Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Stephen Joyce interview – President of Sentias Software Corp.

Stephen Joyce has been working as a travel and tourism technology consultant since 1995. In 2005 Mr. Joyce and his company, Sentias Software Corp., began development on Rezgo.com, a next generation Web 2.0 tour and activity booking engine for small and medium sized tour operators.

In June of 2007, Rezgo.com was officially released and now boasts a user base of 500+ companies. Mr. Joyce is also very active in fostering tourism technology and is the founding President of the North American Chapter of the International Federation for IT and Travel & Tourism (IFITT North America). In addition to his tourism initiatives, Mr. Joyce is also on the Board of Directors of the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Stephen Joyce: Business networking is about creating relationships and finding connections with people. It is so easy for business people, especially small business people, to lose site of the fact that their business, when distilled to its essence, is about people.

As a travel technologist, my business is dependent on maintaining successful relationships with vendors, clients, and partners. All of them are people that make up my network.

Josh: Can you share one idea that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Stephen Joyce: Approach your network with a “How can I help you” mentality versus a “What can you do for me” attitude. It is very easy to look at your network as potential customers and to limit your interaction with them as if they are or are not your potential customers. A better approach is to look at your network as only one in six degrees of possible relationships. If you ask your network how you can help them, inevitably your network will ask you how it can help you.

Josh: How do you follow up with the people you meet? Do you have any particular system in place for keeping up with and managing the relationships in your business network?

Stephen Joyce: I usually send a quick email with my contact info and invite them to join my LinkedIn network or Facebook.

The reason I like Facebook for example, is that it is a little less formal than LinkedIn and provides an ongoing view of my activities. This is important because if the contact is not necessarily a lead, then there may be other ways to engage them in one of the many other activities.

Josh: What events, places, or resources (online or offline) have you found to be especially good for networking? And based on your experience what makes them stand out?

Stephen Joyce: I am a huge fan of local Chambers of Commerce or Boards of Trade. I am heavily involved in the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and sit on the Board of Directors. I am also the Chair of the Membership committee and work with an excellent group of volunteers who put on the membership network events.

These events are a great way to meet other local business people and share successes. As a result of my involvement, I have sourced excellent vendors, acquired new customers, and made many colleagues both locally and regionally.

Online, I recommend using LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn is excellent, as I mentioned before, for more formal business relationships and for maintaining contacts or introducing new contacts. Facebook is less formal and, although my initial goal was to use it for business purposes, it is an excellent way to show a personal side to business contacts.

Sometimes it helps to show that you are a regular person with a family and kids and a dog and not just a name and a title on a website. Adding certain personal details can actually add context to your position and profile. Remember that you should only share information you feel comfortable disclosing.

Josh: Can you share a personal “networking” success story with us?

Stephen Joyce: I went to a morning breakfast meeting that was sponsored by a local cultural festival about a year ago. At the meeting I met one of the Board members of the cultural festival society who is also a product marketing specialist.

Over the next year, we began to talk more about how he might be able to help us meet our marketing needs. Although the fellow had not done any work on software product marketing, he was able to apply a lot of his traditional product marketing expertise. That one networking experience eventually changed the marketing focus of our company.

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  • Mr. Network

    Good stuff Josh and Stephen,

    I think you guys are on the right track although I would suggest some alternatives to the tools you have mentioned.

    1. Like myself, many people don’t have time for a BNI group which seems obsolete with a working knowledge of the net.

    2. Facebook is great for socializing and any other benefits are a random byproduct.

    3. “Linked-In” is an unpredictable tool and it seems throngs of bloggers have taken on the duty of unnecessarily promoting it.

    As people matriculate from one Social site to another and trumpet the glory of “the site of the year” to no end I remain steadfast and results driven.

    Being a member of all three of these groups I can tell you none fullfill’s it’s hype.

    I own my own practice and socializing is not my bottom line, it is revenue. And while “buzzword” addicts have exhausted the glory of Linked-In it’s ambiguous benefits have expanded my contacts but have done little for my bottom line.

    I guess would prefer 10 trusted associates versus 3,000 Linked-In contacts.

    It’s the ol’ add friends conundrum my kids have been doing on MySpace for the last 5 years.

    When I want to reach real goals I turn toward a new breed of tools. These tools require that you actually add “real” contacts(which seems intimidating now a days) when signing up but the results are more “real”.

    Even at a recent national convention (the name slips my mind right now) Myspace, Facebook, and Linked-In CEO’s discussed the lack of loyalty of their members and the future of their volatile industry. Their plans for a few years down the road look more like some innovators of today.

    http://zolve.com/(real estate focused) http://www.referralkey.com/(all service professionals)

    Please take a look at my blog. I cover some of the tools that will become next year’s standard.

    Cheers,
    Garrey Goodman