They seem to think I am crazy in being a "Speaker". They do not understand the speaking business and thus assume it is not something where someone can build a steady income. They seem to be encouraging me to go get a "real job" and abandon my calling. I have learned from my personal adventure the past 12 months.... that it is never crazy to go for your dreams. In fact, it would be crazy NOT to go for your dreams.

Let the naysayers call me crazy. It's okay!

Are you crazy too?

Have A Great Day.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Law Firm, Banks, and Professional Services Business Development Coaching and Training

After years of pulling back on spending, there is a renewed interest in training, coaching and business education in law firms, banks and other professional service firms.

Several years ago there was push-back on the topics of marketing, networking, business development, and branding. Firms were so busy working with clients that they laughed off the thoughts that the future could ever be different from the land of milk and honey. Business was rolling in, and they never thought it would change.

Then the recession hit. It hit hard. Deals dried up and prospective clients held on tight to their current vendors. The risk of making a change was too great for most customers. Professional service providers found that there was not much in their pipeline and new business was allusive.

The new clients they did find came through their trusted referral partners. Suddenly the power of long-term mutually beneficial relationships became clear. They are now hungry to cultivate connections with others in their business communities.

I have had many conversations with law firms and other organizations the last several weeks who are seeking ways to create better marketing and business development plans. There is an interest in getting both partners and associates (senior and junior employees) engaged in creating a far reaching reputation that will lead the organization to more business.

My "Integrated Visibility" program (which combines Marketing, Sales, Business Development, Advertising, PR, Networking, Social Media, and Personal Branding) is suddenly of interest to many firms who in the past had ignored the power of business relationships. Some are looking for a short-cut or an automated system, but I have never a consultant who promises "nirvana" that can actually deliver the goods. In the end nobody can do this for you. The members of an organization need to own a visibility plan that will produce results. They must work, collectively and independently, to put the pieces together..... Some Assembly IS Required!!!

Second quarter is the ideal time to embrace a culture shift within a firm. The year is underway, and if they wait too long the year will be lost. Smart firms are addressing these topics now before 2010 is gone.

Have A Great Day.


New Real Estate Book by Chad Goldwasser and Thom Singer Featured in Realtor Magazine

In the April edition of Realtor Magazine there is an excerpt from "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Real Estate".

The article, "Tips For Successful One-On-One Meetings", is full of ideas on how to get the most out of meeting with clients, potential clients and others. The advice is for anyone, not just Real Estate Professionals.

Have A Great Day.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some Assembly Required Webinar

Join me on April 12, 2010 at 3 PM (Central Time) for the "Some Assembly Required Webinar"

"How to Integrate Visibility As Part Of Your Business Development Plan"

Marketing, Sales, Business Development, PR, Social Media, Networking, Advertising and Branding do not happen by accident. If you are a small business, professional services firm, or individual you cannot afford to hire teams of people to handle all these important business disciplines. Each person in the organization must have ownership and take action to help raise the visibility of the company.

Any one of these business practices will help raise the reputation of your business, but when you can put the pieces together you will find more power in your overall marketing and branding efforts. When done correctly this will lead to more sales.

Please sign up to be part of this webinar. We will explore how your marketing plan, business development efforts, customer service, referral network, PR and social media and advertising can work together to create your personal and professional brand in your business community.

After you sign up you will receive the instructions to join the webinar.

Cost: $35 ($25 Early Registration)

Have A Great Day.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Being Over-Exposed or Looking For An Excuse NOT To Network?

Tim Tyrell-Smith at Tim's Strategy Blog has an interesting post today asking "Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Networking?". A reader of this career advice blog asked the question and Tim does a great job of answering (he says "yes", one can become over-exposed).

I think that few people really ever run the risk of being over-exposed in a job search or any area of their career when it comes to networking. While it can happen in theory, it is rare. 99.9% of all people will never have to worry about this.... in fact, the majority of the people have the exact opposite problem -- they are not out there enough.

I see people looking for excuses NOT to network far more than I see anyone really becoming “over-exposed”.

This is a hot topic this week in the social media world. Chris Brogan recently announced on his blog that he had to re-draw the way he communicates with those who communicate with him via social media, email,etc.. Chris is a rock star in social media and has thousands of people commenting weekly on his blog and tweets.

However, Chris Brogan's action has caused a many people to come up with similar ideas about how they respond to others they encounter. They are claiming “see, it wont scale!!!”. But they are NOWHERE near the levels of communications that are piled on Chris. These people are lucky to have dozens of comments in a month, … but they see Chris’s pronouncement that he is over-extended as a reason to be able to hide from networking opportunities and toss aside the advantages they could find from being directly engaged with people.

It is true that networking cannot scale indefinitely (I applaud Chris Brogan, not only for the decision he made, but for his being honest and open about it). I wrote an article last year about how "Networking IS Different When You Are At The Top". This addressed the realities that when you are higher up the ladder of responsibility, you have less time and more people wanting to get on your calendar. It does not mean you get to stop networking or make excuses.... it is just different.

Most people are NOT over-extended at all…. they just don't know how to manage their networking time (online or offline).

I think that job seekers should not be worried about being over-exposed, but instead be concerned about how are they impacting the people they meet. You can NEVER be over-exposed if you are working to help other people and making positive efforts to assist those in your community.

If you are just showing up trying to find a job (or a new client, etc...), yep, that can get old. But nobody tires of those who are looking to contribute to every situation they encounter!

Have A Great Day


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some Assembly IS Required: Connecting the dots of Branding, Marketing, Sales, Business Development, PR, Social Media, Advertising, Networking, etc...

Nobody can ignore the need to establish their brand. Both individuals and companies need to take ownership of their reputations in the business community if they want to find the greatest possible levels of success.

A brand, put simply, is a promise of what customers, prospects, referral sources and others can expect from doing business with you. In good times and bad times your brand screams to the world who you are and what you do. All the little things you do impact how others think of you.

Even if you are not actively promoting a brand, your brand is promoting itself. People in your business community are always watching your actions and jumping to conclusions about you and your product or service. Even when you are having a bad day you are forging your reputation in the minds of those watching (and everyone they tell).

Some people think it is not fair that they are being judged. Too bad. Who told you life was fair? Who you are inside... your character.... really, really matters. As you are being observed all the time.

Large corporations have entire departments with dozens of "brand managers" who work tirelessly to protect and promote the image of the company. As a small business or sole proprietor, you cannot afford legions of people to manage your brand -- thus you must oversee this process all on your own.

Further more you must worry about marketing, sales, business development, public relations, social media, advertising, networking, and customer services. Each of these disciplines are bound together. Again, big companies allow them to float separately in silos, but you must put them all together in one big puzzle. Some Assembly IS Required! You cannot leave these important areas of business to chance.

Too often people want to take shortcuts in their career and then they sit on the sideline scratching their head wondering why they did not climb up the ladder as they had hoped.

Success takes a combination of skill and talent in your area of expertise in conjunction with a brand and reputation. If you are good and nobody knows you exist you are leaving money on the table. Being the best kept secret in your industry will leave you short of your potential. You must create buzz that will cause others to become active referral sources to help bring opportunities.

At the same time you must remain humble and continue to be genuine. Nobody wants to recommend a pompous ass.

Develop a "long-run strategy" where you are consistent in your efforts to do great work and still find time to get engaged in your business community so that you can establish that brand that excites other people into wanting to become part of your support team.

The best way to get a support team? Be a support team. Everyday find a way to help promote other people. Be a contributor and an active part of your community. If you want to have career success and gain higher levels of attention in your industry, do not do it behind closed doors.

Consistent work product, community involvement and collaboration is the only path to the top.

Serve. Contribute. Love. Accept. Be real.

Have A Great Day.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Being In The Zone - Passion For What You Are Doing

I have been thinking a lot what makes me excited about my work. It will soon be a year since I got laid-off and launched on my own path. I said good-bye to a corporate job and have not looked back. I have had a great time this past year, and feel that I am making progress toward building a sustainable career as an entrepreneur speaker along with helping start a publishing company and speakers bureau.

I am not alone in this venture. I have a business partner in New Year Publishing who navigates most of the choppiest waters. I work with a group of motivated professional speakers in NYP Speakers who are committed to developing a community of peers. My wife has been on board, and continues to support the business and unpredictable travel schedule (as well as running the Children's Division of New Year Publishing). And my kids seem to understand the process of being self-employed... with the sacrifices and rewards that come with the journey (they don't like my travel, but like that I can drive them to school, gymnastics and karate more often!).

The other day I told my wife I had never been this happy in my entire career. She reminded me of two jobs where I had this much passion. I was excited to go to work everyday and I was in the zone - making things happen and living success. In both of those jobs I had bosses who gave me the goal, a budget, and then got out of my way. I was allowed to oversee my marketing / business development programs without micro-management. In the end I was happy, and I delivered more than expected by my employers.

I did not always have this level of autonomy and trust in every job that I had. Most of my career I felt adrift. I was trying hard (and still getting things done), but could not get the "flow" going. A person can fake it all along the way, but they have to look at themselves in the mirror everyday. No passion sucks, and it makes your job suck too!

I see the connection now between my love for what I am doing now and those two jobs were I was on fire. It was when I was allowed to be an entrepreneur (or intrepreneur, as the case may be) that I was able to kick butt. When you are slaying dragons and winning battles there is nothing that can stop your attitude from souring to the top.

The more I coach and consult with professionals I discover that many people are stuck in jobs for which they have no passion at all. They feel trapped by the paycheck and yet have no idea what else they would do but work for a company.

A recruiter told me recently that it is predicted that as much as 25% (or more) of all employees would welcome the opportunity to change jobs. However, the economy has kept most people in the same place for a long time. Once the job market opens up it is predicted that it will not be the unemployed who will take the first wave of open jobs, but those who already have jobs that are desperate to move on.

Think about that if you own a company. Over 1/4 of your employees are hoping to leave as soon as they see a shiny object out the window. This domino effect will surprise many companies, leaving important holes in their roster.

I wonder if most bosses can cultivate the necessary passion inside the hearts of their employees? It is hard. There are so many competing priorities inside a business. The boss and the employee do not always have the same goals. It is so easy, regardless of if you work for yourself or if you work for someone else, to get caught in the daily routine and lose sight of way passion matters in the first place.

I read a blog post by Andy Sack (a venture capitalist in Seattle) where he wrote about why passion is vital in a start up. His five points were:

  1. The ability to continually motivate and re-invent: By definition, founder's don't have all the answers. They are in a learning mode. They are learning what customers wants, how they're going to charge, how they'll scale, etc. They are often crude implementations of what they aspire to be and as such, founders inevitably will have to overcome rough patches and patches where they don't know what the right answer is. Enter passion. Passion makes overcoming this lack of answers possible and fun.
  2. The willingness to work longer hours than the average person.
  3. The energy to sell customers, employees, and investors possible. It allows you to overcome all the "no's" you'll hear day in and day out.
  4. The will to take feedback on limitations of yourself and your corporation and actually do something about it.
  5. The desire to persevere and persist when the going gets tough.
He concluded with the following thought:
"In a nutshell, passion is the word people use to attach to all the emotional aspects of founding a team that require energy, inventiveness, and fun to overcome."
That is where I find myself. Even after attending a five day industry conference, giving eight presentations in two weeks, traveling all over the country, and trying to keep up with all the emails and other projects.... I still look forward to waking up tomorrow (Monday) and hitting the ground running looking for new opportunities, promoting the NYP Speakers and Authors, and finding a way to contribute to all that I encounter.

Have A Great Day.


Have you ever read one of my books? They are available at Amazon.com. Tell a friend!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Rest of the Story!

For those who read the blog post from earlier this week, "We Can Make A Difference", about the generosity of the people at a SXSW roof-top party who raised $200 to help get a wheelchair for an 18 year old kid (Matt in New Jersey) .... here is the rest of the story (from the blog of Matt's Aunt).

Have A Great Day.


Thom Singer at SXSW Interactive 2010

Here is a short video from my presentation at the 2010 South by Southwest Interactive conference: "Networking at a Multi-Day Conference".

Have A Great Day


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Do I Have To Use Twitter?

While speaking at a luncheon, with an audience of small business owners, the discussion moved to the importance of social media. I was talking about having a strong internet presence and utilizing all the tools that are available to help promote their companies via the internet and mobile. It is important that everyone be aware how their clients, prospects, vendors and competitors are using the variety of tools available in cyberspace and beyond.

I had just spent five days at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference with 14,000 heavy social media users. While being emerged in the epicenter of social media, it seemed that the whole world lived in online and mobile social communities (Four Square and Gowalla were the darlings of SXSW --- Don't know what they are? Seems there are constantly new things we need to learn about).

But the truth is that many people are still on the sidelines when it comes to social media. Some think that it is a fad whose tentacles do not reach into their industry. Social media is NOT a fad!

Hands went up in the audience and there were abundant questions about LinkedIn, Facebook, Blogging, etc.... Then one professional raised his hand and said, with trepidation, "Do I have to use Twitter?"

No. You do not have to use Twitter. You do not have to use any tools (I would assume you don't HAVE to use a telephone if you don't want to), but some tools will make you more productive and help you expand your personal and professional brand. The realities are that for many, Twitter has no impact on their world. Their clients, prospects, employees, and others in their orbit are not on Twitter.

But that does not mean anyone should ignore Twitter, or anything else that becomes widely adopted. Several years ago I would have told you that LinkedIn was a useful tool, but not necessary. Today it is a widely accepted tool. Not being on LinkedIn could leave you looking out of touch if someone is seeking a fast way to learn more about you. In today's crazy / busy world we are looking for ways to connect with others. People want to do business with those they know, like and trust. We expect to be able to find information quickly so we can speed up the "getting to know you" part. Without "know", you cannot ever get to "like" and "trust".

If you have never looked at Twitter (or the other popular social media tools) you must become informed. Never dismiss anything as a waste of time because you do not understand it or "assume" it is not for you. Knowledge is key. If you find that nobody you work with is using a tool, then you can move on. But you never want to wake up and find that your competition has staked a claim to a community where your customers actively participate, as you may never catch up.

Twitter is useful for some, and a waste for others. The only way to know the answer is to do the research. The same thing is true for all the available tools and communities that are popping up online and via your smart phone. Being "too busy" is a lame excuse and just might lead you to being "less busy" in the future.

Have A Great Day.