Monday, January 30, 2017

5 Steps to Finding the Perfect Networking Communities to Help You Grow in 2017

Finding the right communities of support is essential for growth. Here's the foolproof roadmap to lead you straight to your perfect tribes.


You've wrapped up 2016 with a bow, and shut it down. You're fired up for an awesome 2017. After all, this is going to be YOUR YEAR.

We all know that we can't make the journey alone. We need the right people to support us, challenge us, and push us forward.

So how does one decide where and with whom they should spend their valuable time?

Here are 5 steps to selecting the right group, plus a few tips to ensure you get a strong ROI with the groups you choose.

1: Think Strategically. Analyze your objectives for joining specific organizations and attending events.

Some reasons include:

    •    Learning/education
    •    Business development/lead generation
    •    Meeting specific individuals that are affiliated with a specific group
    •    Competitive analysis
    •    Brand-building in a specific vertical or market
    •    Taking a leadership position (committee member, Board member)
    •    Expanding your social circle
    •    Developing emotional support/personal connections

Every business decision should be tied to the strategic objectives for your company's growth. This includes evaluating which networking organizations and functions are most closely aligned with your strategic objectives.

2: Build a Budget.

Create a budget for networking and membership. Determine how you will measure a return on investment (ROI). If a membership costs $4,000/year, are you anticipating contracts (through new contacts) that will exceed the $4,000 plus the cost of doing business? Are you expecting to meet a certain number of strategic partners? Are you working to build your brand recognition? Do you anticipate learning about specific topics that are relevant to your overall business strategy?
Also, it's important to factor in additional expenses that are outside membership fees, including fees associated with activities such as networking breakfasts, lunches or dinners, awards ceremonies, retreats, and conferences.

3: Consider Competing Priorities.

Realistically determine how much time you can dedicate to networking and participation, and who else in your organization can/wants to participate.

Candidly assess your schedule and the competing demands. We've all joined organizations with the best intentions of attending events, but often business and life gets in the way. For example, if an organization hosts monthly lunches that run from 11:00 - 1:00, realistically you should set aside 4 hours of downtime to attend that event.

While the event may "feel good" and give you an opportunity to connect with interesting, enjoyable people, at the end of the day, does it impact your bottom line? There is an "opportunity cost" to attend functions. What are you NOT able to do because you are attending this events? Write proposals? Meet with customers? Engage with your employees?

4: Surround Yourself With Those That Can Help You Grow.
Correlate your organization affiliations to your growth strategy. In other words, visualize where your company will be a year from now, and determine which groups can help you get there. Which groups will connect you with the people you need to meet your goals?

Additional Tips for ROI

Here are some additional steps you can take to ensure you are investing your hard-earned dollars and your valuable time into the right group:

5: Don't Join On The Spot.
Make your decisions based on logic. It's easy to get caught up in the "fun" of networking when we are trying on a regularly scheduled event or organization for size and the right fit. Rather than jumping in with both feet from the very beginning, take a test drive.

Additional Tips for ROI

Here are some additional steps you can take to ensure you are investing your hard-earned dollars and your valuable time into the right group:

1: Outline your strategic objectives.
Know exactly what you intend to get out of the group. If you expect business growth as a result of a group affiliation, keep that expectation in mind. If you are looking for a great social outlet with other professional peers, be sure the group is designed to provide that type of environment.

2: Analyze the current member base:
    •    Their positions
    •    Their industries
    •    Their target markets
    •    The products or services they provide
    •    The size of their companies

3: Do your due diligence.

Talk to existing members about the ROI they've realized, and seek out information about membership turnover. Learn about the organizational strategy - where the leaders intend to take the organization, the mission, vision, and values of the organization, how they plan to continuously add value to their members. Evaluate their position/credibility in the marketplace.

4. If possible, spend time with the leadership team.

Is the leadership team accessible? Engaged? Committed to the member's success?

5. Read your contract carefully.

Membership in any organization is a two-way street. Often you get out of an organization what you put into it, in terms of time and effort. However, at the end of the day, you are the paying customer, and your membership organization is on the hook to provide you value and a measurable return on your investment.

6. If it's not working for you, don't renew.

To quote a wise friend, "quitting is not a sign of failure. It means you've come to a fork in the road and have decided to take the other path." If it's not working for you, cut your losses and move on.

Membership is never a one-size-fits-all. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another (so don't follow a friend!). And, as we change and our business grows, our membership needs will evolve too.

It's just one more tool in our toolbox for personal and professional growth, and ultimately, you drive your own success.

Good luck!

Image Credit: Getty Images

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Young Entrepreneur Scores 25,000 Subscribers In 30 Days, Then Monetizes Like This

This week I had a return visit with Benjamin P. Hardy, the 28-year-old entrepreneur who’s one of the most-read voices on As you may recall, he accumulated 50,000 subscribers in 16 months.

Now there’s more. Hardy’s done more experimenting in the month since our visit and in 30 days has amassed an additional 25,000 new subscribers. He’s nurturing this newer set of readers in a separate list in preparation for the Morning Routine Course he’ll premiere in January, 2017. The new course is an outgrowth of the topic Hardy is recognized and known for the most due to his hit article in 2015 “8 Things Successful People Do Before 8 a.m.” That article received millions of views, a myriad of re-postings on platforms including BusinessInsider, New York Observer, and Huffington Post, and has been modeled by a spectrum of other writers, including several contributors to Forbes.

In our last conversation, Hardy had only moved through the preliminary steps of nurturing and converting his 50,000 subscribers into early-stage customers. He sent them 5 daily follow up messages about his favorite productivity principles, followed by an offer for a a high-level and self-paced productivity course for the minimal price of $19.95 to help distill those among the interested readers who are ready to become customers by stepping into a higher level of play. Then he did this:

Key #1: Immersive Indoctrination Training. Interestingly, while Hardy agrees with recommendations from me and others that you should not engage an agency too early, he didn't go it entirely alone. Hardy is an advocate of “Immersive Indoctrination”—the practice of pairing up with an expert or a mastermind group to brainstorm and enact major changes. This is generally not free, but far less expensive than hiring an outside agency or consultant to market on your behalf. Hardy spent two deep-dive days with a mentor in Orlando to map out and enact the steps for what he’d do next. He details this learning practice here.

Next, a product. Hardy expanded his Morning Routines teachings into a 12-week course. For the first four weeks, participants receive daily and weekly materials to study and steps to take that arrive in their email inboxes in digestible steps. The final eight weeks of the course provide follow-up and accountability to reinforce the concepts they’ve learned. The price: $187. While Hardy reports that the course was fairly easy to write and develop, the accomplishment is a good one in that for the first time in his entrepreneurial journey, a serious product offering is born.

A New “Call to Action.” At the end of each of his articles on Medium, Hardy’s big ticket has been to invite readers to subscribe to his ongoing blogs (of course) and to download his two eBooks—in particular, his popular “Slipstream Time Hacking,” for free. The books are excellent, and 75% of people who click on the link immediately convert, meaning they were willing to give up their email addresses in exchange to receive the free books.

Hardy’s first new “eureka” in the work with his mentor was that not everybody wants an ebook. To some, it represents a time commitment or a dreaded piece of homework they don’t yet want to achieve. But maybe they would click and sign if the offer were different.

So Hardy came up with a new offer—the teachings of his Morning Routine article distilled (and expanded) into a seven-page checklist. He republished the popular Morning Routine article (which he’d avoided doing ‘til now) with an offer he hoped would be too good to refuse—a chance to download the checklist with instructions for getting into the improved routine right away. The checklist, “How to Have a Perfect Morning,” is a little more proactive and aggressive than the article, but much easier to digest than the eBook. What he discovered: The re-post of the “8 Things” article achieved only 1/10th of the millions of viewers the original had received, but even so, was seen by some 185,000 souls. Fifty-five percent of those who clicked on the offer “converted” (fewer than the e-Book's 75%); however far more people have clicked on the checklist link than the ebook offer.

Another key to conversion for both offers is that the landing pages, created in 15 minutes apiece through the $99 a month version of ClickFunnels, are simple. Just a single large image, a few words and a sign up link, with nowhere else for visitors to wander or scroll. The outcome: of the 185,000 people who clicked on the republished Morning Routines article, in addition to a few other article Hardy republished, 25,000 downloaded the checklist and are thereby now subscribed.

Prepared in advance. During his two days in Orlando, Hardy framed out his launch and wrote and scheduled the emails that will go to the news of 25,000 subscribers who are brand new. These entrants don’t receive the 5 productivity messages that are followed by the invitation to buy Hardy’s small mini-course. Instead, they receive messages once a week, increasing to two a week for the last several weeks that prepare them to buy and begin the $187 course on January 2, 2017.

Multiple paths to success. At the end of the “now” section of his website, Hardy invites followers to sign up for the course’s waiting list. It includes a link to the checklist. And it offers up the link to a 20-minute video lesson for how to amass a giant following on Medium, prepared by Hardy, Richie Norton and podcasting phenomenon John Lee Dumas. In this case, there are three separate calls to action that will hopefully provide an offer of interest that allows every visitor to go forward in a meaningful way.

How well will it monetize? Hardy has no prior experience or expectation to tell him how many of the new subscribers will purchase the $187 course. He promises high quality content, which has been true of each of the projects he’s published thus far, and notes that he incurred very little overhead in creating the course. He does admit to having an internal goal: “If 500 people purchase this course, I’d be stoked,” he concedes. Quick calculations tell me that if this were to happen, Hardy would achieve a revenue spike of $93,000 (as well as galvanizing a much more engaged and committed base of customers for the future as well).

Time will tell the true outcome of Hardy’s first online launch. However it falls, the metrics will be a clear indication of the level to which thought leadership publishing—coupled with authentic content marketing—can pay big dividends for entrepreneurs.


Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Networking Is Not Trolling For People Who Will Pay You Money

Last week, something happened on LinkedIn, and for me, it was the last straw. I received (for the hundredth time in a few months) an autoresponder from someone’s LinkedIn account that pitched their business hard, offering me a free consultation on something I had less than zero interest in, immediately after connecting with me.

When an action like this hits me as really off-putting and annoying, it’s usually affecting lots of others this way too, so I wrote the following LinkedIn tip as an update:

Here's a LinkedIn tip - don't program your account so that you immediately send a business pitch when someone accepts your LI connection. It's the wrong way to go. It's really off-putting and personally speaking, I'll immediately delete the notification and not want to connect with you. Do you agree?

As of this writing, that one update received 155,980 views, 969 likes and 129 comments. It truly hit a nerve. At least 95% of the comments I received (either underneath the post or privately) were along the lines of “I agree 100%! I’m so tired of this!” A few of the comments were a bit nasty or defensive such as, “Aren’t you the ‘Brave Up’ expert, Kathy? Why are so off-put by this?”

But several people responded with legitimate questions like:

“Isn’t this what LinkedIn is for – to network?”


“I’m new to LinkedIn and I’d really love your help on this. How IS the best way to reach out to people and share my business services, which I’m really excited about?”

I appreciate these sincere questions, and would like to share my personal take on what networking is and what it isn’t, and how to best go about reaching out to a stranger online and making an authentic connection.

First, what not to do:

Don't pitch your business to every single person you meet, and never immediately after connecting.

I like to think of LinkedIn as the “great cocktail party in the sky” and I find that analogy really helpful for my clients. So, if you were to think of connecting on LinkedIn as you behave in person at a cocktail party, think about how you approach and interact with people you just meet.  Once you get introduced to someone new, do you, one second later, regale them with information all about your packages, services and programs, and offer them a free one-hour consultation? I’m hoping no (but if you do this, you should stop).  It’s a huge turnoff.

Pitching people you don’t know, whom you have zero idea about in terms of their needs, wants, goals, visions, professional focus, etc. is like casting a net into the shallow tide of the sea and expecting to catch a whale. You have to know where the whale lives – how it operates, what it needs and wants, and what would entice it to seek you out.  And you have to understand that the number of people who will want anything you have to offer is very small, particularly when you’re dealing with LinkedIn, which has 467 million members and growing. While you’re understandably excited about your work, you have to help others become excited about it and allow them to know, like and trust you before they do – and that doesn't just happen in an instant.

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

8 Ways to Improve Your Email Marketing Performance

Throughout the years, email marketing has remained one of the most effective ways to convert prospects, as well as existing customers, into sales and revenue. 

When you take the time to build an email list, it gives you the ability to reach your audience at any time -- your prospects and customers are within feet of their mobile devices 24/7. Email marketing also provides you with a lot of data that can be used to evaluate performance and make improvements -- open rates, click-through rates, spam complaints, unsubscribe rates, etc.

So, how do you improve your email marketing performance to take full advantage of one of the most effective forms of online marketing? Here are eight ways to get more out of your email marketing efforts, as told by eight successful entrepreneurs.

1. Scrub and verify your email list regularly.

“When someone is adding his or her email address to your list it’s possible they make a mistake, provide a fake email altogether or they eventually change to a new email address. This can have a negative effect on your email delivery performance, as the emails can bounce, go directly into spam folders and even get you labeled as a spammer. Run your list through a scrubbing and verification service on a regular basis to make sure you are always working with an accurate list," said John Rampton, founder of Due.

2. Personalize the email to each recipient.

“Think of how many promotional emails you receive every single day -- the people on your list are no different. You need to understand that even if someone opens your email, they will most likely delete it before scrolling down unless you grab their attention. Personalizing the beginning with a simple, ‘Hi [recipient’s first name],’ can help to engage the reader enough to get them to at least begin to read your offer," Matt Behnke, CEO of Orthotic Shop, says.

3. Use emojis in your subject line.

“Emojis are everywhere. They are a fun and effective way to communicate. Look at the last text message conversation on your phone and see how many emojis were used. Your email is going to be surrounded by several more in the inboxes of your recipients. Using emojis in the subject line is a great way to stand out, often pulling a much higher open rate when split-tested against an identical subject line, minus the emojis," said Aaron Minc, founder of Defamation Removal Law.

4. Test multiple deployment times.

“The worst thing you can do is send off an email to your list and just assume everyone is going to read it. You should constantly be experimenting with different deployment times. Start broad, sending the message to half of your list early in the morning and then to the remainder in the evening. From there, see what one had the stronger metrics and then start to experiment with closer deployment intervals. For example, if your evening open rates were significantly higher, break your next email into several different times in the evening to find your best-performing time," said Jim Rafferty, CEO of Wabash Power.

5. Build a double opt-in list.

“Many people shy away from building a double opt-in list because they assume the extra step might act as repellant, resulting in a smaller list. A smaller list that is more responsive to your emails is a much more valuable asset than a huge list that never opens your emails. If someone takes the time to opt-in to your list that means they are genuinely interested in what you have to offer," said Richard Celler, managing partner of Richard Celler Legal, P.A.

6. Segment your email list.

“Segmenting your email list will help you achieve more favorable open rates and click-through rates. By sending messages to targeted groups within your list, your audience finds your message more relevant, which ultimately provides you with better results. Every list has subscribers who are interested in different types of offers -- coupons, news or special events -- segmenting allows you to give your subscribers what they want," said Elena Eroshkina, CEO of Boston Executive Limo Service.

7. Use a custom responsive email template.

“The majority of your subscribers are going to be opening your emails on their mobile devices, so it’s important that you use a newsletter template that’s responsive. If you use a service like Mailchimp, their templates are responsive and deliver your message perfectly across all devices and screen sizes. Take it a step further and have a custom template designed so your emails are branded and stand out. The cost is minimal and it helps to give your email marketing effort a much more professional look," said Ron Rudzin, CEO of Loom & Leaf.

8. Have one clear call-to-action per email.

“If you don’t have one clearly defined call-to-action, you are going to experience minimal results. Your subscribers don’t have time to read through long emails, trying to determine what you want them to do or what exactly your offer is. If your recipient doesn’t know what you want them to do within seconds of opening your email, whether that’s visiting a page, calling a phone number or completing a form, they will most likely delete your email," said Trevor Nace, CEO of PC Login Online.

Image Credit:Tripod

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Friday, January 20, 2017

15 Tips for Growing a Long-Lasting Contractor Business

Freelance contractors are a major contributor to the economy because they’re absolutely a necessity. Without them you can be certain that homes and offices would literally fall apart.

The result is that starting your own contracting business can be lucrative.

But, before you get too far involved, here are 15 ways that you can build a contracting business that’s going to last or grow the contracting business you already own.

1. Operate with best business practices.

One of the most common problems that contractors run into when they to attempt to improve efficiency and grow their business is agreeing on what’s considered the industry's best practices. After all, they already have some sort of system in place that they’re familiar with and believe is working just fine.

To put an end to this debate, you can use whatever system you prefer to handle everything from bookkeeping, scheduling and invoicing, to training and task management, as long as that system contains basic knowledge of the task and helps each employee by providing step-by-step instructions for each employee.

When you have an effective system in place. it allows you to not only maintain your current level success but also helps you be prepared to scale properly when it’s time to grow.

2. Assess your internal organization.

After settling on a system that uses the best practices, you next want to conduct a comprehensive assessment of your company. This includes asking questions like;

Is your business stable financially?

Are you getting repeat sales?

Do you have customer referrals?

How do people rate your business and customers service?

What is your employee turnover rate?

These questions can be answered by reviewing your books, paying attention to what people are saying about your business online and talking with employees and customers. If there are areas that need improvement, then focus on those areas before you grow your business too much.

For example, if you don’t have employees who excel at customer service, and that’s your number one complaint from customers, then you may want to consider hiring people who do excel in customer service or can provide proper training for your current staff.

3. Make yourself available.

Speaking of customer service, your prospective customers want to talk to an actual human being and not a robot during normal business hours. I understand that it's asking a lot to have someone handle the phone all day, but if you don’t want to lose customers to your competitors, then that's necessary.

One way to get around this is by sending business calls to your cell phone when you’re out of the office. Even if you can’t get to the phone, you can probably call the customer back faster than waiting to get back to the office.

To avoid any confusion, clearly state your business hours on your business cards, website and social channels, and of course state your physical location. If you close at 5 p.m., then a customer shouldn’t be upset that no one is answering the phone at 8 p.m.

I would also recommend that you set up automated email and social media messages during off-hours. A simple message informing customer that their message was received and they’ll receive a response within 24 hours should be enough to keep them satisfied.

4. Join an industry association.

Industry associations, such as the Associated General Contractors, aren’t just great for networking. They can also help you develop essential business skills, ranging from how much to charge for clients to how to write a contract. They also recommend which products you should use for each type job and where to find sub-trades.

5. Step up your marketing game.

Successful marketing campaigns aren’t just about landing new customers. They’re about securing more profitable projects and keeping your current customers happy.

Today, that means having an online presence and interacting with your specific audience through email, social media and blog posts, where you demonstrate how your business solves their problems.

Unlike what strictly online businesses do, though, you should also focus on marketing your business locally. Start by making sure that your address, phone number and hours are available online and easily searchable. After that, network in your community both online and offline by attending chamber of commerce meetings or answering questions in a local newspaper forum. And, don’t be afraid to spend a couple of bucks advertising your business on social networks like Facebook.

6. Attract more funding.

If you’re like many small-scale contractors, you probably don’t have financial pull to support your expansion. Cash-flow struggles due to delayed payments from customers are actually common. This means that it’s your responsibility to find various ways of accessing lines of credit, obtaining loans and securing overdraft protection.

Remember: If you want to attract funding, you need to keep detailed and organized records and do your research on the best type of loan for your business based on your current needs.

7. Be flexible.

Even if you’re a general contractor, you’re probably not an expert in all fields. That’s why you provide specific services for your customers. However, when you go above and beyond for a customer, you'll probably earn a lifelong oner. For example, if you're doing electrical work and notice that a pipe has a minor leak that you can easily repair, you can fix the pipe instead of having the customer call a plumber.

8. Find a mentor.

The best thing about a mentor is that he or she can guide you in solving problems. The mentor can teach you how to manage your money and customers, and introduce you to vendors or investors. The reason: The mentor has "been there" already. Sometimes this person can be a family member or retired contractor; other times it may be someone you have to hire.

9. Hire people smarter and more talented than you.

This is your long-term answer to any micromanagement problems that you may have. By hiring people who are smarter and more talented than you are, you can trust them to handle any assignment on their without your supervision. This gives you more time to focus on growing your contractor business. Plus, you’ll learn a whole bunch from them along the way.

10. Watch your finances.

Plenty of construction businesses go under because they simply can’t cover the costs of their overhead. That means that you have to pay close attention to overhead expenses and be aware of any additional costs before you accept a job. When sending out bids, factor in the costs involved with the project, particularly materials and labor, and give the customer a ballpark estimate.

Another way to handle the cost of your overhead is by creating a budget. This shows you how much money you have coming in and how much is going out. If the amount going out surpasses the amount coming in, then you have to start making some changes by cutting unnecessary expenses and raising your rates.
And, always stay on top of your invoicing.

11. Be unique.

Does your business have a particular specialization or cater to a niche market? Then definitely capitalize on what makes your business different from the others in town. It could simply be your ability to provide services specifically for offices, as opposed to other contractors, who solely focus on residential properties.

However, make sure that you offer a healthy balance of products of services. While niche markets can give you a competitive edge and help make you stand out, they’re not always as large as businesses that reach a wide audience.

12. Choose the best customers.

I wouldn’t recommend turning away a customer. But the hard truth is that some customers are better than others. Is it really worth chasing down a couple of hundred bucks from a deadbeat customer who only asked for some minor contracting work? Or, would you rather land a major project from a client who pays you upfront?

Always keep in mind that you want customers who deliver a solid ROI, instead of those who give you headaches. To save you this aggravation, learn how to spot these customers before agreeing on a project. For instance, you can ask some of your fellow contractors if they’ve had any experience with this customer in the past. Other signs of troublesome customers are if they’re rude or abusive to you or your staff from the get-go or refuse to give you a down payment.

13. Outsource when needed.

Here are a couple of facts that you need to accept: There are only 24 hours in a day. And you aren’t perfect. Once you realize that, you can start outsourcing certain tasks so that you can relieve some stress and focus on growing your business steadily. For example, accounting can be nerve-wracking and time-consuming. So, why not contract out all of your bookkeeping and accounting needs to a freelancer or CPA?

14. Be prepared.

No matter what size your business is, being prepared is what can make or break you. For contractors, however, it’s the little things that can determine whether you’re going to survive or not. After all, being prepared is the key to efficiency and profitability.

For instance, let’s say that you’re almost done with a bathroom renovation and find out that you’re missing a $5 part you need to finish. That part now can set you back a couple of hundred dollars because you have to overnight it. Even running to the local hardware store costs you time and money. And, you’ll probably have to eat that cost because it’s not included in the original quote.

You can’t plan for every scenario, but always go over your proposal before jumping in, to make sure that you have everything that you need to complete the job.

15. Don’t be afraid to stay small.

A lot of contractors get stuck in this middle area where they’re forced to hire more people because they can’t handle the workload, but profits aren’t any higher. For many contractors, it’s easier for them to stay small. This ensures that they have a positive cash flow since it keeps their expenses low. Staying small also reduces stress since the workload is easier to manage.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Finding 'Why' You Do What You Do Is Key to Excellence

There has probably been someone in your life – a coach, grandparent, teacher, aunt, or spiritual mentor – who’s made a difference for you. It may have been when you were young (it generally is) – it may have been recently. It may have been a positive experience or it may have been very negative. Either way, it is your “why” for what you are passionate about.

I’ve certainly had people who have made a significant difference in my life. One of those people in my life was my freshman high school teacher, Mr. Romero, at Gladstone High School in Southern California. Mr. Romero taught history and that class was the one that selected the student council representative for the freshmen. I had run for student council numerous times in junior high school and I was soundly defeated each time. The elections weren’t even remotely close. In fact, I came in dead last every time. Each election was a humiliating experience that left an indelible impression on me. So, by the time high school rolled around, I had no intention of running for student council ever again.

The first week of freshman history class, our teacher, Mr. Romero asked all the students, “Since we pick the freshman student council representative from this year’s history class, are there any volunteers for the position? Who would like to do it?” And nobody volunteered. Finally one of the prettiest, most popular girls in the class said, “Oh, Mr. Romero, you know, I would do it but I’m just so busy! I don’t have the time to do something like that.” Our teacher replied, “That’s OK, you don’t have to do it… But if no one’s interested in volunteering, as the teacher I get to pick. Are you okay with that?”

The students came back with cheers, “Yeah, yeah, yeah – you go ahead and pick!” So the teacher looked around the class, he paused at me and looking me straight in the eyes he said, “Ivan, I bet you would love to do this, wouldn’t you?” I replied, “Well, um, well, yeah, I kind of would, Mr. Romero.” My momentary elation was immediately squashed when the entire class, almost in unison, moaned, “Oh no, not Ivan!” Even the too-busy popular girl stood up and said, “No, no, Mr. Romero, you know what – I’m actually not that busy. If you’re going to pick Ivan, I can do it, after all!” Of course, while she’s saying all this I’m thinking to myself: “Hello, you all see me sitting here, right?” But I couldn’t actually open my mouth to speak. I just sat there, quiet and embarrassed, holding my breath. Have you ever had a moment like this? Where you felt so small you just wanted to slip underneath the carpet? That was how I felt in that moment.

It’s important to put this experience in context. Today, I’m an author, speaker, and fairly successful businessman with franchises on every populated continent of the world. But remember, this was happening to me as 13-year-old. I lacked confidence, I felt like I didn’t fit in at all, and I couldn’t get a chance to prove myself at something I really wanted to do. Just imagine, for a moment, how humiliating this was for me. I didn’t have the advantage of peeking into the future to know where I would end up. I have to tell you, it was a raw, exposed moment.

Somehow, Mr. Romero understood that and he gave the ever-popular girl a withering look and said, “No, you had your chance to volunteer and you didn’t take it. So I’m empowered to pick a representative, and I pick Ivan. He’s the student representative! Now, open your books and turn to chapter two”

Despite the grumbles rolling through the classroom, Mr. Romero’s decision was final. I was the Student Council Representative. My teacher believed that I could do a good job. I took a deep breath and knew I would work hard – really hard—to prove him right. When the year-end Student Council elections came around for the following year, I decided to do something I had vowed to never do again – I ran for Student Council. That same class who loudly protested my appointment voted me in for another year, by a landslide! As a matter of fact, I won every election in high school after that: Student Council, Activities Director, Student Body President – every one.

It all started with Mr. Romero seeing something in me that I had not been able to see in myself. By giving me that chance, he infused confidence in me and that made a big difference in my life. I gained leadership skills and learned responsibility by being involved in those school projects that I had to take from the beginning to the end. Mr. Romero positively influenced my life by giving me the opportunity to succeed. He didn’t do the hard work for me, but he opened the door for me. He gave me a chance to excel. To succeed. To show what I was capable of doing.

Years later, I knew this was an important experience in my life but I never realized how seminal it truly was to the man that I would become. It wasn’t until a few years ago at a Referral Institute seminar where everyone was going through their Emotionally Charged Connection to why they do what they do, that I came to realize that my entire life’s work was in fact, a reflection of what Mr. Romero did for me as a young man.

Every book I’ve written or business I’ve started has been an attempt to give other people an opportunity to succeed, to excel, to accomplish what they want to accomplish in life. I can’t “make” someone successful. Only they can do that. I can, however, provide the system, the process, and the opportunity for them to achieve their dreams. I have been continuously reliving what Mr. Romero did for me and I never even knew it – until I looked deeply into my “why.”

Your “why” is the most important thing you can figure out right now. It is the reason you do the things that you are passionate about. If you don’t know that – you can never completely fulfill your personal and professional dreams.

Image Credit: Estes Bob/Flickr

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
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Monday, January 16, 2017

Potential Referrals Are All Around You. Pay Attention

We are all, each and every day, standing in the middle of referrals. They are all around us – we just aren’t paying enough attention to them. Part of our brain has something called a “Reticular Activating System,” or RAS. Your RAS is like a filter between your conscious and your subconscious mind. It is capable of taking instructions from your conscious mind and passing them on to your subconscious mind. For example, have you ever been in a busy airport with announcements coming over the loudspeaker, noise from all the hustle and bustle, people talking all around you but then your name or your flight number is announced and all of a sudden – you think, “Wait, that was my name.”? That’s your Reticular Activating System at work. Your subconscious screens out things you determine that aren’t important and it alerts you about things you think are important.

I never fully believed this until my first child was born. I used to be able to sleep through anything – and I mean virtually anything. There was once an automobile accident in front of my home. Police and ambulance sirens, neighbors, and multitudes of people were outside my front door. I’m told the noise was deafening. I don’t know because I slept through it all. I discovered it the next morning when I walked out my front door – only to find police tape across the walkway. Like I said, I could sleep through almost anything.

A few years later, I was about to welcome my first child into the world and I was worried – really worried. What if she woke up at night crying and I didn’t hear her? That would be terrible. I went to bed the first night really concerned about that. Around 2am I sat straight up in bed and realized that my daughter was whimpering (not even crying loudly). I immediately nudged my wife and said, “Honey, I think the baby’s awake.” (I know – women everywhere hate me now, sorry.) But forgetting about the lousy husband issue – think about the power of the RAS. It’s incredible. I could sleep through an automobile accident outside my front door but I woke up with the slight cries of a baby. Our Reticular Activating System is amazingly powerful.

Our RAS has that same power as it relates to referrals. We are all standing in the middle of referrals every day. They are all around us. We simply need to put our RAS to work in order to hear them. For that to happen, we need to start by listening for the “language of referrals.” Whenever anyone says to you, “I can’t,” “I need,” “I want,” or “I don’t know,” whatever they say next is most likely a referral for someone. These phrases (along with many others) indicate that the person talking is in need of something. That something they need is a possible referral that you can give. If you train your RAS to open its filter and recognize those phrases you will almost immediately increase the amount of referrals that you can give to your referral partners.

Giving referrals is one of the best ways to start “getting” referrals. Giving referrals begins with opening your mind or Reticular Activating System to hearing all the referrals that are all around us each and every day. When you begin to do that – a whole new world of doing business opens up to you.

Image Credit: Lars Plougmann

Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is a business networking association dedicated to helping small businesses and entrepreneurs develop, expand and grow. We offer affordable opportunities to help create a positive impact and advancement in your business interests and personal quality of life to take you to the next level.
Stay Connected with WNFP!
Join WNFP Communities!