Networking the Traditional Way - Golf's Strategic Advantage
Networking the Traditional Way
On a summer weekday morning Linda joined her friend in a casual round of golf. She didn't expect to do any business. It was golf with a friend and two other women whom Linda didn't know. But the power of golf for networking was made evident--the round helped Linda land a six-figure sales position with a Southern California-based company and membership to a San Francisco Bay area country club.
In the middle of the round, Linda and her playing partners had a typical conversation on the golf course. They chatted about their lives, their families, and their careers. After playing a few holes, Linda mentioned that she was looking for a new position in the telecommunications industry. During lunch following the round, one of the women mentioned that her husband was looking for a senior person to manage a substantial account with SBC Communications. Linda expressed interest in pursuing the opportunity, and the woman offered to talk with her husband, who called Linda the next day. Linda flew to the company headquarters for a round of interviews and was offered the job that day! And as an added bonus, Linda's commute to work dropped to a mere 2 miles from her home.
That's the magic and power of playing golf!
You never know whom you'll meet on the golf course. Linda parlayed her round into a six-figure contract. With her increased income, she purchased a membership at a prestigious country club. And Linda now leverages that membership by inviting clients and prospects to play and doing more networking with members who are senior executives of San Francisco Bay area corporations.
Perhaps you're wondering how I had the tremendous good fortune to be featured in Golf for Women? I had entered as a single player in a golf tournament sponsored by an association for golf for women writers and golf-related media personalities. I was teamed with two freelance writers and a physical therapist who specializes in treating golfers.
One of the writers, Barry, had written feature articles for Golf for Women and Golf Tips, two popular golf magazines. Barry asked me a plethora of questions--from the type of presentations that I provide to organizations, to the reasons for my desire to educate women about how to use the game of golf for business, to my background as an attorney. Before we even finished the round of golf, he asked if he could pitch an article idea to the senior editor of Golf for Women that focused on me and my speaking business. You can imagine my response!
The article gave me added exposure and credibility in the world of golf. It resulted in features for other national publications, as well as an appearance in a television commercial for Liz Claiborne's golf clothing line, LizGolf. Besides the tremendous additional publicity, I received numerous inquiries about my business, which led to new clients, including the New York office of the largest investment banking firm in the country.
To receive such publicity, I would have had to pay thousands of dollars for a publicist. Instead, I invested only $40 for the tournament entry fee, and I also got to play a beautiful golf course. What's more, Barry and I have since become friends and professional colleagues.
Networking the Old Way
Where else could Linda and I have met individuals who changed our careers in such substantive ways? We could have met at a trade conference, association networking event, or some other forum where you can meet hundreds of people. Although you can learn information about a particular topic from event presenters, these venues have their limitations in building long-term business relationships.
Andrea, a business development director for a Silicon Valley Internet company, attends numerous conferences, meetings, and alumni events for her alma mater, Harvard School of Business. She knows a lot of people, but she feels unnatural at those formal events. She says that if someone really wants to know her better, he or she should play golf with her. "I'm much more in my comfort zone when I'm playing golf. I'm more natural," she says.
I certainly can relate to that feeling. It is rare at traditional networking events to have more than a few minutes to speak with someone. Other than the usual exchange of names, employers, and other superficial information, it's difficult to learn enough about each other to find out what you share in common.
In her book "Going to the Top" (Viking, New York, 2000, p. 68), Carol Gallagher found that these traditional networking events are often "a time-consuming waste of energy [since] the relationships formed are often too shallow to be meaningful or even helpful." Dr. Gallagher interviewed 200 women in Fortune 1000 companies who are within two steps of CEO. She reveals that the executive women developed their substantive professional relationships when working together on projects that test and reveal their character (rather than by simply exchanging social pleasantries). It was those relationships that propelled their careers.
Just as with Linda and me, you may develop those powerful relationships in just one round of golf. Playing golf with someone gives you the unique opportunity to spend four to five uninterrupted hours together. How else could you ask a client or prospect to spend so much time with you? During that time, you will learn more about a playing partner's personality than you ever could over lunch.