So my friend Brian just called me up. He works for Consulting Magazine and is helping to lead their web efforts. I've been trying to introduce him to this whole blogging phenomenon, and, short of reading my own, I'm not so sure he "got it" until today. He was doing some competitor analysis, which led him to ring me and ask, "Are you familiar with RSS?"
Brian went from being a good journalist to an even better salesperson. He knows his field very well, and he certainly helped me a ton by editing my Stanford essays. But, he's never been a cutting edge tech guy, and its very meaningful to me as a milestone that RSS has found its way into his vocabulary.
Bagel breakfast is on Brian tomorrow, since he'll be picking my brain about what this is all about. At the moment, I'm at DTUT writing the outline for the blog career book. This is all gaining traction very quickly.
This is really interesting, because if you combine the data from speeding tickets and accidents, the result is that politicians are the best drivers. They are one of the least likely professions to get in an accident, but one of the most likely to get a speeding ticket. Therefore, they're driving really fast, but avoiding crashes.
Jerry Colonna, who I had the good fortune to meet in person the other day, has a really great response to a frustrated entrepreneur in Texas, but there's one point I want to comment on...
"you MUST get connected. You know that business relies on people connecting with other people and that few great ideas are truly great enough to break through and emerge as successful companies without the founder/entrepreneur/CEO going out and pressing the flesh. So you don't have an MBA. So what? Go out and find a network you can join. If there's none in your area, start a chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) or Young Entrepreneurs' Organization (YEO). Go to you nearest university and meet with the professors there."
It is important to be connected, but a lot of people's efforts to get connected are misguided or too forced. That's why, although I'm a huge proponent of networking, I'm always very cynical about the networking nights that Fordham tries to do with its Young Alumni. I tried to focus those efforts on a three month mentoring program, where you could build a relationship over time. To me, networks are what develops naturally out of being a productively functioning and active member of a number of circles. I never tried to develop a network, but I was always active in pursuing my interests and so my network grew out of that. If you're growing a network and you don't have one currently, I'd wonder what's going on that is leaving you out of what should naturally be your network given your course of business.
For example, I have an idea for an online information service related to college recruiting. That idea comes out of the student mentoring I've done, which connects me to many people in and around the career education world, and some recruiters as well. It was my participation in this network, because it was an interest of mine, that grew the idea. By talking to all these people, I found a need and came up with an idea to fill it. If you ideas are grown in a bubble, away from customers, peers, other entrepreneurs, its probably not a well tested or appropriate product for the market. If I wanted to shop this idea around a network, I have one already because it is a relevent network that helped grow the idea in the first place. If you join a network with the intention to see what you get out of it, people will see right through you.
Its a lot like dating. When you go out to a bar with the intention of hooking up, you're unlikely to build a long term relationship out of that. People are a bit guarded, because they know you're "on the prowl" and they're trying to play defense. Its a market that paralyzes its sellers because they're all afraid of getting duped. Its all too forced.
However, if you just pursue your interests on a regular basis, taking part in activities you enjoy, you will find yourself meeting people with shared interest and you've got a much higher chance of success. I met lots of great people at the Boathouse in a much more natural and informal way. I always wonder about people whose only outlet for finding new people is at a bar.
A lot of times, I find both people who understand this point and people who don't at professional gatherings. When I'm at ILPA, I talk to the people I like and the ones I find interesting, rather than anyone I feel like it might be fruitful for me to cozy up to. I think these personal connections are much stickier than those made by new entrants trying to "work the crowd."
So, not to say that Jerry's suggestions won't bear fruit, they're good suggestions. I just want to point out that networking--the building of really effective long term relationships--happens over time and it happens not because you go out and look for it. It is the coming together of like minded individuals taking part in activities for their own sake, not necessarily to get connected to other people. Just be careful not to cross that line between trying to connect and enjoy time with like minded individuals and trying to get something out of them.
They're building a 24 story hi-rise right down the street from me on 83rd and York. They leveled 4 or 5 walkups that were abandoned when I first moved in 2001 and now they're finally starting construction. I think these big cranes are wild. These are the ones that climb alongside the building as it goes up. It just looks so out of place at the end of this block before the building is visable. Check out the big hole in the ground for the foundation, though.
On Thursday night, I went straight from LaGuardia to Bar 515. PS, the Delta Shuttle to Boston is wonderful. You literally drive up and park about 500 feet from the plane, and the whole process takes about 5 minutes to get on. Its a pleasure. Anyway, so I drove straight to the bar, and parked by one of those Muni Meter things. They really dropped the ball by not letting you insert bills into it. I suppose that's done on purpose, because they're counting on you not having change. Its more lucrative for the city for you to get a ticket than for you to pay the meter.
Anyway, so I've got my phone and my keys and I'm shuffling through the bag in my trunk for change. The moment I closed the trunk, I was like, "Oh shit."
I know at that moment, without checking my pockets, that I had left the keys in the trunk. It was like I was subconsciously paying attention, but not enough to remember to put the keys back in my pocket, just enough to notice that I left them lying in the trunk. Anyway, remembering the commercial, I called the Pontiac Roadside Assistance people and they transferred me to OnStar. I told the lady that I locked myself out and she's like, "No problem, we'll have the drivers side door unlocked in ten minutes... I just need your PIN number from you."
Faaaaaaantastic! They opened it by satellite. How cool is that? Anyway, that only got me halfway there, though, because the keys were in the trunk and I don't think my car has a truck latch inside the car. I know that's hard to believe, but I really checked. I'll have to go consult the manual on this, but its certainly not in any place that any normal human being would expect it to be. So, I had to climb into the back seat, pull the fold down seats to get into the trunk, and climb into the truck from inside the car. I was literally in the trunk up to my waist with my legs flopping around the inside of the car. I couldn't see anything and I was just blindly groping. Finally, I found them, and ended this amusing incident unscathed. That right there makes OnStar worth it, though. I mean, being a GM employee, we get it for free, but whatever the price is, that incident definately saved me a good hundred bucks and much time wasted, because I'm sure that's what a tow truck or lock guy would have changed me to Slim Jim their way in.