It hit me this week that people network for wildly different reasons. As an example, a woman called me up to have lunch – she’d heard my name from someone or other. She came to lunch with her business partner, a guy – that’s fine, as I’m always game to meet new people. They started right in. It was a typical sales pitch.
As it turns out, I’ve been hanging around the barnyard way too long for that approach to work. I just can’t or won’t do it anymore. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I wasn’t expecting a sales meeting. I don’t have energy for that, but if you want to get to know one another, we can do that.” They understood right away. Lunch went on. Perhaps they were disappointed. Lots of people network to do deals. That is what networking means to them.
The next day I had lunch with my friend Karen. We have business together, in a way – a not-for-profit Board for which she’s the Executive Director and I am the President. We could have talked about Board stuff for an hour. But we didn’t. It was How are you and What is new and How do you feel about that and What else is happening? It was nurturing – that’s why I network, for the most part. To give and get those community particles – I call them communitrons – that keep us humming. To listen and be listened to, to give advice or keep my advice to myself as the situation dictates.
We stayed at lunch for two hours and only left when other appointments were imminent. We did talk about our not-for-profit (musical: details here) business for the last fifteen minutes. Deal-making happens all day long as needs arise and solutions for those needs emerge. Do we need to have lunch to do deals? We do not. We can do a deal in ten minutes cell-to-cell. Brainstorming about business – coming out of a desire to help one another – that’s a great way to spend a lunch or coffee meeting, or a walk across the prairie for that matter. We don’t need to have lunch together in order to buy and sell. Now, nurturing on the other hand – that’s hard to come by. There is almost never enough of it, families and spouses and partners notwithstanding. Networking is the glue, the fuel (chai or mango lassi or Ginger Peach iced tea in a bottle for six dollars) that keeps us focused an on track and warmed by our friends’ support and emotional energy in our direction. Who’d waste a good lunch on a one-time piece of business?