Let’s be honest – networking is an integral part of all industries – corporate connections, entrepreneurship and the nonprofit ecosystem all rely on building relationships. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to effective networking. I love a room full of (mostly) strangers, I also love to take a client or an intern with me and act as their wingman. However, I sometimes struggle with a quick follow-up unless I have a real reason to. (I’m working on this!)
So my two biggest networking tips for my clients are:
Know what you want out of the event and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Pick one type of connection or one thing you want to accomplish. Be specific and be bold in your quest for that one thing. Determine your goal before you walk in the door and ask someone to help you make that connection. (If you are nervous to make your own ask – bring someone with you and be each other’s wingman.) Example: I have a client who has an invention. He has created a full business plan, he has his patent, and he has a rustic metal prototype of the product. He needs a plastic prototype made. I invited him to attend the last Tercer Jueves for the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that took place at Armando’s Mexican Restaurant in Mexicantown because I knew that the ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) from most of the automotive companies were invited = lots of engineers with potential access to 3D Printers. I asked the hosts to help me make this connection and walked the room introducing him to engineers. We found two that said they had access to a 3D Printer and would try to help. (Cards were exchanged, fingers crossed!)
Ask one or two open-ended questions. Pay close attention to what other people are saying and see how you can help them with whatever they need. I am frequently so bold as to ask: “What do you hope to get from today’s networking event? or Who do you want to meet tonight?” If you are able to do a quick introduction at the event itself – try to do so even if they didn’t ask. Examples of industry specific introductions: introduce a nonprofit leader to a potential funder, introduce a realtor to a mortgage broker or someone who mentions moving/relocating, introduce someone who is job hunting to a staffing agent or a manager in their field.
So there are my secrets for being a professional “connector”. It’s not rocket science, it’s really about knowing what you want and listening to see if you can help others get what they want. Win-Win!
¡Vamos Pa’ Cuba! Puente Cultural Integration is planning its first trip to Cuba. Government policies keep changing and we have been paying close attention to the latest updates. In the last couple of months, the US has opened bids for domestic airline carriers to provide service to Cuba and has eliminated many restrictions for travel. We, like so many others, are anxious to see Cuba before their doors open to all tourism and trade. Interest has been great in the Metro Detroit area. Because this is unknown territory for US businesses, there is value in seeking out a cultural liaison that can help you to bridge the gap between the US and Cuba.
We are working with strategic partners and our initial trip falls under two categories allowed by the US State Dept. for travel to Cuba.
Educational Activities: exploration of cultural centers, museums, music, art, architecture, and cuisine.
People-to-People: our primary goal is to form relationships with various locals in multiple cities that will provide ongoing mutually beneficial relationships. We aim to eat with the locals, find dance instructors, meet musicians and honor their craft, connect with artisans, and stay in “casas particulares” to embrace the daily life of the Cuban people.
As of March 15th, the Department of Treasury has updated its FAQS page which includes the following, “Travel-related transactions are permitted by general license for certain travel related to the following activities, subject to the criteria and conditions in each general license: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.”
President Obama is in Cuba! This is an historic event for both the United States and this unique island to our south. Cuba is so close, yet has remained a folkloric unknown to their neighbors to the north. The doors are opening and will provide an opportunity for individuals on both sides to finally connect.
I have been obsessed with Cuba for years. It has been on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to the music of the Buena Vista Social Club in the 1990’s. I was so fortunate to get to see them at the University of Michigan and I used their documentary with musician Ry Coder, to introduce Cuban culture to my Advanced Placement Spanish students.
To so many of us, the island seems to be frozen in time. The classic cars that cruise down the Malecón exemplify the Havana of old. We need to go and witness this complex culture. Governments and politics aside, we also need to respect their history and not impose our American values. Modernization and trade will benefit the Cuban people, but the preservation of their culture must always be part of the conversation. In other countries, we have seen McDonald’s & Starbucks put locally owned shops out of business. We have seen ecosystems harmed by Monsanto, both in the US and abroad. Let’s allow Cuba to remain Cuba, while initiating opportunity for trade and providing Cultural exchanges. It is about the people! We must make sure that Cubanos have a voice and are not forgotten in the process of creating a Cuba Libre!
You will see a common theme when doing business in Latin America: Relationships!
To be successful in the Latin American market, you must be present – both physically and emotionally – to maintain your clients’ trust and loyalty.
Do not assume previous positive business dealings will ensure a long-term relationship in business. If something newer, flashier, bigger or better comes across their desk – they may jump at the opportunity if you are not close by to remind them of your value. They will “love the one they’re with” and you will be out the door like yesterday’s news.
So my best advice, as we bridge the gap with Puente Cultural Integration, is to forge and maintain your business relationships. Get to know your cohorts in Latin America well. Understand their needs. Ask questions about their lives and their families. Be present. Be available. Be there for them and you will be the one they’re with!