Hello, my name is …
Ah yes, the one part of business that no matter how large or small your company is, we all need networking. Webster’s dictionary defines networking in two definitions: 1. The action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts; 2. The linking of computers to allow them to operate interactively. Is it me, or do these two definitions basically boil down two main points—connecting and interacting? Networking is key to growing not only your business but yourself.
The Big City
Starting my career in Washington, DC, networking was a major part of my job. I spent at least twice a week at a networking event of some sort. Whether it be a BNI lunch group or after-hours Happy Hour, networking was all around me. I learned all the key points to discuss. Had my “elevator speech” prepared and would even request names of those going to the event so I knew who to target. For “big city” networking, this was normal. This was how I was taught to network because this is how everyone around me was doing it. For me, going to an event in the “big city” was solely about being 100% professional and making sure I walked away with at least 3-4 business contacts. Bringing in anything personal always felt like a big “DON’T”. This is not to say that personal conversations didn’t happen, but it was about just getting the business. In the commercial real estate world, networking with other brokerage houses was not the norm. I can recall an event I went to about 7 years ago with brokers from some of the larger companies. The groups refused to intermix. The others were competition. Imagine warm-ups before a basketball game, or for me, a volleyball game. Each team is on opposite sides of the court. Game faces on and ready to go for the win. This was basically how it felt to be in the restaurant where the event was held. Game, set, play!
The Little Big City
I moved into the Frederick market about 4 years ago. I recall going to my first Frederick networking event with Rocky. I believe it was actually a Frederick County Chamber of Commerce happy hour at Pistarro’s. Prior to the event, I remember thinking “Where’s the attendee list? How will I know who to target?”. As soon as we walked in, it was like Rocky knew everyone in the room. Firm handshakes, hugs, asking about families. It was all so different then what I had experienced in the past. It seemed more like a room of friends than people on the networking mission. Who did most of these hugs and firm handshakes come from? Our competitors. We were laughing, joking, talking about families. It was new and exciting experience to see this. All of this would seem to be exciting but being the “new kid” made me feel like the first day of school. You know that feeling we all imagine of walking into a room and feeling like everyone stopped talking when you came it. Yup, it was that feeling. While people won’t “targeting” who they needed to talk to like they did in the big city, it felt like walking into a family reunion that you knew no one at. Well, that feeling lasted all of 10 minutes. Rocky began introducing me around to those in the room. Eventually, I was laughing and joking as well. It was like going to meet your boyfriend/girlfriend’s family for the first time. At first, you feel nervous and uncomfortable. Thinking to yourself, “Are they going to like me?”. Once you get in, you quickly become just another family member. This is how networking in a little big city feels.
Networking can be done in a number of different ways. Everyone has their own style. Every area has its own accepted way of networking. The conclusion, understanding your area. Networking in the big city way is ideal for just that, the big city. The style that works in Washington, DC or Baltimore, may not be the same as in Frederick, MD or other “Little Big Cities”. I recently described Frederick as a “huggy” town in the Frederick Magazine article. For me, it has been just that. A place where I feel comfortable on a professional and personal level. The one thing to remember, no matter how big or small your company or city is, get out there and network!
Ashleigh Kiggans, Vice President, joined the MacRo team in 2015. She plays a key role within the organization, assisting the leadership team across a wide range of initiatives, including market research, data analysis, client communications, and marketing while assisting with the sales and leasing transactional process.