How to Build Business Your Way

This was a really good week for me.  I engaged two colleagues in a new radio concept, booked an appealing speaking engagement, and a cherished mentor invited me to do a webinar for his followers.   All these opportunities manifested in my favorite way — over coffee, one old-fashioned in-person meeting at a time.  The consensus today is that valuable time and energy are wasted driving to meet people and sitting in coffee shops when connecting online is far more practical.   It may not seem logical in light of all the efficient technology at my disposal, but the face-to-face approach always works best for me.

Several fellow entrepreneurs tell me their businesses are skyrocketing because they can reach huge numbers of customers via social networking – in their pajamas, at all hours of the day or night, without leaving the house.   One of my most successful colleagues spends two full days every week mining cyberspace – initiating relationships, meeting top level decision-makers, selling her book, landing high-paying speaking gigs.  Whenever she tells me that business is booming beyond her wildest dreams because she is able to do so much over the internet, I chide myself for my outdated practices and vow to get current by making the internet my networking element, too.

Many times over I have tried with seriously optimistic persistence to “get” whatever it is I’m not “getting” that allows others to passionately access the internet to magnetize revenue.   I’ve tried to convince myself that I must be missing something ridiculously simple if so many other people are able to rake in clients and cash from all over the globe without getting dressed or leaving the house.   And with great conviction, I have read all sorts of books and blogs and attended seminars on maximizing LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest, to build my business.

About a month ago, for example, I got all fired up after attending a webinar facilitated by a woman who earns a six-figure income by teaching entrepreneurs how to galvanize LinkedIn.  My take-away was that I can meet clients – in my case, professionals charged with hiring speakers — by joining the LinkedIn groups my prospective clients might frequent.  The key is to approach the group like a cocktail party by courteously asking questions about others.  Eventually trust is built and group members naturally want to collaborate with you.  Then your business snowballs into something you never could have accomplished so quickly the traditional way.

Impressed by what this woman had to say, and repressing my intuitive hunch that this wasn’t going to pan out for me, I searched out several intriguing groups and made a commitment to get involved.  And just as my intuition had firmly and gently predicted at the onset, almost immediately I felt overloaded.  Several discussions going in every group is a lot of conversation to keep up with, and I started to dread checking email because I didn’t want to face the latest group activity taunting my tendency to always follow through with a thoughtful response.  It was just too much stimulation from too many directions, too much self-inflicted pressure to make the most of every comment.  The more I logged on with the admirable intention to get a real handle on this internet thing, the more elusive a sense of mastery became and the guiltier I felt for not keeping my commitment.  Pretty soon I just started to keep my laptop closed — because it became easier to avoid the challenges of social networking than to tackle the group-related emails perpetually piling up.

Then I found myself in a real time conversation with a very dynamic colleague who shares my experience of what I’d call extreme social networking as endlessly daunting, depleting, and draining.  We put our heads together — over coffee, of course – and thought about why.  Is it because we’re introverts?  After all, we don’t like “working the room” anymore than we like working the internet.  We both love technology and are fascinated by all the cool gadgets out there, but about an hour or so a day of online communication is frankly enough for us.  Any more than that just plain scatters our focus and saps our stamina,  leaving us in dire need of fresh air and down time, with the alienating sense that something is wrong with us.

Thankfully, it dawned on my colleague and me that there’s nothing the matter with us in this regard; it’s just that we have our own style of doing business.  And it’s when we tap into our own unique style, regardless of how impractical our own style may seem, that life begins to brighten and flow.  I see that now, fully enough to stop forcing what feels so unnatural.  When I push myself to become comfortable with social networking as a major means of professional expansion, my eyes glaze over, my usual enthusiasm screeches to a halt, and my mind slams shut.   When I meet with people face to face, however, I feel energized and centered, creative ideas cascade like a waterfall, and I am motivated and refreshed and hopeful.   I’ll admit I’m behind the times, but I honestly don’t care.  When I stop bullying myself to troll the internet for business and do what feels right for me, my intuition tells me clearly what is so hard to hear when I’m pushing against my grain.   If I run my business in ways that totally light me up, I don’t have to worry about finding clients on the internet – because the right clients will find me.

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