Dean Richard Franza’s column appeared in the Sunday, October 24, edition of the Augusta Chronicle. The post can be viewed here.
Always be networking!
Frequent readers of this column may remember that one of my favorite movies is “Glengarry Glen Ross,” the 1992 film adaption of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name.
I especially enjoy the scene in which Blake – portrayed superbly by my high school football opponent, Alec Baldwin – is brought in to motivate the sales team of Premiere Properties. One of Blake’s main catchphrases in his obscenity-filled “pep talk” is: “ABC – Always Be Closing,” which Blake believes all salesmen should be doing.
After a recent event, and many others I have experienced during the past 40 or so years, I want to change Blake’s advice to all people, particularly those in business, to: Always Be Networking!
On Oct. 11, I was sitting in the stands in Truist Park, where the Braves play in Atlanta, awaiting the start of Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series between the Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers. I heard two young gentlemen behind me talking about their college football team and they said their team’s offensive line was struggling and that their team had a “bye” (i.e., no game) during the upcoming weekend.
I thought they might be talking about my alma mater, Notre Dame, and indeed they were. We immediately struck up a conversation and I found out that they had graduated from Notre Dame in 2018 and 2020, respectively, almost 40 years after I had in 1981.
Although we didn’t seem to have much in common – I am a white man in my early 60s and they are young Black men in their early 20s – we immediately bonded, mainly through our shared alma mater. However, the more we talked, the more we found we had in common.
Both young men are in business, one in sales for a cloud computing company and the other who started his own business and is working for the Braves. Before the game started, we had already connected on LinkedIn. After the game ended, one of them wanted to get a picture of the three of us to commemorate our day. The next day, my daughter saw that picture on one of the young men’s Instagram posts with the title, “The Power of Networking.”
I was impressed that these young gentlemen had truly understood the importance of networking. While they were great guys and did not talk with me just to tap into my network, they quickly understood that by getting to know me better and connecting with me that they would be able to expand their networks through me and my network.
I also realized that by getting to know them and connecting with them, I was expanding my network into a younger and more diverse demographic, and they were in businesses in which I have an interest.
The three of us, while enjoying each other’s company, also quickly transformed a chance meeting into an expansion of our respective networks. While we went to a baseball game to be entertained, we also turned it into a productive business experience. All three of us believed in “Always Be Networking.”
I am excited to see that these two young men and my daughters have learned lessons about networking that took me many years to learn. While many of those who meet me are often surprised when they hear it, I am by nature, an introvert. I enjoy my alone time and as a young person and early in my career, I had difficulty meeting and engaging new people.
I think I was lucky that, early on, I treated other people well and encountered many different people through the universities attended and my assignments in the military. I was able to build networking relationships without really putting much conscious effort into it.
However, as I matured and learned of the benefits of having a strong network, I consciously and intentionally worked at meeting new people, helping them any way I could and connecting with them on a personal level. In the past 20-or-so years, I have developed a strong network that I know I can lean on when I need to, composed of people who I hope know they can lean on me.
Having a strong network helps me and can help you do the following:
Get help when you need it. Whether you are trying to find the right person to hire or looking for a consultant to help you with a specific problem, if you have a good network, one of your connections will likely be able to help you find the solution to your issue.
Gather fresh Ideas and perspectives. The wider and more diverse your network, the more you will be able to find new ideas and different perspectives that will let you address your business issues in a more creative and innovative way.
Acquire knowledge. Nobody is an expert at everything. We all tend to have areas of limited insight. For me, one of those areas is information technology, so I am fortunate to have people in my network who can keep me informed of the impact of the latest technology.
Find career opportunities. The bigger your network, the more likely it is that someone will identify a job or position that you would fit well and advance your career. The best jobs are not always available on the “open market,” they are filled by word of mouth. My older daughter had the opportunity to interview for her current job because people in her network recommended her.
There are many other benefits to networking, not the least of which is connecting with and being able to help others. There is no better feeling than being able to form strong bonds with others and being able to help them when they need it.
While I hope I get to help my two new connections sometime in the future, even if I don’t, I am glad I was able to make two new friends who will make my life richer – another benefit of networking.
I hope you will take my advice!