I talk to people I do not know when I am on line at the A&P, Starbucks, CVS – you get the idea. My daughters are convinced I do this solely to embarrass them. I believe I am just a natural networker. Sure, some of us are more adept at mingling with and meeting people we don’t know. That doesn’t mean those of you who do not have the type “A” personality can’t cultivate the knack for schmoozing.
With the dawn of social media, virtual networking has taken off in cyberspace. While this medium is essential in today’s business climate, savvy business people know that face-to-face networking is key to promoting themselves and their businesses.
Networking opportunities abound in northern Westchester. If you are new to networking you might want to investigate BNI. The philosophy of this organization is built upon the idea of "Givers Gain®." BNI is a global organization that helps its members increase business through structured meetings. There are several chapters throughout Westchester.
Recently I had the pleasure of attending one of the Peekskill chapter's Tuesday morning meetings at Henry’s on the Hudson. Edgar Montenegro, chapter president, told me that networking is very important in his field, wealth management. Edgar enjoys the social aspect of networking. He advises, “Don’t go to events and assume it’s me, me, me. You must build relationships.”
Edgar says he would much rather have two or three quality conversations than collect 50 business cards. In addition to BNI he is involved in his college’s alumni association, another great source for networking.
Similarly, Marie Green, vice president and a founding member of the Peekskill BNI chapter, also belongs to various other groups and associations such as the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce and the Peekskill Rotary Club. Marie explains that each group addresses a different facet of networking. For instance, the Rotary Club is a charitable organization focused on community services. Being a member helps you understand the needs of the community and helps build cohesion. BNI, on the other hand, provides more opportunities for direct referrals because of the structure and frequency of the meetings.
Don Sinkov, owner of “YourDivorceMediator” in Yorktown Heights, joined the BNI group in Peekskill a few months ago. Sinkov was looking for ways to bring his business to the next level so he accepted an invitation to a meeting. Don said that, while he is usually not much of a “joiner,” this group is a great match for him.
Another way to enhance your networking circle is to join organizations associated with your profession. Member benefits include seminars, workshops and conferences where you can augment your skills and knowledge while getting to know colleagues.
Lest you think my stellar networking skills were not in operation when I attended the BNI meeting, Don will speak at a conflict resolution class I teach at the College of Westchester and I will be meeting with Marie Green, financial adviser at Edward Jones in Cortandt, to learn more about investing in municipal bonds.
Networking is an art that requires skills and finesse. Always remember that it is a two-way street; you must give to get. The hardest part is getting started. Let me help you. If you see me out and about, say “hello,” especially if I am with my daughters. I promise to throw you a net.