21 January 2011

Instream management for your networking group

Don’t you just hate it ?
One of the very first blogs I have ever written was about the feelings I had when I had to attend events where I didn’t know any of the other guests.
When attending receptions and events outside of my usual networking groups, I still spot the same behavior I wrote about many years ago.
People are automatically drawn towards those they already know. Pick any event you want and each and every time you will see this same behavior happening again. People greeting each other and gathering in small groups of 4 to 6 people, neglecting the other guests of the event.

I still think this is an important issue to be addressed by organisers as well as steady members of a networking or business group.
As organisers or members we mustn’t forget that each year you have a natural outstream from your members group. Some people just got bored, others have moved away too far from the location, some people may have even passed away.

If you want your groups and events to stay successful in the future you need to pay enough attention to the instream of new members. In my opinion good instream management doesn’t stop by selling a membership card or a ticket to one of your events. Excellent instream management also means making sure that new members get integrated in the group(s). In the same way a moderator tries to engage conversations online, the hosts of any event should ensure that nobody stays aside during his or her first events.

This is the only way to ensure that new members will also stay for many years, becoming the new steady members of your group.

7 January 2011

Small Business Owners are the true heroes of our economy

Following up on my New Year’s message I want to express my sincere admiration to those small business owners who really excelled themselves to struggle through the financial crisis.

As a small business owner myself and a proactive networker attending many business events, I have seen the rock-hard impact of the financial crisis at very close range. I have seen the impact on the lives and businesses of many friends and how they reacted to it.
The first industries which were hit within my network were recruiting and IT companies.
Both of them services on which companies will start saving when times are bad.

While lots of large companies have closed their books in the last two years, I have seen lots of small business owners struggle hard to survive, often kicking and screaming. But somehow, despite a record count of folds in 2010, most of them still survived because of their pride and tremendous willpower.
Instead of closing the books they have cut costs, paid extra attention to their customers and invested even more of their personal funds and efforts in their business and marketing.
I personally know at least a few business owners who have chosen to stop paying themselves a wage for a year, creating the necessary cashflow for their business to survive another year.
I would love to see which employee or which CEO of a large company would do the same, if law would even allow it.

On the other hand we have the CEO’s of banks and other large companies who often appeared in the newspapers being laid off with a large bag of money as a goodbye present.
Were those CEO’s overpaid ? If they didn’t get the job done they sure were. But if you can find a good manager who really gets the job done, you should pay him enough. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys to do the job !

The worst part is however the fact that public opinion doesn’t make any difference between small business owners and the CEO’s of large companies they know from the news-bulletins. I often heard people talking bad about business owners, accusing them of getting rich on the backs of their poor employees. They are also widely accused of fraud and avoiding taxes. I just wish they could see the efforts small business owners make each and every day to stay alive, to keep their business alive and viable and to create the necessary jobs for our economy and community to survive.

When attending networking events I always see people profiling themselves as successful managers of their companies, building their credibility. When talking with them in private I often heard those stories of struggling to survive. I think we shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that we fight to survive, for the fact that we simply refuse to choose the easy road and fold, that we fight for the economy to keep on running and for the fact that we are making sure that 2011 is indeed the year that everything kicks back into gear again. All those small business owners are working like ants, moving our economy forward.

Don’t you think our networking efforts would have been more successful if everyone admitted how hard it was in 2009 and 2010 … and everyone would have gone the extra mile to help each other to survive this together. Times of crisis or not, small business owners are always the true heroes of our economy !

3 January 2011

Networking and Entrepreneurship in 2011

Dear Networking and Business contacts,

For starters we wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2011. May the years of financial crisis and “getting-back-on-our-feet” stay behind us for good and let’s shift the economy back into a higher gear together !

It’s a tradition to start the New Year with a letter of good resolutions. This year I would like to title my New Year’s resolutions : “Networking and Entrepreneurship in 2011”. Let’s start by looking back at last year.

2010 was the year “after the financial crisis”. It was the year where a record count of companies had to close their books. It was the year where the blow really hit us, after most companies where already digging deep into their financial backups. It was also the year where it was more than ever before needed to network because only by joining forces we could conquer this storm.

Networking is something we all do online and offline through multiple networks and business clubs. Trendwatchers call this “inline networking” combining online and offline.
When entrepreneurs and businessowners used to be able to stay in touch with 125 to 150 people, by adding online networking they are now able to stay in touch with 500 people or more. The more people you know, the more opportunities will come by !

The social part of this avalanche of contacts is of course awesome, but as entrepreneurs we mustn’t forget to have a look at the business part. On many networks you hear great slogans emphasizing the business intentions, but on average it mainly stays a social community with occasional referrals. Let’s try to become active in 2011 and work on this business part of our networking efforts. Let’s try to go for the next step and kick our economy in the butt.
Networking in these hard times is necessary more than ever before and especially “sharing with your network” has to be part of it. When every entrepreneur actively tries to share with his or her network we can all survive these difficult times. Last year I had set myself a goal to share at least 10.000 € with my network through referrals. It was no problem to reach this goal. Every week you will hear contacts that are searching for someone or something.
It’s a very small effort to guide them in the right direction through connecting them with someone in your network. My goal for this new year is to refer at least 11.000 € of business to my networking contacts, referring to the year '11.

“I can highly recommend Geert as a leading social networker and event host in Belgium, and am grateful to him for valuable business referrals and networking opportunities.”
Levent Korkmaz, Salesforce.com CRM Consultant & Non-Profit Implementation Partner, BECAUSE sprl

I also wish for Belgium to finally get out of its political jam, because this is a very bad situation for all Belgian entrepreneurs. The world’s economy is watching us with many concerns and it gets more and more difficult for Belgian entrepreneurs to get credibility abroad.

Of course we are also preparing to make the next step toward a successful 2011. We have started to distribute our new company-flyer and we have prepared a nice calendar of ‘open’ Social Media Workshops.

We also look forward to meeting you again at one of our presentations or workshops, at one of the many networking events … or monthly through our newsletter !

Warm regards,


Netwerken en Ondernemen in 2011

Beste lezers, klanten en zakenrelaties,

Allereerst wensen wij jullie een gelukkig, gezond en succesvol 2011. Laat de jaren van financiële crisis en het “terug recht krabbelen” voorgoed achter ons liggen en laat ons met zijn allen de economie terug in een hogere versnelling schakelen !

Traditioneel starten we een nieuw jaar met een nieuwjaarsbrief vol goede voornemens. Dit jaar wou ik heel graag deze voornemens in het teken zetten van ‘Netwerken en Ondernemen in 2011’. Hiervoor blik ik dan ook eerst even terug op het vorige jaar.

2010 was het jaar “na de financiële crisis”. Dit was het jaar waarin een recordaantal bedrijven de boeken moesten sluiten. Dit was het jaar waar de klap pas echt keihard aankwam, nadat de meeste bedrijven al heel diep in hun reserves zaten. Dit was ook het jaar dat netwerken meer dan ooit nodig was omdat we alleen samen deze storm konden overleven.

Netwerken doen we voortaan allemaal zowel online als offline via meerdere netwerk- en businessclubs. Trendwatchers spreken nu over “inline netwerken” als combinatie van online en offline. Waar men vroeger als ondernemer met gemiddeld 125 a 150 personen een goed contact kon onderhouden, doen we dat nu met de online netwerken erbij moeiteloos met 500 of meer personen.
Hoe meer mensen je kent, hoe meer opportuniteiten er zullen voorbij komen !
Het sociale aspect van deze overvloed aan contacten is uiteraard schitterend, maar als ondernemer mogen we toch ook het business-aspect niet vergeten. Op veel netwerken klinken voortdurend mooie slogans met betrekking tot het genereren van business, maar in de praktijk blijft het toch vooral een sociaal gebeuren met slechts sporadisch enkele doorverwijzingen. Laat ons in 2011 eens actief werken aan het business-aspect en ervoor zorgen dat we samen een flinke stap vooruit zetten in onze business en de economie een flinke schop onder de kont geven.

Netwerken in deze moeilijke tijden is inderdaad meer dan ooit nodig en vooral het “delen met je netwerk” wil ik hier benadrukken. Wanneer alle ondernemers actief moeite doen om te delen met hun netwerk overleven we allemaal moeiteloos deze harde tijden. Vorig jaar had ik mezelf tot doel gesteld om minstens 10.000 € aan business door te kunnen geven aan mijn netwerkcontacten. Dit streefbedrag heb ik ook probleemloos gehaald. Wekelijks hoor je mensen die op zoek zijn naar iets of iemand en het is een kleine moeite om deze mensen op de juiste weg te zetten als je ze via je netwerkcontacten kan helpen. Mijn streefdoel voor het volgende jaar is dan ook om analoog met het jaartal minstens 11.000 € aan business te kunnen doorgeven aan mijn netwerk.

In het kader van een coachingsproject voor UNIZO was ik dringend op zoek naar een CRM-partner. Mijn toenmalige CRM-partner had net de boeken neergelegd. Eén telefoontje aan Geert en ik werd geholpen. Een dag later zat ik rond tafel met Levent Korkmaz. Intussen werken wij een jaar samen en staan nieuwe projecten op til in 2011. Dank je wel Geert!
(Karl Mortier, Quattro Development)

Verder wens ik net als u allen uiteraard ook dat België eindelijk uit zijn politieke impasse komt, met als voornaamste reden dat deze situatie allesbehalve positief is voor de Belgische ondernemers. De wereldeconomie kijkt momenteel heel erg bezorgd naar België en het wordt alsmaar moeilijker om als Belgische Ondernemer ook over de grenzen jezelf te bewijzen.

Zelf doen we uiteraard ook ons uiterste best om er iets van te maken in dit nieuwe jaar.
We zijn alvast gestart met het verdelen van onze nieuwe folder en het opmaken van de kalender met onze ‘open’ Social Media Workshops (zie website).
Verder kijken we er natuurlijk naar uit om jullie opnieuw te mogen begroeten tijdens één van de vele presentaties of workshops, één van de vele netwerkevents … of maandelijks via onze nieuwsbrief !

Met vriendelijke groet