What I Took Away From My Keynote Experience In Wisconsin

This Tuesday, I had the pleasure of being the opening keynote at the Cultivate Fox Cities conference in Neenah, Wisconsin.  What a great community of business professionals! They exhibit a set of mid-western values including a put-people-first mindset, a long view and pride driven tenacity.  

Stanley Marcus Jr. counseled me to share my knowledge when and wherever I can, especially if I think it can add value.  He told me there was a side-benefit that would help me greatly over my career: Feedback.  He told me, “You’ll never get dumber by trying to make someone else smarter.” He’s right too.  When I speak at events like this, my talking points get feedback and often, my future talks are enriched by them. 

At the Cultivate event, my talk (The Power Of Great Relationships) was based on the idea that we should share our knowledge and our network with people we do business with to “multiply their value.”  This is the secret to sustainable success and real business power.  

1. Share Knowledge: I propose always having a mentee, which you select because he or she is going places and you know something that can help them.  Beth, a local award winning mentor, told me afterwards that prior to engaging with her mentees, she gives them an outline of what they’ll cover and when.  She often gives it to them in writing, in advance of their first real engagement. “It’s a curriculum, and you should expect them to follow it,” she explained.  Good point. 

2. Share Your Network: I believe that we should introduce three people every week that should meet. To do that, I advised my audience to reverse the conversation when meeting new people (at events, on the job, etc.).  Instead of seeing if they can help you or if they have status, we instead, screen their life situation to see if we’ve got network contacts to offer them.

Steve, a new entrepreneur just a few years out of college, approached me after the talk to tell me about how difficult it is to “break in to networking” when it’s hard to figure out who new contacts really need to meet. He also said that if you have a small network, you need to look for a friend-of-a-friend contact if you want to add value.  “I think good networkers ask good questions,” he told me.  It’s not like casual conversation yields a list of “gotta meet” people.  So asking, “What do you do?” may be an unproductive ice breaker.  Instead, he’s been taking a page from Never Eat Alone, opening conversations with “What are you you working on that you are excited about?” 

Plussing with him, I suggested we can delve into the networking dig even = deeper with “And who do you need to meet to get there?” Or, “Are their any hurdles?  What will it take to jump over them?”  

Expect more trip reports in the future.  Next week, I’m giving a keynote at TechStars’ annual FounderCon conference.  I’ll be talking about Putting People First to 350+ startup founders. I’m certain they’ll give me a lot of feedback too…