When I entered into the third and final chapter of my career a few years ago, I decided to do what I love doing professionally. In an epiphany moment one morning whilst having a shower, it occurred to me that I have spent most of it networking and that I should start doing it for a living. It’s in my DNA. I just can’t help myself. I am hardwired to connect people. Always have. Always will.
Nowadays, when people ask me what I do for I living, I simply tell them three short words: “I connect dots”. Dots, of course, being people and situations.
However, being a globalist, I found the networking events on offer in the area where I live in the south of England to be too hyperlocal – more often than not, I could not help a local accountant, nor could she help me.
So, I decided to migrate all my networking efforts online. Using LinkedIn for this was a given, but it soon dawned upon me that it was in fact arguably the world’s least social social network since oftentimes there would be a significant lag in communicating this way and I found its User Experience (UX) to be somewhat ‘clunky’.
So, I decided to start using the world’s most popular messaging platform WhatsApp for my networking activities instead. It’s fast. It’s easy to use. And here in Europe and elsewhere it’s pretty much ubiquitous.
I then discovered an enormous paradox: the one country in which its use is not so widespread is its birthplace: The United States of America. At first, this annoyed me. But now I see it as an enormous opportunity and have been teaching Americans how to use it. This has opened their eyes to a whole new world – quite literally. The irony!
In the UK where I am located, the vast majority of people use WhatsApp. In USA, it’s about one in five. Which is why I was delighted that the New York Times published this article which highlights the benefit of using the world’s most popular messaging platform for business. Furthermore, WhatsApp is currently working on WhatsApp PAY, making it into a wallet – something akin to like Wechat in China.
I now operate more than 150 WhatsApp groups covering a wide range of industries and business subjects. These include things like Mergers and Acquisitions, Automotive, Real Estate, Oil and Gas, Education, Gold – you name it, there’s something for everyone. And if there isn’t, I will simply go ahead and create one. (Got any suggestions? Get in touch with me and let me know!)
The rationale behind my ‘long tail’ approach is quite simple. I know nothing about BioTech. But what I do know is that when you get two or more people into the same (virtual) room that have an interest in it, then this is much more likely to lead to a meeting of minds and ultimately a transaction.
It certainly is leading to friendships being forged and one of the most rewarding elements of what I do is watch people ‘click’ in real-time.
As for my ethos, I subscribe to the ORS (Open, Random and Supportive) mindset – the antithesis of corporate thinking which is more often than not closed and secretive. Diversity and Inclusion are also important to me, as is helping women which is why several of my groups are aimed specifically at them.
I have been extolling the virtues of virtual networking for several years now. It’s clean, and leaves no carbon footprint. It’s free, since the internet has become an essential utility which we all pay for anyway. It saves a ton of time and money. But perhaps best of all is its globality – the world really is our oyster when it comes to growing our tribes and meeting new people.
So, irrespective of the pandemic, virtual networking rocks. But because of said pandemic, this form of networking is now the only way to network. When it eventually recedes, meeting new and interesting people this way can and should still feature on your ‘to do’ list.
One of the positives occasioned by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is that it is a shared experience. The word ‘pandemic’ is derived from the Greek pándēmos, “of or belonging to all the people” – we are all in this together.
Since we are all inherently social animals, virtual networking has a sense of urgency about it. Face to face (or ‘in person’) networking whilst practicing social distancing is both counterintuitive and oxymoronic. Or just plain moronic. But as Napoleon Hill once mused “Every Adversity, Every Failure, Every Heartbreak, Carries With It The Seed Of An Equal Or Greater Benefit”. Once we come out the other side, one of the benefits to which he alludes is that we will be able to make valuable new connections by networking this way, whilst saving time and money and doing the planet a favour by reducing our collective carbon footprints.
Is your networking working? If not, hopefully it soon will. Virtually, of course.