Expanding your circle of influence

It's a mystery why more PHC contractors are not involved with leads clubs, service clubs, alumni groups and the chamber of commerce. At a minimum, every company owner should be involved with three local networking or volunteer groups.

If you lived in Lewisville, Texas, a Dallas suburb of 100,000 people, and I could show you how an hour a week could help you get to know the mayor, police chief, county commissioner, the presidents of four local banks, a candidate for U.S. Senate, the owner of the town's leading property management company, one of the area's top developers, general managers from two auto dealerships and a host of other business and community leaders would you invest an hour?

While it seems like a no-brainer, there isn't a single PHC contractor in the Lewisville Noon Rotary Club. It's not even like the meetings take a full hour. The club meets over lunch.

A member of the club who knows how to network is Mike McCaleb of Cookie Advantage. Mike is a member of nine different networking organizations and is preparing to start a tenth. These range from leads clubs to service clubs to chambers of commerce.

Mike's not just a member, he's involved. He attends all meetings. And why not? The meetings are during breakfast or lunch. "I'm going to eat anyway," he explained.

"Do the math," said Mike, when explaining the benefits to his business. "I'm connecting 400 people every week. If each of them knows an average of 200 people, that's 80,000 people I can reach with first-hand information about my business."

Mike's goal in networking is to explain his business well enough to people for them to explain it to others when the opportunity arises. His business is inexpensively mailing cookies to customers with a thank you note and survey card. It's a proven customer retention method, and he sees his job as making it as easy as possible for time-pressed business owners to retain customers.

"We do all the work on your behalf," Mike tells people, "and you get all the credit."

It's simpler for a plumber. No one needs to explain what a plumbing business does (though it’s not a bad idea to explain you do more than fix broken pipes and clear clogged drains).

If someone needs a good plumber, he or she might call Larry Smith at Bank of the West because Larry is well connected. Larry is a "center of influence," the type of person others ask for referrals. Guys like Larry have broad "circles of influence," people who know and trust him. If the only plumber Larry knows — or the plumber he knows best — is the guy in his service club, who gets recommended?

Sales legend Tom Hopkins believed strongly in networking and joining as many networking clubs as possible during his real estate career. "People will only do business with people that they like and trust," said Hopkins.

Networking is the blocking and tackling of business. It's fundamental. Yet, whenever I teach a seminar to a group of contractors and ask for members of a service or civic club to raise their hands, it's less than 5%. It's a mystery why more PHC contractors are not involved with leads clubs, service clubs, alumni groups and the chamber of commerce. At a minimum, every company owner should be involved with three local networking or volunteer groups.

There are more opportunities to network today than ever before. Social media websites, like Facebook, enable you to network from your computer.

Monrovia's Kevin Shaw uses Facebook as well as any contractor. On the Plumbers Roundtable, www.ServiceRoundtable.com, Shaw recently claimed, "Facebook has been the best thing we have done to raise awareness of our company in our market."

With social media, you're building relationships just like you would in a chamber of commerce meeting. You're simply doing it digitally and more efficiently.

Look at the math of networking. If you join a service club, leads group and volunteer organization and expand your direct circle of influence by 120 people, and each of those people knows 200 other people, you are indirectly reaching 24,000 potential customers! Add 200 more through social media who average 200 connections each and you add another 80,000 people to your network.

If you’re going to eat breakfast and lunch anyway, why not build your business at the same time? If you're on the computer at all during the day, why not spend an extra five to ten minutes to build your business through social media? It's never been easier to expand your circle of influence.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, a business alliance of PHC contractors dedicated to helping each other take their businesses to the next level. Learn more about the Service Roundtable at www.ServiceRoundtable.com. Read more from Matt at www.ComancheMarketing.com. Become his Facebook friend at Facebook.com/MattMichelPage, follow him on Twitter at @ComancheMktg, e-mail him at [email protected], or call him toll free at 877.262.3341.