Updating The New Networking: Caribbean 2008

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I’d love to hear from Caribbean readers on what kinds of challenges they face in building professional networks across the region. I’m thinking about updating my e-book, The New Networking, for a 2010 release.

So, here is the question of the hour: “What is the greatest challenge you have in building your Caribbean network?”

When You’re “Being Networked”

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A colleague of mine who is extremely well-connected in the world of broadcast media recently gave me a lesson in what it’s like to be “networked.”
When you meet someone for the first time here in the Caribbean the first decision that’s usually made subconsciously is whether or not this person will become a personal friend.
A skilled networker, however, goes an extra step and asks themselves whether or not that person should be a part of their professional network.  I believe that the answer should almost
always be “Yes.”  So did he.
Once that decision is affirmed, there are a series of next steps to perform that will enable that person to become a part of your network, and hopefully help you to become a part of theirs.  I was on the receiving of my colleague’s networking skills, and it was interesting to see him go through what I consider to be a standard set of steps that are worth repeating here for anyone who wants to build a professional network.
Step 1 — Gather their contact information.  Make sure to get their personal email address, cell phone number
Step 2 — Enter the information in a place where it’s not only safe, but it can be effectively backed up
Step 3 — Reach out with  social networking offers.  Through your Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo accounts, invite them to connect with you and share contacts, plus select personal information
Step 4 — Point them to your published content.  (It doesn’t have to be written, and could include photos, music, websites, mashups, etc.)
Step 5 — Interact with them by asking for feedback, sharing notes about your networks, requesting comments on your blog, etc.
Step 6 — Ask them to subscribe.  Request that they join the list of subscribers to your RSS feeds, newsletters or any other frequently published content
Step 7 — Stay in touch with them as they move around.  This takes work, but try to keep the channels of communication open as they change jobs, move homes, change relationships, etc.
It’s important to note that this is not about getting more friends.There are lots of people that we work with, and would work with again that we have no interest in becoming friends with.  Having them in our network is not the same as having them as friends, and while some of the steps might appear to be similar as to the ones we’d take with friends, the motivation for taking the 7 Steps above is quite different.

Launching Networking Message Board

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Good news to those who downloaded the e-book “The New Networking: Caribbean 2008.”

I am launching a message board for everyone who has received the e-book, to act as a place for Caribbean professionals to meet and greet others who are also interested in expanding their networking skills.

If you have downloaded the e-book, you should already have received some instructions on how to enter the message board. If you haven’t yet received your copy (it’s currently free) simply visit
http://fwconsulting.com/newnetworking and you will receive the instructions a few days after receiving the e-book.

The New Networking is Still Available

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A note from Francis
I want to remind you that my e-book “The New Networking: Caribbean Professionals 2008” is still available for download for free.

Simply visit the following page and you can claim your own electronic copy within a few minutes. You’ll be joining over 200 other Caribbean professionals who have requested the e-book.

Click here to claim a copy

If you have other friends who would benefit from owning this 37 page text, you can notify them of the page to visit by visiting the following page and entering their email addresses. An email will be sent to them with the link:

Send this link to 2 friends

Thanks for being a part of my network!

Francis
P.S If you act quickly, you might be able to take advantage of a free offer I am making to take my 12-week online time-management programme valued at over US$50. The offer expires at the end of September, and will be sent to you 3-4 few days after you receive the e-book. I am limiting the number, so act quickly if you have an interest.

e-book

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The New Networking: Caribbean e-book

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In this blog, I have often posted on topics related to networking here in the Caribbean.

Over the past several months, I have been working with a local designer – Tavia Tomlinson – on an e-book that was recently released to the public, and is now available for free — for now.

It’s called “The New Networking: Caribbean 2008” and is available at http://fwconsulting.com/newnetworking
and includes 37 pages of text, audio and video.

Request The New Networking and Double Your Network

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For those who might be interested, I will be releasing a multimedia e-book that I have been writing for some time in June. It’s called “The New Networking: Caribbean Professionals 2008.”

It’s for those who might be interested in Doubling or Tripling the size of their professional network across the Caribbean region, and it’s going to be offered for free on June 21st. I am going to waive the US$39 cost, but I don’t know how long the free offer will run, whether it will be for 24 hours or 24 months… I still haven’t decided. My wife and I are going back and forth on this decision…

Maybe you can help me make up my mind!

To sign up not to receive the e-book for free once it’s released, simply fill out the form at… http://fwconsulting.com/newnetworking

Doing Business with Internet Strangers

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Here in the Caribbean, there has always been this tendency to want to meet someone before doing business with them. We want to “look dem in dem face” before deciding whether or not we can trust them or not.

We “don’t know them from Adam”, and we can’t imagine putting good money at risk with a stranger. After all, we have no idea what school they went to, who their parents are, or what their friends are like. It all makes sense in a small-town kind of way.

However, this same kind of thinking keeps networks small, and professionals suspicious. It ensures that one’s circle remains tiny, relative to the kind of network that is needed to operate a global business.

For example, in a small business, as soon as too many strangers get involved, an owner is likely to slow things down by insisting that he/she needs to meet the people involved himself.

When it comes to doing business on the internet, such thinking is damaging.

In this new era, business-people MUST become comfortable doing business with people they have never met, will never meet and who may not even speak the same language. For older business owners, this is quite difficult to do, having grown up in a time when everyone knew everyone else, and the fact that they lived on an island kept them away from much of the world.
For anyone starting a new business, however, this skill is critical — knowing how to create partnerships via electronic means.

The sister skill of creating an online presence (by design versus by accident) is just as important., as people need to know whether or not you can be trusted, and are someone to do business with, without ever meeting you.

There is a systematic way of determining who can be trusted, and who can’t. The easiest way is to learn who they are by knowing their friends. Facebook is a must in this regard.

Other ways include getting to know them through their content — what they have written, composed, photographed, listened to, painted, blogged, created, started-up, accomplished, failed at — anything that is a product of their efforts.

Malcolm Gladwell talks about “think-slicing” — a way of understanding complex ideas in a moment. Figuring out whether someone you meet on the internet can be trusted can be built on that same skill.

Weak Networking Skills in the Caribbean

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What does it mean to say that a Caribbean manager has “weak networking skills”?

Does it mean that he or she is not charming and charismatic? Does not speak well? Does not follow-through? Is unwilling to take risks? How would you measure the ultimate result –a working, Caribbean network– and the skill that it takes to build one?

First of all, it might be useful to distinguish what a Caribbean network is, versus a local network. For an island-dweller, a local network is one that ends where the sea starts.

For example, a Jamaican with only local “contacts” would know very few professionals outside their home country, in other countries in the region. A Caribbean network, by contrast, is one that reaches into several Caribbean islands.

Also, a well-built network would have more than mere acquaintances, or a list of names that someone has met “once at a party”. The quality of these contacts would be built on more than just having a name and address. It would also include a professional impression, or personal brand — something that is known about the person that sets them apart from other professionals. They may not be recognized on the street, but their ideas or accomplishments are are known by the persons in the network.

After all, anyone can build a list of key names and addresses from the Yellow Pages. A real network has more than just contact information (although this information must be included).

Someone with weak networking skills would be able to see it in the results — a “local” network would be evidence. So would a network that does very little of the personal branding that a network is designed to use.

But, everyone starts from the same place, with no network to speak of. That’s ground zero.

What would be the essential skills to develop in order to become a good networker?

Skill #1: Personal Branding
A good networker is able to think of themselves as a brand, and of their strengths as specific attributes to be emphasized. They also know that they must brand themselves around the areas that they have a true passion about.

Skill #2: Time Management
While everyone claims to understand how to network, few do the things that they know they should be doing. The common complaint I hear is — “I don’t have enough time.”

Skill #3: Internet Relationship Building
This has nothing to do with a skill at a particular technology. Instead, it means understanding how relationships are created and sustained in cyber-space between working colleagues, sellers and buyers, writers and readers, Facebook friends, members of a discussion list and between people who make up different groups on the net.

Someone who is very weak at this skill would insist that “I have to see them face to face in order to trust them, or to do business with them.” The world has changed vastly from that restrictive way of doing business, and someone who is not good at building internet relationships will simply be cut off from a great deal of business.

Skill #4: Technology Shortcuts
The cost of trying to build regional working relationships is just too high, and the cost of using the internet is too low to ignore as the alternative.

The cost and time of air travel and communication across the Caribbean region makes it expensive to use these methods to build relationships. A round -trip flight between the 2 largest economies, Trinidad and Jamaica, takes some 12 hours in the air, plus 8 hours to be transfer from airport to home or office. That’s 20 hours, at least. The flight costs between US$350 and US$500.

A phone call for an hour costs some US$16. By contrast, Skype can be used to make an internet phone call for free.

The cost of sending a Christmas card from Trinidad to Jamaica is approximately US$0.90. The cost of an e-card or email is free.

These shortcuts are vital to use in order to break the barrier that these costs have created.

Skill #5: Having a Message, Getting It Out
Weak networkers are unskilled at getting their message out to the region. The weakest networkers, however, haven’t even developed a message to send. They have not spent the time to find something unique to say, so even when they are given the opportunity to speak, or write publicly the little they have to say is pedestrian, and routine.

The best networkers are also not concerned about “people stealing their stuff”,which would result in them keeping their messages to themselves — hoarded someplace on their hard-drive. They use multiple channels to get their messages out to other professionals across the region.

Skill #6: Being Persistent and Regular
Weaker networkers may do all of the above things, but they only do them once. When nothing happens, they stop. The best networkers have found ways to continue to be motivated, knowing that they are building an asset for the long-term, rather than just a short-term opportunity. They continue to use their networking skills to expand their authentic interests. If for example, they have an interest in orchids, they merely expand that interest to the orchids of other Caribbean countries. They make friends in the other countries who share the interest, and get to know their friends as well. In this way, they stay interested.

Also, they find ways to make regular contact, ensuring that their messages reach the people who are in their network on a regular basis. They simply refuse to “drop off the radar”. For some professionals, the challenge they have is managing their time in order to do these activities. For others, they just don’t know that they should be doing these things.

Skill #7: Demonstrating an Interest in Other People
While some people have the gift of being charismatic, this is not really a skill related to networking. Neither is looking the part, or being well-spoken, or being smart. Much more important than these attributes is the ability to be authentically interested in other people, and what they are interested in themselves. This takes a level of awareness and commitment, plus some insight into the unique nature of human beings.

In conversation, the networker knows that people who feel as if they are being heard, and appreciated, are much more likely to enjoy the conversation than those who are subject to the networker’s jokes, brilliance or resume. Giving others the gift of one’s attention when the networker is tired, distracted or bored is a skill worth learning, by itself.

Weak networkers just cannot be bothered.