I recently hosted a conference for Virtual Assistants. When you plan an event, you call everyone you know to see if they want to attend, or if they can help or support you in some way.
At least I do!
It’s important to remember that everyone you come into contact with in your business can play some sort of role – to get the word out, to point you in the direction of great resources, to become your clients, etc.
Building your business depends on the connections that you make.
And yet, so many VAs I know don’t make those connections regularly. At least not consciously.
So at the conference, I kept making a point of telling the people in the room to really connect with the people they were meeting.
I will share four stories with you that I shared at various points during the conference:
1. In 2008 there was a VA Conference in Toronto that I attended. I remember I didn’t know anyone all that well. My son was 9 and my husband worked weekends so I brought my mom and my son with me to the conference. That allowed me to spend as much time with my fellow VAs as I wanted to, and not worry about my son. That conference allowed me to meet some VA colleagues in person that I had only known online. Many of those colleagues I am still connected to today – some are not VAs anymore, but they are still in my network. Erin Blaskie, Tawyna Sutherland, Mary Lou Ashton, Jamie Lee Mann. We had a lot of fun. And I also met Elayne Whitfield and Pam Ivey in person that year, who I would eventually buy the CAVA and GAVA associations from. So I am forever grateful that I decided to make that journey that weekend, because it was a very big part of bringing me to exactly where I am today.
2. In 2009 there was a VA Conference in Niagara Falls that I also went to. For that one, a new VA from Halifax contacted me to ask if she could stay in my hotel room because she didn’t know anyone coming. She didn’t know me either, so I’m still not sure why she asked me to share a room, but I asked my other roommate and she said yes. Kathy Colaiacovo came into my life that weekend and we became fast friends. We have actually become very close friends over the years, and we are also business accountability partners, as well as sounding boards for each other for all things business and personal. I am grateful that she asked to share our room, I am grateful that my other roomie said yes, and I am grateful for all the guidance and friendship she has given me over the years. This picture is of Kathy with Jan Whiting and Grace White, two other very special friends (and VAs!)
3. In late 2015 I decided to start doing some more local networking. I had mostly run my business from afar, seeking out clients that were in the US. I had bad experiences with local clients previously wanting me to work on site so that was my solution for that! But about two years ago I started networking locally again. I ended up going to Steve Lowell’s High Impact Speaking Showcase as a vendor, and I met Steve and Jayne Blumenthal and some other very solid local networking connections. We started seeing each other at various other events and relationships began to build. I continued to sponsor Steve’s events and I started to sponsor and attend many other local events as I built my new audience. When I hosted my own conference, Jayne and Steve repaid the favour and sponsored my event. That kind of support comes from continued connection.
4. I contacted Rhonda Scharf to be my keynote speaker for the conference because I had watched her for years. She didn’t even know it but I watched her build her consulting and speaking business. We never ran into each other at events, but I had an idea of who she was – at least I thought I did! When we finally connected – after I asked her to speak at my conference – we realized we had gone to the same high school a few years apart. I had not realized this – I had assumed she was from a different local Scharf family all along! But still I had watched her talk about business and write about business in our local newspaper and I knew I wanted to connect with her, but just never did. I was thrilled that she agreed to speak for my event. And now we are going to collaborate on some things moving forward as well. But this could have all started so many years ago if I only reached out to her. I never did, until this conference.
All of these stories are meant to say this: don’t wait to make that connection. Any connection.
It may not take root right away but there are people out there that you are meant to meet. You may not even know why at the time.
But what is important is not to wait if there is someone you want to meet.
I went to the VA conference to meet Elayne and Tawnya and Pam. They were pioneers in the VA industry and I was humbled by their knowledge. I followed them and knew that I could learn from them.
Kathy stepped forward because she wanted to get to the conference. She reached out and it was one of the most important decisions of her business. She can trace more than $200,000 in revenue in her business directly back to that conference.
I made consistent efforts to connect with Steve and his people, and I met Jayne as a result. We have even referred business to each other. We have never worked together but as strategic partners we can effect each others’ business.
And I look forward to collaborating with Rhonda. I can’t imagine what would have been if I had only reached out years earlier when I saw her weekly column in our local newspaper. We have so much in common and I feel like we have a really awesome relationship brewing.
These are just a few of the people I have connected with. There are literally hundreds of others that have also become important in my life and my business, and hundreds of others that could become equally important at one time or another.
Don’t wait to make your connections. Look for the quality ones and you will reap the rewards.
I know you will, because I have. And I think it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give you!
If I can help you with your connections and building your business, don’t hesitate to reach out!