Is Your Net, Working?

Networking is a vital part of all our lives and we use it in some form almost daily to obtain knowledge or help to get something done. We generally associate networking with work related causes and rightfully so; but we do use networking for many other purposes, such as childcare, finding doctors, housing or shopping; vacations, education and so on. Are you aware of when you use networking outside of work and do you enjoy it? For most of us, the answer is probably yes. I often say, you can learn from everyone you meet, as long as you are open to it. Networking is a two way street, as you learn or get information, you may also teach or give information back.
Recently, while I was away for a few days, I had two experiences that were good examples of different types of networking. Ironically, the catalyst for both occasions was my love of a good cigar.

I visited an area very well known for fine hand rolled cigars and more nightclubs than you can count. I went to one establishment that looked like a cigar store from the outside. As I looked in from the street, through the window to the right of the door was a display of cigars much as you would see in any cigar store, with rolls of open cigar boxes along the wells holding cigars of all shapes and sizes. Through the window to the left of the door, I could see an artisans sitting at a small table rolling and cutting cigars by hand, wearing a fedora (hat) with a cigar hanging from his mouth as a faint cloud of smoke rose above his head. For me the ambiance of this shop was love at first sight. However once I walked in, I found only the first ten to fifteen feet of the shop was dedicated to cigars. The rest of the building was a bar – restaurant. A surprise to me but I am sure very typical to the local residents.
After looking over the impressive stock of cigars and making my selection, I spent some time talking with the shopkeeper and watching the cigar maker at his craft. It was the first time I had seen cigars made by hand up close and personal. While talking, I noticed after the shopkeeper put my cigars into a plastic bag, he filled the bag with some other material. I asked what it was he put in the bag; he said it was the extra tobacco cuttings from the cigars. He kept all the extra tobacco moistened in a large jar to use as packing in the bags to keep the customers cigars fresh. That was new to me. In turn, I told him at home I place a small piece of apple in with my cigars to keep them fresh, a trick I learned from my long ago pipe smoking days. Much to my surprise, he said he had never heard of using apple peels to keep tobacco fresh but he said it sounds like a good idea that he will pass on to other customers. That exchange about cigar maintenance was a form of social networking unrelated to work. I learned another way to keep my cigars fresh and he learned a new technique that will surely help his customers.
My second experiences with networking, came the next day and was related to business , while I was sitting on a bench at our hotel enjoying one of those great cigars, I was thinking about a project I am working on. To help with this project, I need to seek out someone that is working in a particular industry that will be able to give me some critical information that I cannot get without an insider’s help. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, a company in the industry that I needed to find a contact within was holding a meeting in the very same hotel we were staying in on that day. While I was sitting outside, a group of people gathered not far from where I was sitting. I realized they were from the company I was interested in speaking with, they were taking their afternoon brake. I kept an eye out for someone that looked approachable. My plan was to wait until they started to go back to their meeting. I knew I would have precious little time to strike up a meaningful conversation but I thought it would be a much better plan then trying to engage someone that was already talking with his or her co-workers.
I focused on a man that spent most of his time during the brake working with his cell phone and not really talking with others. As the group headed back in, I went over to the man with the phone and introduced myself. Thankfully, he was approachable and seemed happy to speak with me. Knowing I had little time and respecting his, I gave him my two-minute elevator speech and allowed him to give me his two-minute elevator speech about his company, which I knew in that circumstance, like most of us, he would be happy to do. I thanked him for his time, asked for his card, and received it. I let him know, I would like to call him in a few days to talk about his company. He said he would be looking forward to speaking with me again and would give me whatever details he could. From that chance encounter, I already received some very good information, made a good contact that could possibly become a friend and an understanding that I will be able to get more information from this contact soon.
During a week of leisure, I still made my net, work. Is your net, working?
Ty Ferrell

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