Paul J.R. Renaud is a Certified Executive Coach (ICF), specializing in peak performance, Brain-Science & Marketing. Paul’s coaching protocols apply to the C-suite, managers and entrepreneurs. With over 30 years experience, he has coached startups and multinationals such as Google, Coca-Cola, UPS, BitDefender, Vodafone, Orange, GE Capital, Toyota, IDC research, Bell Canada, Endava and eMAG while having lived in Asia, South America, North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. BR talked with him about networking and its importance in the everyday business life.
How would you characterize your TEDx Bucharest experience?
TEDx was thrilling and scary all at the same time because I’m a big fan of TED talks. It’s a great medium where you have really interesting, global thought leaders sharing their story – it’s very powerful. I was excited when I was asked to speak. I knew one thing for sure…I needed to practice so that little voice in my head would not panic at the ‘moment of truth’. Instead the little voice said ”Paul…Relax because you know you’ve practiced it so much you can recite it in your sleep’. I did exactly that. After 12 versions of the speech, 3 rehearsals, 20 practice sessions, getting Vince Stevenson, the Fear Dr. as speech Coach and countless friends & family to help, TEDx Bucharest was accomplished! A great, top notch event and I’m privileged to have been part of it.
How can networking be like a good therapy? Can you please detail that?
Networking has different connotations to different people. Some say networking was responsible for their current success and is due to proactively developing their strategies and activities. Others claim networking put them at the right place at the right time.
Networking is like good therapy because you quite simply meet new people, you discover things, you learn something new and it’s your chance to give back knowledge and insights.
I tell people when you are invited to a networking event, try to be cool and try to be ‘Zen’. People sometimes approach networking as a task or an obligation. On top of that they set unrealistic expectations such as: “I have to meet ‘x’ new leads, ‘y’ new clients, a new friend and a new partner. Yes, that can happen but you have to let it happen…’let it go’. The harder you try to ‘force’ networking the less you will succeed.
With a different approach, you will get results. It’s about helping others and being helped in return.This is why I call it good therapy.
Networking is essential in the prosperity of any business, but especially an entrepreneurial one. But how can a shy person come out of his shell and just have the power and courage to network?
We’re all a little shy in some way or another. The ideas below will apply to anyone.
First rule: Make a commitment. Like losing weight, to stop smoking or running a half marathon, you need to commit. Perhaps you have friends that are part of a business association – ask them to bring you at the next event. It’s always more fun to go with a friend to a new place.
Second, try different venues. A chamber of commerce and its members may not be a place that resonates with you. Perhaps you prefer to help young entrepreneurs or you want to offer your services to a worthwhile charity. Perhaps your dancing classes have people you really like. The idea is to find an organization that meets say, monthly and where you feel it’s a fun place to be. Then in this case it won’t feel like an obligation since you enjoy the crowd and you like the buzz.
Third, when you do meet people at an event, try to ‘establish rapport’. The idea is to get to know a person a bit more and a good way to do this is to take an active interest in what they do. Listen to what they are saying, ask questions and express a genuine interest. Active listening is exactly what the term says, it shows them you were really tuned-in.
For many entrepreneurs, networking is something you initiate in the first three weeks of January and then stop – my advice is to practice networking as a consistent, sustainable activity otherwise your network soon starts to drift away!
We have to stay open and optimistic when it comes to networking, no matter how overwhelming it may seem at the outset. The more you attend and practice, the better you get.
Remember too that when you meet new people, you learn.
In the end, it’s your attitude that makes the difference, regardless if you are just starting to understand what networking is all about, or you feel that you are pretty comfortable with the concept.
You are not born with attitude in my opinion – you develop the right frame of mind, a sense of optimism and dedication and the end result is Attitude. This helps you with Networking.
Attitude means never having done something but trying – regardless of the result.
Attitude means helping someone without the need of recognition or praise.
Attitude means coming up with solutions to a problem as opposed to just bringing up problems.
Attitude means never, never quitting.
Can networking be efficient for business everywhere or are there some areas or places better than others?
The reason you network is because it gets you connected and helps you identify and recognize who can help you now, in a week, a month, a year or way down the line. That might not cross your mind when you make a new contact, but you may find they can help in more ways than you expect.
When you attend events, there are breaks during a conference where people are invited to network but you don’t need to engage in networking only in these moments. Networking is a state of mind and you should always reach out to people regardless of the context. Keep an open mind when networking and realize that although you’ll not always get what you want, you’re becoming a catalyst to your network. This applies to structured networking events and day-to-day conversations.
Where do you see Romania on the networking international “map”? How far behind are we and why?
As a foreigner and avid Marketer I had noticed an interesting insight in Romania since networking took on a whole new approach. I’ll always remember the look on the faces of my staff when I first suggested they network with other Romanian business people. Their reaction was ‘why would I help this person?’ I was stunned. After shaking my head a few times I sought to understand the cultural insights behind this feeling.
However my fellow Romanians get it. They understand that Networking is important and they are embracing this concept. Many see it as a first step in building a strong, sustainable relationship. They recognize that Networking is an experiential process that can be used irrespective of whether you’d like to develop your customer base, increase your sales, receive honest advice or simply meet new people.
Like for most people that that are trying something new, there can be a few mistakes that come along the way. They are relatively simply to fix.
How do we change that?
There are a couple of things that we should consider if we want to understand the benefits of networking and to become a master of networking and use this process to our advantage.
First, and probably the most important is to address networking with the Law of Abundance.
The Law of Abundance is fundamental in networking because if you understand this law, believe in it, and start sharing your network, you will receive in ’droves’. It goes something like this: The world has tremendous abundance. The world is abundant with opportunity, abundant with clients, abundant with ideas and abundant with good fortune.
Perhaps before reading this interview you were reluctant to share names of contacts or colleagues with others. Perhaps your view is that ‘your contacts will remain your contacts – only’!
Networking in line with the law of abundance mindset has proven time and time again that the more you share with people, the more you get in return.
Ultimately people that behave ‘Small’ with their network, remain small – ‘Great’ people become greater. Over time, your peers and new contacts will recognize that you give without asking when it comes to networking and you’re becoming the go-to guy in the process. That’s powerful.
Second, another suggestion is to quite simply ask someone for an insight, help, a suggestion or ultimately a contact. In order to get to that point however, ‘you gotta ask!’
This is where it begins and ends. You gotta ask what you can do for them, before asking in return.
Third, don’t forget to ‘establish rapport’ when you meet people at an event as discussed earlier.
Lastly, don’t fling your business cards within seconds of meeting someone. I call people that do this Ninja Networkers – they (almost) throw their business card at me like a Ninja fighter that throws a Ninja star at their opponents. Take the time to speak to me for at least 5-7 minutes then slowly take out your business card holder and present me your business card. When someone acts like a Ninja Networker with me, I put the business card in the garbage once I get home. Why? They never cared to take an interest in who I am or what I do…why should I keep their card?
If you equate networking to something that is boring, manipulative, self-serving, too difficult and fake, that is what you will end up with. People who like to self-admit that they are not good at networking have already created their own constraints, their own limits. In fact, the reverse is true. Anybody can be an effective networker if you follow the right path and embrace the right attitude. Your attitude will dictate how effective you become as a networker.