I am passionate about networking

So much so that I believe if you build your network you will actually change your life. This past week more than proved that to me. My trip to Honduras with the Asheville Rotary club gave me an amazing opportunity to witness the level to which networking and relationships are vital to survival, to changing lives and to our overall success both professionally and personally. This trip opened my eyes to just how much people skilled in the art of investing in relationships and developing networks can make happen.

I am, by nature, an observer

Watching people, for me, is one of the greatest opportunities to learn. I am, also by nature, obsessed with business. I watch business programs, read business magazines and study business books with the enthusiasm others watch Reality TV or read Tabloids. Strange I know, but I have been that way since I was a kid. Those two habits or natural tendencies served me well this past week in Honduras, as I observed the impact networking and relationships can have on people, community and business.

The very foundation of Rotary is relationships and networking

Within your community, your District and around the world. A major function of Rotary is for business leaders to connect, develop relationships and work together on service projects both locally and internationally. I started thinking about that on this trip, and thought where would a project like Honduras be if the relationship and networking piece had not been developed first? If these Rotarians (both our group and the Hondurans) had skipped the relationship building piece? Could a project like this have happened without the network connections and the leveraging of those relationships? The answer is no. As I observed what was being accomplished, the talent and skill level of the people on this trip, and the generosity of the Honduran people, I thought all of that is important but the work and the result comes only because the foundation is built first. The foundation is relationships and networking.

Why do they look so happy…

As we worked in the Honduran villages, I thought about the people living and surviving in these (for me) horrible conditions. How do they make it and why do they look so happy? The answer simply is relationships and networking. They support one another to find work, feed their children, and care for the least fortunate. They seek help outside of their communities for the additional support and help they need. They “network” with other towns, communities and leaders for their limited medical care, needed food in tough times, and supplies and labor to build schools and roads. Less than perfect living conditions yes, but more proof that networking and relationships are at the very core of our ability to survive and thrive. If a few people in these communities did not take the lead to develop relationships and leverage networks, the people in those villages would never get what little they need to survive.

Think about this

A little over one week ago, a Rotary brigade (Honduran term for mission) went to Honduras because a few Asheville Rotarians had developed relationships with a few Honduran Rotarians. These Rotarians connected first, and that positive connection inspired both to leverage their networks with others to help the Honduran people. A little more than a week ago, approximately twenty-five “strangers” embarked on this trip to Honduras. They paid their own way, used their vacation time and volunteered their skills and talents simply because someone they new on this trip asked them to. Again, the power of relationships and networking. By the end of the week, hundreds of Hondurans had received badly needed medical and dental care; Honduran medical and dental students were given the rare opportunity to work with American doctors and dentists, receiving training, mentoring and support completely unavailable in their country; these twenty-five strangers had developed relationships and friendships that would enhance their lives both professionally and personally.

The skill of networking and relationships is powerful if you understand it and know how to use it

This trip made me think about what people are going through in our country, a tough economy, job layoffs and challenging times. And while there is no magic bullet, no simple answer, the solution, I believe, does lie in first building relationships and leveraging networks. Those individuals who develop this skill, invest in perfecting the art will be the ones who emerge far richer in this economy both financially and personally.