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

Tim Houston Interview – Author, speaker, coach

Tim Houston owned and operated three successful businesses by the time he was 25. For more than a decade, he has dedicated himself to helping businesses of all sizes to become more productive, profitable and prosperous through referral-based marketing and business and social networking. He is the author of The World’s Worst Networker.

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

Tim Houston: I define business networking as “the creation of new relationships and the enhancement of existing ones through engagement, for the purpose of mutual business and personal development.”

If that sounds too much like something from a textbook, then business networking can be defined in three basic, but crucial steps: 1) that you must meet new people and connect with them; 2) then build the relationship with them, which is often done by getting to know them and trust them; 3) find ways to help them to achieve their goals, by giving them referrals or introductions to people they want to meet without an expectation of them to give you something in return.

Business networking isn’t important — it’s CRITICAL in this day and age. We live in a world that is so connected yet seemingly so disconnected when it comes to creating and enhancing relationships. One concept I teach to my seminar participants and to my clients is that people never do business with small businesses or giant companies; they do business with other people. Despite the advances in technology and the numerous changes that business have gone through in just the last ten years alone, people still prefer to meet others, and do business face-to-face . Business networking requires that you not only meet others, but engage them and build and enhance your relationships with them. It’s not a one-shot deal; it’s a long-term, lifetime process.

Josh Hinds: Can you give a few ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Tim Houston: In my book, The World’s Worst Networker, I tell the story of the “9 to 5” Networker, that is the person who treats networking as an activity done when attending cocktail parties, conferences, trade shows or within business organizations and only with other business people. After work ends, they believe that their networking has stopped until they go back to work the next day. I explain that these types of networkers forget one of their best resources for new contacts as well as potential referrals: their family and friends. The funny thing is that many of our family and friends really don’t know or understand what we do for a living.

You need to start training your family members, friends and clients to get the word out about you, your products, your services to others that they know in their own respective social and business circles. If you train your family members and friends on how to effectively get the word out there about you, you will start to develop more contacts, better results and more referrals.

Josh Hinds: Based on your experiences, which places and activities have you found best for meeting new people and expanding your business network?

Tim Houston: Networking groups are awesome places to network and build relationships. Organizations like BNI help people to effectively grow their business via word-of-mouth because everyone acts as your marketing team to spread the word about you and your business to those they know. The best part is that your competition cannot belong to a local chapter, if you are a member. Beyond the networking groups, your local Chamber of Commerce or service clubs like Rotary International or Kiwanis are also excellent places. Although they are not designed specifically with the intent of business promotion, you do meet many people with whom you can form relationships with. In time, as they get to have confidence in you, they will eventually refer business to you.

What people need to remember though, is that no matter where you network, your goal is NOT to sell but to engage and connect with people. Networking and selling are two different and mutually exclusive activities and some of the World’s Worst Networkers tend to think they are one in the same.

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

Tim Houston: Two quick examples: My book The World’s Worst Networker is a great example of the power of networking. It came as a result of 15 years worth of my own networking experiences and that of others observing and experiencing bad networkers. All of the contributing authors were introduced to me by others in my network, including five New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling authors. I had to build a relationship with these people by earning their respect and trust before I could even ask them to contribute to this project, let alone for them open their networks to me.

Second as a result of networking, my consulting practice is by referral only; I do not advertise, except by word-of-mouth. I have taken the time to educate my network of clients, trusted friends, family members and advisors to identify potential clients for me.

Remember, networking isn’t a fad, it’s a way of life and is, in my opinion, the best way to do business!

– Happy Networking, Josh Hinds
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  • Great concepts to think about Tim. I especially enjoyed the fact that it was your network of people that made it possible for you to publish your book “The World’s Worst Networker.” So many people tend to think of networking as a chore, and you are living proof that by making networking a part of your everyday life…..opportunities unfolded right before your eyes. I’ll be looking for you on the New York Time’s #1 Best Sellers List! Congratulations.

  • Jerry, nnThank you so much for your comments. I pretty much have designed my life (business and personal) around the lessons learned and relationships I’ve built throught networking. It’s one of the simplest, most effective and most powerful thing someone can do for their business — yet so many people do it badly, which served as an inspiration for the book.nn