Businessman TOday
NETWORKER – Witold Antosiewicz, Grzegorz Turniak NETWORKER – Witold Antosiewicz, Grzegorz Turniak
The strength of a mutual recommendation lies mostly in the synergy gained by both business partners. Each of them introduces some positive qualities, skills... NETWORKER – Witold Antosiewicz, Grzegorz Turniak

The strength of a mutual recommendation lies mostly in the synergy gained by both business partners. Each of them introduces some positive qualities, skills or know-how to the networking group. If those positive things land on fertile soil, they may bear incredible fruits.

Grzegorz Turniak

How do you learn networking?
Primarily, be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone else, discover your talents and potential. Treat mistakes as an opportunity to learn. Use feedback. If you can do it, you’ll achieve a higher level of professionalism.
Why is networking important for leaders?
Networking is important on every level of management. Leaders and company owners have the time to participate in those kinds of events and conferences. Managers are oftentimes too busy building their teams, recruiting, dealing with salespersons etc. To expand a business you need to have a broad, reliable network of contacts. A leader is a person who can engage in politics and effectively monitor the market to feel its pulse.

How to deal with objections from your workers, saying “I didn’t sign up to be a salesman”?
Luckily, networking is not sales, but connecting to other people, sharing knowledge and experience. Gathering information from the market helps our company achieve success, which in turn is the success of the specialist working at our company.

In your opinion, what is the perfect skill set for an entrepreneur?
Attitude is more important than skills. Skills you can learn, an attitude is something you have – or don’t. You need to be ready to take risks, grow as a person and pay the price for all of it. When developing a business, you need to be open and be able to communicate with others, as you can’t do it alone. You need to have co-workers with skills that you lack. In short, you need to create a team that will complement you.

What should you do to become a great networker?
For most people it takes several years. Above all, you need to decide that you want to be really good at it and start with the right, pro-active attitude. It’s worth reading some books and articles, some people prefer to learn networking in a group, others seek help from a coach or a mentor. Of course, practise makes perfect – you need to establish your goals and frequent networking events at least 2-3 times a month, at least at first. Meet up with friends and ask them to introduce you to their friends. Subsequently, you can take the initiative and go at it alone. It’s helpful to create an interesting autopresentation and a unique identifier. For networking to be successful, you need to do a follow-up – send mails and call when there’s an excuse to talk.

Can networking be beneficial to my company?
Each company gathers outside information about itself, its competition and preferred clients. Most companies look for clients, providers and partners within the business. A network of contacts will make it easier to verify their credibility, and save time and money.

If we are to believe statistics, we are dealing with – and it’s not a situation unique to Poland – a market where the vast majority of micro and small businesses employ a handful of people at the most. Is it worth investing in a network of contacts if you are running such a small-scale, oftentimes family business?
What I’ve experienced over a 30-year long professional career can be summed up in a few words: people who love discipline choose a corporate job and hone their skills there. After a few years they become tired of that regime, leave the big company and start their own business. On the other hand, 80% of the companies on the market consist of several or a dozen or so people. Most of them are run by people who never wanted to have a boss. They also don’t have the need to rub shoulders with high society. They just want to earn an honest living, not create a giant organization, so later they have to deal with 200 employees. A small business such as those mentioned has several ways of development. Some methods are more expensive, others cheaper, some are effective and others less so. The former guarantee a fast return on an investment, but you need funds for a promotional campaign and that’s not that easy to come by in a small company. Whereas a development strategy based on recommendations is cheaper and more effective, but requires a lot of time. On average, it takes from 3 to 5 years to go from making a conscious decision to create an organizational culture and a strategy of acquiring clients through recommendations, by participating in meetings, where you meet new people and learn about new tools, to mastering a strategy that yields a profit. You can learn those methods alone or in a team, but as it is recommendations we’re after, it’s good to have your own group, own laboratory that will keep abreast of new solutions.

 Is networking for everyone?
Networking is the right choice of entrepreneurs, regardless of their profession or industry, provided that they have the right attitude. It’s important to know how to talk to people, be open to their needs. The strength of a mutual recommendation lies mostly in the synergy gained by both business partners. Each of them introduces some positive qualities, skills or know-how to the networking group. If those positive things land on fertile soil, they may bear incredible fruits. People who profess networking maintain they’re not egoists and want to help others. Many agree that the basis of networking’s effectiveness lies in creating selfless bonds based on trust. The truth is a bit different. Networkers help others, but they mostly ensure their own success. It’s also interesting that oftentimes the recommendations don’t pertain to business matters. For example, members of BNI advise each other on private matters – they recommend physicians, babysitters, schools, ways of running a business etc.

Another advantage of being a part of a networking organisation is that its members know how to recommend effectively. It seems not everybody can use this tool properly. First and foremost: you need to communicate your needs to others. Generally, we owe only 20% of recommendations to our business partners and clients, who are so pleased with our products and services that they spontaneously recommend us to others. Another 20% of our business partners will never give us a positive recommendation. Whereas 60% will give us good references – we only need to ask for them. It is wise to ask yourself: which of your partners can and are willing to do it? Who should we ask?

What if a person or a company we recommend, fails? Can this ruin our reputation?
Only someone who does nothing won’t make mistakes, while a good networker learns on his mistakes. Before he trusts and recommends someone, he will check the product or service for himself. He doesn’t go with the flow. Firstly, he builds his public image and credibility, and only then does he start to make money on recommendations. It’s important to very clearly contract the recommendation process, monitor it and share feedback.

Reportedly, it is more important for someone to have our business card than for us to have theirs. Do you agree with this statement?
Yes. Who we know and who we can call is important, but it is also important that others know our proficiencies. Is a person who has our business card likely to recommend us, create new opportunities for us and help develop our business?

What’s your recipe for success?
That’s a difficult question. You need to have dreams, goals, constantly updated strategies and a awareness of your own values and talents. It’s good to have friends, co-workers, mentors and coaches. To treat failures as painful, but necessary lessons on the road to success. You need to respect people and work with those who share your value system and at the same time complement your weaknesses.

Witold Antosiewicz

What made you write “A practical guide to networking. Create a network of permanent business contacts”?
I co-wrote the book with Grzegorz Turniak. For years we’ve both been fascinated with networking. We see this type of business promotion as effective, as it almost always leads to establishing cooperation. Networking is a constant subject of discussion among business people. There are those among them that have never heard about networking and would like to discover its potential. Most of them have already been using some of its tools and would like to explore the topic further, e.g. learn how to turn contacts into contracts. It is those people, hungry for knowledge and eager to implement networking in their own companies, that inspired us to write this guide.

Do you have practical experience or is your book strictly theoretical?
Yes, I do. Otherwise I wouldn’t dare to write a book on the subject. I’m a practitioner, not a theoretician. In my professional work I focus on only doing business with people recommended to me, and so I’ve learned what a wonderful way of acquiring commissions it is. “Wonderful”, because instead of making a few dozen phone calls a day to strangers I get the opportunity to meet with people I know and like. Later I help them – and the people they recommend – with various endeavours. And usually, they repay me in kind – helping me develop my business by submitting commissions or recommending me further.

Do you have to have a special capacity or connections to become a successful networker? Who can become one?
The fewer connections one has, the better for him. At the beginning it’s better to establish the goals we want to achieve through networking. Then, browse through our database of contacts before the real networking meetings begin and establish which of the people already on our list could help us achieve those goals.

Could we venture a statement that networking allows to minimize the deficiencies of knowledge?
It gives you explicit knowledge. The one a person might gain browsing through the Internet or asking Google. But what is more important, it gives you tacit knowledge. The one that we can’t googled. Criteria, rules, relations, instinct reaction mechanisms – you won’t find those on the web. This knowledge you can only gain by calling your buddy or your buddy’s buddy.

Why are recommendations so important for networking?
They allow you to save time and money. A business based on recommendations is the most effective way of turning contacts into money. Market analysis points out that recommendation-based businesses are more effective than traditional ones by 15 to 80%. The difference depends on the way a person is recommending us. We gain 15% efficiency, if a person recommending us only makes a phone call. We gain 80% , if the recommending person takes us into a meeting with an acquaintance  in need of our services.

In your opinion, is networking an alternative to advertisement?
That depends on the type of business you are running and your strategy of development. Networking is not suitable if you want to reach a mass-market client. On the other hand, it’s ideal if your company serves a relatively low number of clients, for example, from a particular industry. When the “quality” of the client is more important than the quantity. In that case a recommendation is an incomparably more effective way of reaching out to a selected client, than a flier or another advertising message. Besides, recommended clients are safer, stay with us longer and acquiring them costs us considerably less.

What would your advice be for people who would want to do more business through recommendations?
Most importantly, you need to change your attitude from taking to giving. Ivan Misner, a networking guru from the USA, describes taking-oriented people as hunters – they only care about “hunting” the client and exploiting that first and probably last transaction to the fullest extent. A client acquired in this way probably won’t recommend us. If you want to run a business through recommendations you need to be like a garner or, like Misner puts it, a „farmer”. First you work the land, then you sow and tend to it, and after some time has passed, you reap the harvest. You need to talk to people, discover their needs and help them meet them. We gladly return the favour to people who helped develop our company. So, if you want to run a business based on recommendations – become a gardener.

Why is building lasting business relations worth it?
Reliable and lasting relations with clients, as well as with suppliers, might help support your company in times of economic strife. Even if you are dealing with corporations, business is done by people. If you are known as trustworthy and dependable, who are they going to turn to when they need a tried business partner, if not to you? Time and effort put into creating good relations is always well spent.

Business is people?
Yes. It’s important for them to be the right people. You are what you know and who knows you, more than who you know yourself. In other words, modern business is mainly about the right connections. It’s not about nepotism, but we are willing to do considerably more for the people we know than for strangers: we’ll buy something from them, we’ll recommend them, we’ll introduce them to our contacts. We’ll do it, because we trust people we know. We’ll also do it, because we like them.

Krzysztof Sadecki