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Interview With Christopher Owens – Why Millennial Networking Is Different

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Christopher Owens

Whether you are at an event passing out your business cards or chatting with someone a few states away through email, you’re familiar with networking. The question is, what changed? With the growth of technology, there’s no denying that millennials network differently. Meetups are organized and advertised through networking platforms or social media and filled with people of similar interests. Relationships are built and groups decide to stay in touch more regularly than just bumping into each other every now and then. We connected with the Founder of LincSphere, Christopher Owens. He built the app to optimize power networking and make it easier to connect with others. In this interview, Christopher was able to pinpoint networking flaws and gave advice on how to grow and optimize your network.

What are some tips you can give for networking?

When you meet or speak with a networking contact, be genuinely INTERESTED in them. Ask a lot of questions and be curious. To be clear, DON’T ASK PROSPECTING QUESTIONS. Just learn more about them, not only as a professional, but also as a person. Your goal for this line of questioning is, “Is there any way I can add value to this person’s professional or personal life.” Of course you might be able to help them by selling your product to them, but you should initially place that idea to the side and focus on other ways you can help.  

From interacting with this person, see if there is any reason you would want to develop the relationship. Of course, if they want your product, you would want to talk with them further, but there are many other potential reasons for engaging further. Maybe they could be a good referral partner for you. Maybe you have the same hobbies or feel strongly about supporting the same causes. Maybe you could see yourself mentoring them or vice versa. But either find SOME reason for wanting to engage further, or allow yourself to let that contact fall to the wayside, at least for now (maybe that will change the next time you run into them). It is true that you can be too narrow-minded in your networking, only keeping the business cards of potential customers. But it is also true that you can be too unrestricted in your networking, keeping the cards of every single person you meet ‘just in case’.  When you do that, you will end up diluting your interest for networking in general, because you feel obligated to follow-up with contacts you have no real interest in.

What are common networking mistakes?

1) Talking too much and too early about yourself instead of asking questions and listening to the other person.

2) Not following up regularly with the people you want to build relationships with. There’s a statistic in sales that 80% of sales happen from the 5th to the 12th contact with someone. The same basic principle applies to building relationships in networking.

3) Not networking until you need it. Networking is the LONG game. It takes time and repeated contact to build a relationship usually. Sure, there are occasional times you will get instant gratification from a networking contact (someone wants to do business with you right after you met them) but those instances are the outliers. Start building your network when you DON’T need it and it will be there for you when you do.

What is the biggest difference between small businesses and startups?

Well, the best definition I’ve ever seen is from author Steve Blank, who explains that a startup is not merely a smaller version of a larger company. It is a temporary organization in search of a business model. In other words, a startup ‘isn’t quite sure what it will be when it grows up’. Startups are often creating new markets, trying to solve problems others have not tackled yet, or finding an innovative way to solve an old problem. So startups are always operating on a certain set of ASSUMPTIONS about who their customers are, what their problems are and what kind of solutions they are looking for. The startup, in it’s early days, is testing their assumptions and seeing how the market reacts. In the end they may find that the customer they are really servicing and the exact problem they are addressing are a few (or many) degrees away from where they started, and so they adjust course and change their business model to fit that. Or they could find that they were completely wrong about the problem they were solving and might shut down.

On the other hand, a small business is starting a company of which there is already a clear market, clear customers, a clear problem and lots of competition. There are FAR fewer unknowns in a small business. Their main issue is just how well they execute the processes and methods that have already been proven out hundreds or thousands of times by other companies.

How has networking changed for millennials?

Well I can’t speak from the millennial perspective, because I’m not one. But the main difference I see now from a decade or so ago is that there are so many more ways to communicate. Used to be you could meet someone in person, call on the phone, or email and that was it. Now if you reach out to a networking contact you can call, text, IM, email, Skype, connect on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn or a host of other applications. For the most part, this a great advantage over what previous generations had. Not only because of convenience and being able to find the right communication medium your contact likes to use, but also because anyone has a decent chance these days of connecting directly with celebrities or business thought leaders if you do it right. And then there’s how easy international communication is. You no longer have to have a lot of frequent flyer miles in order to have an international network. It’s an amazing time to be networking.

What is the problem LincSphere is trying to solve?

There are two problems, actually. The first is that most people are not organized at all with their networking relationships. They collect a bunch of business cards at events and those cards sit in a pile somewhere on their desk or in a drawer, not doing anyone very much good. There has never been a complete business networking CRM-like tool for easily coordinating all of the actions a person does or should do when building networking relationships, and so we wanted to provide that.

The second issue is actually the more important one. It is that most networkers treat networking as a kind of a self-interested prospecting game. Kind of like cold-calling in person. When done like that it’s kind of like hunting or fishing where the person is only looking for the opportunities immediately available. But the best networkers out there – the power connectors – approach networking more like farming. They are planting seeds, caring for the growth of those relationships and playing the long game. They know that the watchword of all networking is “generosity”. They help their connections without any expectation of a ‘quid pro-quo’ or tit-for-tat. They view it more like ‘karma’ in that they give help freely and just figure it will come back to them somehow. And LincSphere was specifically designed in all its features to promote that generosity mindset in our users.

When is the launch date?

Well as far as the iPhone goes, we ARE launched. The app has been out since summer 2016. We are working on building a web interface now and we’re also working to bring on investors so we can launch the Android version and do a lot more.

Jie writes about influencers and startups in various industries. She is a designer turned techie, and when she is not writing, you can find her in her workshop working on her next big project.

Business

How To Journal As An Entrepreneur

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I’ve been journaling around 3-4x a week for the past year or so now. Basically, I focus on asking myself 3 questions every morning.

The first question I write down is: What good will I do for the world today? ( I learned that Ben Franklin used to write this question down every morning, so I took a page out of his book). The purpose of this question is to set the priority for the day. For me, it helps me understand that focusing on how you help others is what matters the most. Typically, my answers include:

–         Be kind

–         Make others smile around you

–         Be empathetic- look beyond people’s actions

–         Help someone!

The second question I ask myself is- what three things am I grateful for today? Usually the answers include my health, care for the people around me, and of course, hearing the birds! (favorite part of my day!) Again, the theme here is perspective- focusing on the basic essentials puts you in the right state of mind to start your day. Being grateful is not innate in everyone, and it takes practice and focus to make this type of thinking instinctive.

The last section I title is called Reflections. This section is a little more open ended. Typically, the topics include:

1.      Lessons I’ve learned from the day before. Usually this involves feedback I got in a conversation, an area where I think I made a mistake, or just an interesting observation that sticks with me.

2.      Giving advice to myself- I try to take a step back, and imagine if I was an observer giving me advice, what I would I tell him? Key phrases usually include “Stay hungry, stay humble”, “Act in a way that you’ll be proud of in five years”, and of course “Have fun!”. I also remind myself to try to be as strategic as possible, and to make sure that each action I take is bringing about the greatest return. I’ve found this also helps because by giving yourself advice in the morning, you no longer have any desire to give other people advice, unless you are asked.  I’ve found that giving people unsolicited advice is something people do not appreciate or like.

3.      Write down any stresses, or worries- then write down motivational lines, or actionable steps to get through it.

That’s it folks- takes about 10-15min, but I’ve noticed it builds my subconscious mind to instinctively be nicer, more positive, and more self-aware. For my company, it’s led to dealing with conflict in a more constructive way, accepting and pivoting faster on things I cannot change, and being a more empathetic leader. I highly recommended business professionals add this to their daily habits!

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Business

How You Know A Co-Working Space Is For You

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co-working space

Working at home is one of the best reasons to become a freelancer. However, there are people who work better when they need to get up and get dressed or when they are surrounded by co-workers. A group of people doing different jobs but working together in the same space is called co-working. Here are some ways to determine whether it’s time to look for a co-working space.  

You’re Not Getting Work Done

Working from home is great but only if you get work done. This is perhaps the obvious sign that you need to find a co-working space. If you’re snacking every 15 minutes or you spend lots of time on social media instead of getting work done, you seriously need to consider a co-working space.

You Want Human Interaction

Humans are naturally social beings. Even if you hate some of your old co-workers, there is something about being about other people that can help you work hard throughout the day. You might not like some of your co-workers but sometimes it’s nice to have somebody to complain to or chat with every day. If you find that you’re missing water cooler chats or if chat messaging is not enough, perhaps it’s time to look for a co-working space.

Your House Is Distracting

Your house has a bed, a TV, a fridge full of food and maybe your kids. All of these can be distracting especially if your kids need attention or if there’s noisy construction nearby or when a telemarketer calls. Distractions also keep you from focusing on work and getting it done in a timely manner.

You Need To Meet Clients

Yes you house is cozy and warm, but is it really an ideal place to meet clients? What if your home is a studio apartment? Is there enough space for all of them to discuss matters comfortably? Co-working spaces have common areas like conference room where meetings can take place in a more professional atmosphere.

You Need Space

There are just some types of work where you need a big space. You might need lots of light, big windows or a big table or space for bulky equipment. Not all co-working spaces are big, but there might be something that can accommodate your need for bigger space.

You Need To Get Out Of Your PJs

If you haven’t changed out of your pajamas for a couple of days, perhaps you need to look for a co-working space. Changing into something more professional could help you focus and become more productive.

You Need A Central Location

Your house could be out in the suburbs or somewhere not accessible to public transportation which can create logistics problem not only if you’re meeting clients in their offices but for supplies deliveries too. A central location – which some co-working places have – is not only convenient to clients but for other matters too.

You Need To Grow Your Business

A home business is fine if you only have 1 or 2 employees. But what happens when you need to scale up and need more space? A co-working space can give you the flexibility to scale up or down depending on your needs. Depending on the co-working space, it can be for a small 1-man team or a 10-person team with access to a conference room.

Networking

When you’re in a co-working space, you are surrounded with other goal-oriented people. This is a good opportunity to network with them, learn their business or share thoughts. Having access to people in different industries can open new doors of opportunities.

You Need Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is important but it can be hard to achieve for some people when you work from home. Chores, children and distractions make it hard to focus on work so it creates an imbalance by making it hard for you to work. When you’re in a co-working space, you can forget about your house for a while to focus work. However, you still have the freedom to attend to your child’s PTA, go to the gym or pick up your dry cleaning.

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Business

Things Successful Entrepreneurs Never Say

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successful entrepreneurs

Mindset is what separates successful entrepreneurs from the rest of the pack. While many people complain and let their negative thoughts get to them, successful entrepreneurs are steadfast in their thoughts and words. If you’re constantly thinking negative thoughts and saying negative things, it’s time to stop because you will never hear successful entrepreneurs say the following:

Because I Said So

Everybody knows you’re the boss but saying “Because I said so.” shows unnecessary bossiness. Not only is it unnecessary, it is also rude to speak to an employee this way. This statement can humiliate and disrespect an employee because they feel that their ideas are worthless or is not valued. Good leaders know that employees are not puppets with strings to pull. Good leaders know how to give input in a more pleasing way.

I’m Not Good Enough

Everybody experiences self-doubt every once in a while. However, successful entrepreneurs know when to detach themselves from this feeling. Dwelling on this kind of feeling can have a negative effect on your self-esteem and you’re going to need to stay positive especially when you’re running a business.

I’ll Try

I’ll try has a very negative connotation. For recipients of this reply, it sounds like a dismissal or an admission of defeat. Successful entrepreneurs on the other hand get things done.

I don’t have time

Successful entrepreneurs know how to manage time especially if it is about business. They make time for things because they know that it is important to the success of their business.

X Does This Better Than You

If you want to demotivate your employee say these words. However, if you want to keep them motivated and productive, do not compare them to other employees. If you want to give feedback, give it in a constructive manner so that employees gain insight and perspective without losing self-respect.

I Don’t Care

This is another demotivating phrase that can ruin your working relationship with your team. This phrase also breeds mistrust and disbelief. A great leader always, cares, always has ideas and opinions. Successful entrepreneurs praise their employees and know how to give constructive criticism.

We Don’t Need New Ideas

You will never hear successful entrepreneurs say this because they know that companies constantly need new ideas to stay competitive. They know that new ideas can help expand their business, retain their competitive edge or venture into a totally new market.

Don’t Show Up With Bad News

This phrase is demotivating to employees because it leads them to hide issues from their employees which in turn could be dangerous for the company. Good leaders know that receiving bad news from employees is normal because there is no such thing as a perfect business. Instead of this phrase, say “I want to hear good news today”.

That’s Not Fair

Business has nothing to do with fairness. Business is about being prepared and knowing to anticipate developments and keeping up with the competition.

It’s Too Hard

Nobody said going to business is easy. Successful entrepreneurs know it’s hard. However, they don’t see it that way because they see the hardships as a challenge.

I Did It On My Own

Successful entrepreneurs know that they need the support of their employees to become successful. They also know that they are only as good as their employees.

I Don’t Have Time For A Break

Successful entrepreneurs know when it’s time to take a break. They know timeouts are important in order to stay productive. They also know that their employees need periodic breaks and encourage them to do so.

It’s Impossible

Saying something is impossible is like saying that they don’t trust their employees. This phrase is another demotivator because trusting employees helps boost their self-confidence and can help motivate them to try harder.

It’s Too Early/Late

It’s never too early or too late to attend a business meeting or networking opportunity. True entrepreneurs never fail to seize an opportunity especially if it is related to the business.

I Never Read Books

According to Tom Corley of Rich Habits, rich people read more books than other people. What’s more, rich people rich people tell their kids to read 2 or more non-fiction books per month compared to the rest. 63% of rich people also listen to audio books on the way to work compared to 5% of the rest.

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