You have spent years networking. The number of business contacts in your Blackberry and network connections on LinkedIn are admirable. You put your name out there, and we salute you. But when was the last time you reached out to any of those prized contacts?
Other than the clients, co-workers, and employees you deal with on a regular basis, you have most likely lost touch with the majority of them. To put this tragedy in perspective, if you have not reconnected within the past few months, your carefully sought-after contacts have already lost interest in you. And if it has been as long as six months, they may not even remember your name. In the world of networking, this is suicide.
With a little effort, however, you can reconnect. The reconnection must be effortless and tasteful. This automatically eliminates the old ‘invite your boss to dinner’ strategy – too tacky. It also rules out the lengthy ‘email update’ tactic – this denotes you're trying way too hard. Even worse, don't even think about attempting the ‘client luncheon’ move – are you trying to date or network?
For these reasons, Elite presents you with the Businessman’s Guide to Social Sports. Sporting is one of the oldest forms of companionship. With some effort, sports develop mutual trust and respect for all parties. If done correctly, you will be able to enhance your business relationships while showing off your good-natured attitude, and maybe even some athletic ability.
As the classic sport of business, golf must foremost be mentioned. The tranquil environment of the golf green is equally apt for discussing business as it is for cracking jokes about Tiger Woods. You will bond over your Lacoste golf apparel and the blatant unfairness of hole 11.
On the course, you have not one, but eighteen chances to solidify your relationship. By the end of the game, you will have each other wondering how you have not been golfing together forever. Just like that, you are future business partners, or at the very least, future golf partners. Just make sure you let him drive the cart.
If the remote one-on-one setting intimidates you, organize a group outing. No need to worry about being stuck on the green with a potential whack-job, the additional company will act as a buffer. Make sure the additional invitees with make a positive contribution to your business itinerary. They should share some of your same basic interests, and not be there to push their own agenda. You will get props for your ability to create a dynamic group.
As the most refined of all racquet sports and significantly more physically demanding than golf, the tennis court is the perfect place to display your sportsman’s finesse. Tennis is the ultimate sport for creating minimal small talk but maximal mutual respect.
With the brief chatter and congratulatory remarks between sets, amiable feelings will be volleying across the court. Whether playing singles or doubles, cordiality is the only acceptable behavior in tennis. So just keep smiling, as you gasp for air and take a swig of water. Even if your opponent is beating the Adidas tennis whites right off of you, it is you who is really winning.
Whether you are testing out a new speed boat, rigging up your sailboat, or cruising around in a yacht, boating screams sophistication and good taste. Invite an added mix of respectable colleagues, personal mentors, and members of the general upper echelon, and the party will really begin. After a few spins around the bay, you will have had enough time to tell stories of ‘the last time you took the boat out’ as well as pitch your latest venture.
Need more time? Cast out some lines, and you just allotted another two hours of quality bonding time. Before the fish bite, you will have covered all of your major achievements in the last year with resumé precision. Trying too hard? Maybe. But you’re on a boat. He will be contacting you in no time to plan another outing.
Scheduling sports outings instead of business meetings will put your most sought after contacts into the palm of your hand, with their time at your disposable. Always avoid team sports, a la basketball and soccer; they require too much sweat and not enough effective communication. Never try to bond over shooting games; you do not want to be the next Dick Cheney.
Just stick to the sports of golf, tennis, and boating, you will be sure to win every time. Your companions will be having such a good time relaxing that they will forget the true nature of your rendezvous. After reconnecting recreationally, your contacts will now validate you as respectable and refined. Your bonds will solidify, and no one will be the wiser to your networking desperations.