2012 was a great year for me: building and developing my relationship with existing clients and welcoming some outstanding new members of TAB. When I sat down to review the year I was more than pleased – so I was a little perturbed a couple of days later when someone said to me, “Oh, hi Ed. Haven’t seen you for a while. Thought you must have gone out of business.”
I’ve been reflecting on that conversation for a while – and last week at Venturefest brought it sharply back into focus for me.
But let me back-track slightly…
When I started my business I networked like a… Well, let’s just say that I worked very hard at making contacts and meeting people. As many of you know, if you’re starting a new business – especially in the service sector – then you have to do it. But inevitably, as I became more involved with clients and my workload increased, I had less time for the networking events – and some time in the middle of 2012, I stopped going altogether.
And then, at the end of the year, I finally found the time to go to an event in York. At which point: “Hi Ed. Haven’t seen you for a long time. Thought you must have…”
As you know, Venturefest was last week. It was the third one that I’ve attended and every year it gets better and better. It’s simply the best opportunity to re-connect with people and to make new business contacts in the York area. Fortunately I didn’t have any ‘thought you must have…’ conversations – but I’m sure that some people did. And as I drove away from the Racecourse, I had two thoughts in mind.
Number one – however successful your business is, don’t become the Invisible Man. Meeting people and staying visible is every bit as essential to your business as a regular flow of new clients and keeping a constant check on your numbers. However tempting it is to think, ‘We’re doing well. Business is good. I don’t need to go to this breakfast in York,’ the answer is that you do. Not religiously, not week after week – but often enough to make sure that you and your business keep appearing on the area’s business radar. Even in the age of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging, ‘out of sight out of mind’ can – and does – still apply.
My second thought was even simpler. You can talk all you like abut social media and about the three hugely successful websites I’ve just mentioned – but nothing will ever be as powerful as meeting someone face-to-face. No, you can’t ignore the way the world is moving and Twitter & Co all have their place in building a business. But you cannot neglect the most fundamental social interaction of them all: meeting other people and getting them to know you, like you and trust you.
That’s why my business will remain resolutely old-fashioned in one fundamental respect. We can e-mail, Facebook and Skype each other – but TAB meetings will stay firmly seated round the Boardroom table. Six or seven people giving their undivided attention – not only listening to what someone is saying, but feeling the ‘vibe’ that they’re giving off as they say it.
So I’ll be back at Venturefest next year and for a great many years to come. But along the way I’ll be making sure that I’m seen eating breakfast as well, making sure that I’m using the most valuable resource my business has – people.
I make no apology for preaching a very simple message this week: see the people – and let the people see you. However sophisticated business becomes, for most of us those words will still be at the heart of it. And if you’ve an even simpler message – or a fundamental truth that you always return to – then I’d love to hear it.