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Networking: A Dirty Word?

How I Reframed My Thoughts About This Important Activity

I hope all our Australian members had a wonderful long King's Birthday Weekend and managed to get some good R&R. It's important to find opportunities for a bit of self-care during the Winter months!


I was incredibly lucky to be gifted a 3 night stay at The River Studio in Geelong by TDC Member and friend Rebecca Jansma. This was the perfect place for a weekend of rest and relaxation in between visits to my Dad in hospital. Rebecca has created a stunning retreat that all designers will swoon over (check out the gorgeous interiors online), so we were very fortunate to have this experience, thank you Rebecca!


Now, back to my focus for today's newsletter!


Last week I joined a lunch hosted by my office building.


An “Office Lunch” is something that would normally be on my avoid-at-all-costs list.


As an introvert who doesn’t love small talk, I generally dislike situations where I’m going to be thrown together with a bunch of strangers, especially when my escape plan is hindered by something that traps me, like lunch.


On this occasion, I was tricked into attending this Office Lunch by one of the lovely team members who worked there. When I say tricked, I mean that she politely asked me if I would be coming to the Office Lunch, and because I wasn’t quick enough to come up with an excuse, I said “Yes, of course, I’d love to!”


Another one of my pitfalls is that I always follow through on my word. Suffice to say, I attended the Office Lunch.


I was shocked. I had the most delightful time, getting to know my fellow business owners, sharing our stories and enjoying a delicious lunch. My office building is in the heart of St Kilda, and is made up of a fascinating collection of creatives with wonderful backgrounds and compelling business journeys.


The relaxed atmosphere meant that explaining what I did felt less like “pitching” and more like sharing my life purpose. People were really interested in my businesses, and I was equally as interested in theirs.


At the end of the lunch, we all scattered to our own corners of the office building, but not before exchanging numbers and website details. I genuinely feel like I’ve made some amazing connections and have opened doors to some wonderful opportunities for future collaborations.


Once I recovered from the shock of enjoying myself, I realised I had just been networking. Surprisingly, I hadn’t hated it. I also have a couple of new contacts that I’m 90% sure I will work with at some point in the future.


It made me think about all the other ways that I (dare I say) actually enjoy networking. 


Last week I caught up with 2 different architects for coffee. I admire both business owners greatly and have been fortunate to collaborate with each of them, since becoming quite good friends. These coffee dates were an opportunity to catch up on each others’ business wins and challenges. Even though we don’t talk specifically about future work, it’s essential relationship building and an opportunity to stay front of mind should future projects come to fruition.


Before Christmas I always make time to catch up with my favourite design clients. If we have time, we’ll head out for dinner, or if the Christmas rush is upon us, we might just grab a coffee or a glass of wine. I love hearing about their families (I’ve watched many of their children grow up, leave school and more recently start to marry!), their travel adventures and love to fill them in on all of my personal plans and update them on my businesses. 


This is a special time for me and doesn’t feel at all like “work”. But the truth is, these pleasant activities are actually the best type of networking and business development. 


As my wonderful friend and TDC Business Development Coach,  James Lambrou says, we’re always “on” when it comes to networking and business development. As a past business relationship manager, James knows the importance of building and nurturing relationships. Every meeting with someone new is an opportunity to tell them about what you do, and why it’s making a difference.


By nature, I’m not big on a hard sell. However, it feels authentic to focus on staying connected to people you care about. I’ve always factored social catch ups with my clients into my overall business development strategy, in a way that doesn’t feel “dirty”. Now I’m happy to add Office Lunch to my list of preferred networking activities. It might have even sparked a new interest in other opportunities to mingle with strangers.


How about you? Are you introverted like me?  Do you hide away from events that force you to chat to strangers?  

If so, I challenge you to get out there once this coming month, and report back to me with the results. Did you love it or hate it? Is there a business opportunity that arose because you stepped outside your comfort zone?


An amazing (and safe) way to establish a strong industry network is to join our TDC Social Club. You get to meet local suppliers, and share stories with other small business owners who are facing the same challenges as you.


Or for those who are really serious, take it 1 step further and join the crew at our Melbourne Design Conference where you can immerse yourself in 4 days of networking, and rub shoulders with some of the most successful business operators in the country!


As always, I love hearing your own stories. And if you know someone who would benefit from some of my stories, make sure you share my newsletter with them!


Until next week.  

Stay well, and always be kind.


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