This post is about how contractors can network at professional organizations. Contractors, did you know that networking could put your company on the path to its next big project? Networking is all about making new connections and nurturing lifelong mutually beneficial relationships. The best way to network is through your local professional organizations, the big two being Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

“My ABC membership is all about growing my business and making my business better—and making myself better, too, frankly. The key to that is networking,” said Josh Martin, president of Mid-Michigan Management, a firm focused on asbestos removal and selective demolition out of Okemos, Mich.

“It’s a lost art in these days of social media and email. When I network, it’s all about adding value to the person I’m talking to—maybe giving them a referral or sharing something that’s worked for our company.”

So how to does one . . . “network”? Here are some tips:

You can’t network if you don’t show up

Lots of contractors have purchased memberships to professional organizations. But not all contractors make a point of attending the organizations’ meetings and events—and having their leaders attend. “Mike Loomis, the President and CEO of MDL Companies, has placed a strong emphasis on community engagement,” said Adam Jankowiak, Director of Construction for MDL Construction, based in Bay City, Mich. He’s part of the Greater Michigan ABC’s Emerging Professionals group, as well as their Ambassador Club. “That means participating in ABC functions, joining local boards, volunteering, etc. He wants us actively involved in our communities. So we make a point of showing up and forming connections.  Networking is the foundation for growth and success in this industry.”

Take risks when networking

Anybody can get a little scared when it comes to walking right up to someone you don’t know and introducing yourself. People will forget to get back in touch with you after they say they will at a meeting, but don’t take that personally. They’re just busy. They forgot. Not everyone you meet is going to reciprocate.

Find a “wingman” if you’re shy about networking at first

Find a friend or colleague who can accompany you at events, making you more comfortable when approaching people you don’t know. In fact, with the right wingman, you can actually have a good time networking.

Approach another contractor to be your wingman, preferably one who also isn’t too keen on networking. If you’re not sure whom to approach, go to the next event as a scouting opportunity: Who looks like they’re uncomfortable? Take them to lunch and talk about the idea of serving as wingmen for one another. Come to an understanding about how you’ll keep the conversation going with one another and with others.

See: 10 ways a wingman can up your networking game.

Don’t sell when networking

Have an elevator speech and use it when you’re introducing yourself, but don’t focus on talking about yourself. Be curious. Focus first on getting to know the other person—what makes them tick. The goal is not to get as many business cards as you can, but to make quality connections. Ask questions—and listen! Prepare ahead of time before networking events and think of questions you can ask others. Being curious about other individuals and what they do is a great way to connect with them, form a bond, and make them feel like they are seen.

Seek first to help when networking, not be helped

People can sense when someone is only out to help himself. Don’t be that person. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people due to their titles. Find out what you can do to assist each person you meet. It can even be as simple as putting them in touch with another contact. This will show them that your interest in them is genuine and can lead to long-term relationships.

Be patient when networking

Greg Berreles, Director of Membership and Business Development for ABC’s Greater Michigan Chapter, has three words of advice: take your time. “It’s not about just handing out as many business cards as you can. It’s a slow process. You go to an event and you meet a couple of people and really get to know them, build a relationship, build trust.”

Always follow up when networking

Make a point of looping back with any person whose business card you received at a chapter event. Email something of value right away after meeting someone, such as a book recommendation, an article, or an email introduction to someone. Agree to connect on Linkedin. Follow-up can establish a relationship that can continue at subsequent events or separately from the organization.

Said Josh, “I’ve been working with our chapter Director of Membership and Business development to build a community of contractors—that is, a group that naturally interacts outside of ABC events, maybe some drinks after work, things like that.”

Make the most of conferences and conventions

Take a strategic approach to these large gatherings. Review the list of attendees before you get here and plan the people you want to meet. You could even email them in advance and make appointments to meet them at breaks.

Also, volunteer to work the registration desk when the conference or convention opens. This gives you a good chance of meeting every attendee, especially the ones you’ve set aside strategically.

How contractors can network at professional organizations

Networking can be a powerful way to grow your business. Find the local chapter of your professional organization and make a point of attending the next meeting—then begin networking!

Said Josh, “I only have my own experience growing up in a family business where it took me a long time to realize I needed to get out of the office in order to find the success I was looking for,” Once I started getting out and networking in places like the ABC, acquiring my own connections, and building my personal network, it gave me the confidence I needed to grow my book of business and to eventually go out on my own.”

Did you like this post? Check out How to retain your skilled tradespeople through engagement


Need skilled tradespeople to complete your project? Get in touch with Steve Dubicki at Great Lakes Skilled

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