Networking > Cliques
I believe business is not meant to be a lonely place. I imagine, there are some that would argue that the only way to the top is to climb that ladder by your lonesome or with a tiny circle those you "trust", but honestly, I'm not buying it anymore.
Prior to having my own business, I worked for a small variety of small business owners...and before that, I played around in the corporate world (so totally not seriously because my free spirit was really on a freedom kick right after high school). But as I started to discover that the wedding & event world was my happy place, I realized there was community there. I know all industries are far from the same, but I know I'm not the only one that feels like this, and I KNOW that whole clique thing is absolute trash. It took me a few years to truly release myself from the idea that needed to try so hard to fit into a clique to be successful, but once I did--YOU GUYS: hello liberation.
What I learned was this: your work ethic, your integrity, your unique contribution to society - those are the things that create success.
Similar to that feeling in high school (almost all of us know it, unfortunately), at first separating myself from the false sense of security these little groups tend to provide, was a little unnerving.. . and I really thought I'd be going it alone (TBH, I still struggle with this).
BUT. Guess what happens when you stop telling people that they can't sit with you, and you start telling people they can sit with you....? You start realizing there's so many people that want to sit with you! Your table fills right up with people that are interested in genuine biz connections!
Whatever the situation, we find ourselves feeling alone in business often. Sometimes it's because of a conscious decision, other times it's because of a situation beyond our control-like an out of state move or job change etc. Depending on your personality type, suddenly finding yourself in a new environment like that, with a new purpose - is often when you least feel like putting yourself out there and meeting new people. But that's when you need to do it.
There's countless times when I've been so not into networking but I show up to that meeting or conference or party anyway. And I promise, every single time has been so uplifting - especially when you lose the clique attitude and you show up with an open mind and a genuine interest in other people. Even if you personally have all the ingredients for success, business is just so much more fulfilling when you're working with like minded people that you interact with on a regular basis.
This weekend, I have an event that I've been working on for awhile. When the client first booked, I barely knew any one in my local industry because I had recently moved to California. By the time the client booked, I had started researching the different industry communities-basically whatever I could find on Twitter, and I just started to show up to things. I decided to join SF NACE and when it was time to book vendors, I went almost solely off the chapter directory. I had met a few of them a few times and knew I could trust in the commitment to the association to have vendors committed to doing a great job. To me, this is exactly the reason associations, local chambers etc, are SO valuable. Because they are't just free groups, the businesses & vendors that participate are in general, truly committed to their businesses. It's also the reason attending networking events becomes so important if you're truly committed to your business.
The communities within our industry are so great, they're filled with other entrepreneurs that want to uphold with integrity of the local market and everyone works hard to collaborate, invest in themselves, educate their staff and keep business moving forward. This, you just won't really benefit from if you're a one man wolf pack - it's not really available outside of being part of a community.
Since becoming a member of an association (I wish I could be a part of all of them!), I have actively tried to connect with every person I meet, and not only within the association-literally every person I meet. It's been amazing to shift my perspective away from the whole clique thing and become open to the possibilities of true networking and community.
Preparing for my event this weekend has me in a really grateful place as things have come full circle and I'm the President of SF NACE now. Even though everyday as an entrepreneur is a challenge, I can't even tell you how much easier it is to know I'm not going it alone. Whatever the industry, I truly think we all have the opportunity to have that satisfaction and support if we just step outside the "comfort zone" of going it alone.