By helping others, business owners help themselves

Let’s face it: If you had a knife to your throat and someone demanded all your money, the $20 in your pocket wouldn’t seem nearly as important as getting the knife removed from your precious neck.

Now, what does that have to do with business networking? Three things: the feeling of urgency, the feeling of urgency and the feeling of urgency.

Think of it this way. You’re at your next networking event and someone asks you for help. How urgent is their need to you? Their need doesn’t constitute an immediate gain to your bottom line, so in most cases their need is listened to, but not responded to. If you happen to know an immediate connection, you’ll pass the name along, but then your job is done. For those who truly understand business networking, this is where the job begins.

With the same urgency as those who have knives to their throats, true business networkers will insist on finding a way to help the business people standing in front of them by:

Asking questions: Sometimes an immediate solution will not be apparent. But if you continue to ask questions and focus on solving the problem, there will come a point when you experience an “ah-ha” moment and realize how you can help.

Framing the need: Often business owners think they know what they need. But like a lot of children, they don’t REALLY know. Your job is to help identify a need that will really change things for them. This should be identified if you ask enough questions.

Forget about personal gain: If you approach the problem trying to find the angle that serves one of your own needs, you’ll miss out on the opportunity that will best serve the business person you’re trying to help. Your turn will come in time.

Business networking is about giving back to the business community what you want in return. In BNI, this philosophy is referred to as “Giver’s Gain.” You might recognize it as karma, “what comes around, goes around” and other helpful concepts. But the idea is the same.

Richard Cox, a regional BNI director from Montreal, recently spoke to local BNI chapters and told us a story about businesses in his region that pass the most referrals.  One thing that stood out was that one of the highest referrers had passed his fellow business owners $49,000 in business over the previous 12 months. Now, this same business owner kept track of the money that came into his own business due to referrals given and found he had $50,000 in business thanks to his referral partners. He earned one dollar for every dollar he referred.

This might seem like a chance finding, but it’s been repeated all around the world and for the last 25 years the BNI organization has been around.

So why is that we continue to go to networking events with the “me first” attitude? It’s a scary thing to give up that attitude. Helping others is not a guaranteed return … or is it?

I challenge you for the next 30 days to make other business owners your priority.  Look to ways to help them reach their goals and see if this shift in focus helps you reach your own goals. Removing this proverbial knife from your bottom line is as simple as helping other business owners get what they need. Your needs will be met shortly thereafter.