Networking Truth or Dare; NJAWBO Review

26 Jun Networking Truth or Dare; NJAWBO Review

Networking. Is it the bane of your business existence? Do you think it doesn’t work? Do you think it works but takes too long to benefit your business?  Is it too time consuming?  Do you consider networking more of a hit-or-miss marketing strategy? What are your experiences?  Here are mine.  Stay tuned for a continuation of the saga of Julianne’s networking experiences, if I keep trying.

Last year, I decided to ratchet up my involvement in networking because I wanted to “get out more,” “share what I know…,” “meet new people,” and of course “increase referrals to my business,” and maybe I had way too many objectives and expectations built in.

As some readers may recall, I promised to share my experiences here.  Why? I hope that telling my story will help those who are navigating the sometimes shark-infested waters of business networking.

Each of us comes to a business encounter with “baggage,” which includes our professional expertise, our experiences, opinions, political persuasion, philosophical tendencies and both positive and negative past experiences and character traits. Brush up against a similar “nut,” and a relationship blossoms. Brush up against a person of an opposing camp, and look out. Disaster may ensue. Every organization has its “culture,” some are more tolerant of differences than others.

Last December, I joined NJAWBO, the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners, Sussex-Warren Chapter. I joined with the prime objective of sharing what I know, hoping to become a marketing resource for the group as a way of building new relationships and showcasing my talents.  At the time, the prestigious organization was re-organizing.  It was clear to me that the online presence of the Sussex-Warren Chapter needed a marketing face-lift, but with the reorganization on the horizon, I got the impression that any work on the website, social media presence etc. may be premature, as everything may change in June of 2012.

But I plunged in anyway.  I enjoy what I do and volunteering to update the Chapter’s marcom and suggesting new programs, sprucing up the website and the design of email blasts, creating some video and a discussion group on LinkedIn, was easy for me.  The internet presence still needs work, but I did what I could. Although I missed the awards meeting, I understand our group won a communications award.  Nice going group.

Special thanks and kudos go out to Eileen Seiler, Sussex-Warren Chapter President, for her energy and spirit and general hard work on events, marketing in general and leadership.  After all, a group is only as strong as its individual members and Eileen is the best.  She’s now President of the merged organization of Sussex-Warren-Morris and I’m sure she’ll do wonders for the organization in that role.  She motivated me.  I actively recruited for NJAWBO from among my clients and colleagues alike.

As for me, in June I declined the opportunity to become merged group Marketing VP but I thank Eileen for offering me the position. Pro bono work is important to me and I always advise my clients to give without any expectation of immediate return. Give of your services to build mutually beneficial relationships for the future.  Personal giving and volunteering is another thing entirely and shouldn’t be confused with business networking for profit.

But in my experience with NJAWBO to date, the result has been mixed, and I have decided that I can be more effective as a contributing member on a marketing committee.  More likely I will participate less in the months to come because I just don’t need the stress! When group membership becomes more stressful than benefit to your business, I have to recommend bailing.  Life’s too short.

So what happened? From January to June, the warm welcome I received initially turned to a sort of vacuum. I was disappointed in the group’s participation in discussions online or communications via social media or email. I didn’t witness much lead-sharing activity, and at one monthly dinner-meeting, an officer of the organization shouted at me from across the room: “Hey doctor-person..tell your clients about a new website… that offers free marketing services online!” Worse yet, when I worked up the courage to call to give her my feedback, the woman was not the least bit empathetic or apologetic.  Then last month, I was especially surprised when another member was a “no-show” for an introduction to a prospective member at a charity event where she was exhibiting.

When I shared the detail of these stories and some other experiences with a colleague, she reminded me that this is not the result of any NJAWBO organizational policy and that NJAWBO can’t do anything about the behavior of individuals.   No organization is perfect.  And this is a valid point. The conflict was probably the result of my personality and “baggage” simply brushing up against another’s.

So do I recommend membership in NJAWBO?  Yes, but.

I believe that an organization is only as strong as its weakest member and I’d like to suggest that the leadership of NJAWBO may find more success in attracting new recruits and keeping members engaged if on a daily basis, individual members would be more supportive of one another and their businesses. I would champion a training program or orientation for new members–and certainly for chapter officers– to encourage the “sisterhood” that the name NJAWBO implies.  A little business etiquette training would also be effective.

I’ve made no attempt here to review the organization as a New Jersey political influence on public policy or any of the other fine objectives and goals of the organization.  Mine is a review from the front lines of membership only.  Please share your own experiences here.  Thank you.

Master the technology; conquer your market.

 

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