Networking Plunge

Let It Shine sheds the flotation devices and takes the plunge into the networking deep-end.

While some people dip their toes in first, to test the waters, others cannonball into the pool. Networking can follow similar approaches, and Eric Dengler, Co-Owner of Let It Shine, recommends just jumping in.

“When you’re not comfortable in settings, you’re going to avoid them. I’ve done that for my whole professional life,” he said. “But I’ve noticed that so many of the people that I look up to don’t do that.”

For a small business owner, Eric explains that it’s not just important, but necessary to play the networking game.

“I needed to see more of the world. I needed to see more of what companies can become. And, I needed to establish some contacts,” he said.

The Plunge
The cannonball opportunity was found in none other than New York City. Eric and Pat Dengler made the trek to the Big Apple, for the first time, to attend the World Federation of Building Service Contractors Convention in April 2014.

“We were likely the smallest company of anybody there,” Eric said. “I had more trepidation going to that because I had the sense that it was going to be populated by all these very large companies. But I wanted to jolt our company, and I think it helped.”

Although surrounded big business moguls from around the world, Eric recalled the valuable connections made at the event. He specifically remembered a helpful entrepreneur from Australia who took Eric under his wing and even sent him several materials after the event.

Positive results from the first leap into the networking pool, in turn, made the next opportunity even easier to seize.

The Second Jump
Last November Eric attended his second major conference: the 2014 BSCAI Annual Convention, in Orlando, FL. The convention included several speakers who addressed topics ranging from risk management, marketing, technology tools, sales tips, supervising strategies, and general ideas for company growth.

Although he obtained more industry contacts, Eric explains that he also gained some clarity he had been hoping for.

“It’s helped to enlighten me and see a path and a structure. And mainly, to see that we’re not doing horribly,” he said. “It is my hope to grow Let It Shine to a much larger shape than it is now, and I have a much better sense of what that needs to look like than I had before.”

The practice Eric received from the conferences made additional jumps even easier. Yet, his swimming skills had yet to be tested until he was invited to join a bimonthly networking group of entrepreneurs from various industries in Fort Collins.

Time to Swim
Beyond accelerating the initial jump, the cannonball approach also forces people to swim. In terms of networking, this means successfully navigating the dynamics of the group on a continual basis. Instead of one-time meetings, Eric’s networking group presented an opportunity to develop stronger connections through frequent meetings.

Although he admits that he would have turned down the opportunity in the past, he decided it was worth a try this go around.

“The essence of a networking group is ideally you want to become mindful of other people, and what they’re trying to accomplish, and help them on that path.”

A common mistake people make is approaching networking as a means to get what they want. Instead, Eric explains that the focus must be on what a person can bring to the group, not on what he can take away.

“If you go with the intent of getting as opposed to giving, you’re going to be disappointed—and not held at a very high esteem within the group,” he said. “So that’s my next challenge—to not only use some of the services from the people in the group, but to help by referring people to them, as well.”

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Lessons for the Networking-Impaired
In theory, the cannonball approach sounds doable; however, the process of actually jumping in may be a daunting task for some. For those who resemble something closer to a moth than a social butterfly, the idea of networking is intimidating, to say the least.

Eric, therefore, recommends that networking beginners simply start—whatever that means for them—and not put it off.

“A person’s ability to connect can get better, I think,” he said. “Find someplace where you’re comfortable, that’s tied to something you’re interested in, and then jump in.”

Regardless of whether it’s a conference or luncheon, whether someone works in a sea of cubicles or out in the field, and whether someone prefers to jump in or test the waters, the key to networking is starting.

There’s a Swedish expression that says, “You can’t learn to swim without getting in the water.” Similarly, networking won’t happen until a person gets out there.