The powerful practice of networking

Having moved his law practice to Chicago in 1896, Paul J. Harris missed the friendly relationships he knew growing up in a small Vermont town.

One fall day in 1900, while walking with his friend, Bob Frank, around the Windy City’s North Side, Harris noticed how Frank had made a connection with many of the shopkeepers they passed by. This kind of interaction was not only what he longed for, but he believed it would also appeal to other professionals (men in those days) who, like him, had emigrated from rural America to the big cities.

The question Harris mused to himself over the next few years was: Could such connecting activity be organized among professionals and business people? Today we know the answer to Harris’ question is civic groups. But at the dawn of the 20th century, this innovation had yet to be invented.

Then on February 23, 1905, Paul Harris put his connection question to the test when he and three friends founded the world’s first civic club. They named it Rotary because they planned to rotate weekly meetings between each member’s office. Now an international success story, 33,000 Rotary clubs are still based on Harris’ founding principle of “Service above Self.”

Harris’ original dream was to connect people for the benefit of all parties. He probably didn’t use this term, but Harris’ 1905 connecting formula is the modern definition of networking.

Three-quarters of a century later, Ivan Misner had a dream of creating a structured networking model when he founded Business Network International. Misner’s goal was very much like Harris’ but with the specific purpose of business people meeting regularly to help each other grow their business.

Though not a civic organization, the motto of BNI’s 6,000 chapters worldwide is, “Givers gain.”  In a sentence it sounds like, “Let me help you first.”

The significant international success of Rotary and BNI has revealed two important things: 1) networking is an essential professional skill and practice; and 2) putting others first is powerful.

This week, February 6-12, is International Networking Week. This month Rotarians will celebrate the 106th anniversary of Paul Harris’ dream-come-true. Whether you participate in a civic club, a BNI chapter, your local chamber of commerce or other gathering, become a more frequent, accomplished and selfless networker.

Face-to-face is the original social media and it’s still important.

Today on The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with Ivan Misner about successful networking. Take a few minutes to listen and leave your thoughts and best practices on how networking has helped you in your business.

Celebrating International Networking Week with Ivan Misner
The educational component of successful networking with Ivan Misner
Two more networking core competencies with Ivan Misner

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