Earlier today, I attended a large gathering of professionals and as I do whenever I attend a large gathering of professionals, I met and exchanged business cards with a number of them. Some worked in the arts while others were part of the tech world and still others were in the service industry. What we had in common was a keen desire to support each other.
Returning to my office, I sat down at my desk, and pulled out a box of note cards from the bottom drawer. Next, I put the small stack of business cards on my desk with no order to how they were arranged. One by one, I took a card from the small stack of business cards, took a note card, and wrote a brief note to the person whose card I had in hand. I continued this way until every card on the small stack of business cards had a corresponding note written, signed and sealed in its accompanying envelope, along with my business card.
Some of you may be confused as to why I would set aside valuable time to send cards to people I had just met earlier in the day. And some of you may be confused as to why I would include a business card with such a note. After all, surely those who had my business card would remember me when they came across my card in their desk drawer at some later date.
When it comes to making connections with people, even in business, the devil is in the details, and that’s why it’s important to keep on building connections once business cards are exchanged.
Every card you write requires that you be honest even if you only write a line or two in the note. If something about them stood out, mention it. If you feel that he or she may benefit from connecting with another business or professional you know about, include that information. But above all else, be honest.
There is nothing wrong with admitting to yourself that you and the other person or their business goes against your mission and/or vision statements. You don’t have to agree just for the sake of being agreeable. Likewise, you don’t have to disagree just for the sake of pushing an agenda. If there is a conflict between your mission and/or vision statements and theirs, a quick note that honestly acknowledges that you know who they are and what they do will go a long way to creating professional ground where both of you feel comfortable interacting with each other should you ever find yourselves on a committee or part of the board for a not-for-profit organization.
Most people have the ability to sense when someone is being insincere even if they can’t quite put their finger on what that insincerity is. There is no place for hypocrisy in your personal life or in your professional life. A difference of opinion stated sincerely rather than adversarially is more important than “winning” at being “right.” In other words, there are any number of ways you can say what you’re feeling and thinking, with some being less negative than others. Writing that you found someone’s comments about his line of work enlightening is better than writing that you had no idea that the person was involved with an activity which you find offensive or alarming.
The notes that I wrote today will be sent off in the mail tomorrow morning. The purpose of these notes isn’t to solicit business. The purpose of these notes is to acknowledge each person who exchanged a business card with me: To acknowledge that I know (on an introductory level) who they are and what services or products they deliver to the marketplace. It is a personal acknowledgement that I see them as people … not things … not opportunities.
When all is said and done, writing notes isn’t about making money. It’s about making positive connections regardless of how either of you may or may not feel about your respective businesses.