Talking with neighbours, friends, family is in our DNA, so talking with colleagues and potential clients could be part of that DNA too.
Yet that is not how people experience networking, according to the participants in an introduction to the work of NETSHEILA last Friday in Krommenie.
The event was part of the program of Ondernemend Krommenie – the entrepreneurs club in our village. Started in 2012, we have enjoyed presentations from the local secondary school, the notary, the undertaker. I offered to give a presentation in the style of a NETSHEILA workshop, one of the successful NETSHEILA products that people from Melbourne to Addis Ababa to Wageningen have experienced and enjoyed.
Who was in the room? Builders, painters, accountants, electrical specialists, teachers, floor specialists, coaches. People who don’t often sit with each other and ask for things they need. We did an exercise. I asked where they wanted their business to be in 5 years time, what they need for that to happen, who they need to make that happen and how Ondernemend Krommenie can support them in reaching their business goals. As one of the participants told me this morning, it was a very enjoyable way of spending time with each other and he learned more in that 20 minute exercise than is normal in a conversation. People shared tips on how to be with clients. On keeping clients. One person needed more floorspace, another had the space.
It was a very useful conversation.
This is networking. When I told people that what they had just been doing was ‘networking’, some people looked surprised. They had a presupposition that networking was putting on a fake smile and passing out your visiting card. “Slimy” is the word often associated with networking. No. No. No. What networking is, is talking to people about things that matter to you. Connecting. Finding ways of being useful to each other and having fun at the same time. In other words, building community.
As the day wound to a close I got a message from a neighbour. Our water pipe in the front garden had burst and could I come quickly to turn off the water. As I rushed out the door one of the participants called his plumber and told him to be on standby in case I needed him. When I arrived home, four neighbours were in front of my house dealing with the burst pipe. Community. Its not difficult. II don’t think they had a lot of fun in the freezing cold, getting wet and dealing with my tap. Yet somehow there was a sense of belonging, trust, being there for each other. I hope they enjoy the gift of thanks I brought them.