7 Golden Rules of Successful Networking on the West Coast

Patrick A. Howell  |

I’m trying to remember my first experiences with networking. Perhaps it was watching my mother, who is just a great woman (also a tenured professor and teacher’s union official), always warmly, authentically greet and reach out to people with heart on the most prosaic of interactions. Or my father, whose charismatic style of lecturing held him in good stead with an ex-classmate from his UCLA Ph.D. days and won him a spot as one of the founders of the Alternative to Western Civilization program at Stanford University.

I think, most substantively, I am influenced by my grandfather, Cecil Reynolds, an immigrant from Costa Rica who immigrated to Panama City, Panama, with less than a sixth-grade education in 1926 and exemplified both wiles as well as je ne sais quoi working his way up from bartender in the beer garden to manager of a Curundu Post Restaurant Shop in the Canal Zone, entertaining American service men. To me, his story represents the best of my mother’s warmth and father’s shrewdness. Also, he was very successful in business in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, financing all three of his kids' college educations in the US, a home, retirement for both my grandmother and himself and international travel to visit children and grandchildren. It also represents an inherent paradox of successful networkers. While the purpose of one’s engagement with another is business, the approach is social. It is a nuanced balancing act.

These principles of networking are crystalized and exemplified by Earl G. Graves. Earl Graves is founder and was publisher of Black Enterprise magazine. When the magazine was founded in 1970, the concept of "black business" was essentially an oxymoron in American culture—Graves and Black Enterprise rose to the top of their industry by performing common practices exceptionally well.

I read his book, How to Succeed in Business without Being White, in the 1990s when I was working for RR Donnelley at 75 Park Place, less than a mile from Wall Street and a couple blocks from the old World Trade Center. For me, one of the key chapters was Chapter 4, entitled “No-Nonsense Networking” with subheadings as, “Build Relationships Before you Tap the Network” and “Do not strive to be impressive; instead try to leave a positive impression” or, “Networking the Big Deal.".

It is little wonder, as I looked back on the book I had purchased during the first technology boom nearly 20 years later, to find that I have adopted many of the timeless precepts as my own and, while I have not mastered the art form of networking, I have managed to make a very good living from it with a business whose central business is networking at the higher levels and begun at the bottom of the Great Recession, traveling the country and having the opportunity to work with amazing people that make up our capital markets. I have dubbed this work our West Coast Wall Street Movement. This movement, which takes on added significance with the Art of the Deal co-author, president Donald J. Trump. I remember reading that book when I was 17 years old and our family was relocating from Sacramento California to Guadalajara, Mexico. Perhaps, we now live in the United States of Capitalism?

Herein some of my Golden Rules, while stated seemingly prosaic and laden with common sense, are the derivative of spiritual maturation and knowing oneself:

Build Relationships

Patrick Howell with Ted Roth, CEO of Roth Capital at American Prosperity and Jobs at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach in 2012. Dan Donahue, Esq. of Greenberg Traurig and investor Grant Bettingen in the background.

The transactional way of doing business is always thinking about that almighty dollar; it lasts as long as it takes to buy a McDonald's (MCD) hamburger or Starbuck’s (SBUX) coffee. Most business interactions are about the transaction but you cannot lead with it. As antithetical as it might seem to Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good," most networking is about sharing. Or, as Earl Graves observed, “networking is a social first, business second activity.”

I am looking forward to working with the folks in Milan, Italy with the Council General’s, American Chamber of Commerce office and La Teatro alla Scala to take this art form further with one of it’s masters Kandis Davis, renowned cellist and social entrepreneur. This relationship with “Lady Kandis Davis” as like to call her was developed and nurtured over two years before it took on it’s current form of international investor conference.

Tell Stories

Learn to tell short engaging stories that are as instructive as they are entertaining. Part of this art form includes bringing energy and being focused one-on-one with your audience and being in the moment. This does not mean tell tall tales, brag, engage in hyperbole, or pretend to be something you are not—it means find an engaging anecdotal personalized manner in which to convey your business point. It means being passionate, present and relentless (sometimes that is patiently listening and at others passionately engaged) in getting your point across to partners and prospective clients. Josh Bois, CEO of Emerging Media partners reminded me of these key notions in the Art of Networking recently. Every conversation with Mr. Josh Bois is peppered with the exploits of one of his several entrepreneurial ventures. I am grateful for his listening and passionate engagement.

Have Fun, Lots of it

Business is adults at play. Organic networking is the business equivalent of shouting, laughing, sharing on the schoolyard at recess. Whether a creative venue is a restaurant (my personal favorite is Havana’s at the Lab in Orange County, California or the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills), recalling your favorite story of the day or using conventions called Yahoo! (YHOO), Google (GOOG) Plus or Twitter (TWTR), be at wonder, be engaged and excited about whom you are talking with and about what you are talking. So have fun—and lots of it—but always keep it professional. Seems to me that Christy Mottola, president of Capital Growth Associates exemplifies this principal, doing business in a manner which is engaging and direct in boardrooms, 1-1 meetings, investor roadshows, and keynoting conferences. In fact, she has made a business of sharing her secrets with CEOs who must present their companies to investors in such a manner that investors engage financially with the company.

Lean in and Listen Intently

This is an art form and, initially, a discipline. As a rule of thumb, if you realize that you have spoken more than you have listened (50%), more than likely you will not have a successful business relationship. The heart of organic networking is learning as much about the other person(s) and their business and vested business interest as you have shared about your business, ideas or own accomplishments and/or challenges. Doctors, psychologists and attorneys are all paid well to listen well. The genius networkers know as much about the gifts of silence and keen listening as projecting their own vested interest.

WIIFT vs. WIIFM

WIIFM—What’s In it for Me—is a common catchphrase in the world of business. But the keen business mind surmises the interest of the other party and suggests several ways to serve those interest. Now, this is not charity—it is understanding that business networking is about always building value or, in this case, WIIFT- What’s in it for Them. And, of course, they must reciprocate or, it might be time to reconsider the relationship business wise.

Say What You Will Do, Then Do It

Without the science and art of follow-up, any business networking is just a lot of hot air. And many folks like to hear themselves talk. I am always very careful about what I promise to do during an interaction because after a promise has made it’s way from my mouth, I am obliged to do it. You would be surprised how much business is created by simply following up on your good word—in the olden days, it was called integrity.

Keepin’ it Real

At its highest levels, Organic Networking is about change. My friend Shannon C. Lamb is consistently recognized as one of the top litigation attorneys in Southern California. She advocates on behalf of individuals, businesses, and boards. She has successfully negotiated and resolved more than 1,000 matters. Large or small, she’s handled everything from thousands of dollars to billions of dollars at stake.

“Personal, business— it is all the same,” offers Shannon. “What’s the difference if your business is an extension of who you are?”

Lamb is a Loyola Law School graduate and a Legacy Seat Holder and member of the Dean’s Leadership Circle through U.C. Irvine’s Merage School of Business. “I have been able to use them to considerable success in my own endeavors," she says. "I want my business interactions to be an extension of myself. This includes developing relationships. I would say, particularly with developing relationships, I want my relationships to exemplify grace—it is a quality that is important to me.”

Shannon is also the proud mama of a sweet and precocious 3-year-old girl, Megan. “I learn so much from her" she says. "I learn from her every day about grace and kindness.” So, “keeping it real” doesn’t mean being brusque or curt, but rather true, confident and content with your own set of values. It mean, being true to oneself.

Organic Networking at the highest levels is about creative faculty and the ability to create opportunity, do good and make money. With new generations—the Millennials and Generation Xers—receiving the baton from arguably one of the most influential and powerful generations in American History, the Babyboomers, our legacy will be defined as much by the mechanics (e.g. technology and social media) as by our willingness to advance the nation from the incredible challenges of our day (i.e. the Great Recession, War on Terrorism, Race Relations).

With all the vitriol that characterizes our political system, there is an opportunity to make the world a better place—do we have the attendant business will to do so? Many of the business women and business men with whom I do business, do. We can change the world with not only the business we do… but HOW we chose to do that business. Many of the defining axioms of the 20th Century had nothing to do with reality. “It’s Business, Not Personal” or “Greed is Good” were absurdist soundbites taken from fictional characters but ended up defining the culture, defining an age. Maybe this time we can get it right. A matter of fact, I know we can.

Perhaps, a more appropriate anecdote would be, “In God We Trust/In Cash We Pay”.

American Prosperity and Jobs at the with Daniel K. Donahue, Esq.; Shareholder at Greenberg Traurig LLP; myself; Chris Cox, White House counsel to President Ronald Reagan, chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission; and Ted Roth, President of Roth Capital.

DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer.

Companies

Symbol Name Price Change % Volume
TWTR Twitter Inc. 33.19 -0.70 -2.07 12,336,565 Trade
GOOG Alphabet Inc. 1,466.71 -19.94 -1.34 1,784,644 Trade
MCD McDonald's Corporation 211.24 -2.18 -1.02 3,106,346 Trade
SBUX Starbucks Corporation 92.03 -1.72 -1.83 7,815,501 Trade
YHOO Yahoo! Inc. n/a n/a n/a 0 Trade

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