From my own experience and from all the discussions and feedback I’ve had from consultants working in the HR industry, networking is a key part of growing a consulting business, particularly in the early days. Today, I’ve turned to a business networking expert to share some networking advice for consultants, Greg Roche.
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Over to Greg . . .
You’ve had a fascinating career and mix of businesses. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I got into HR the way most people get into it: by accident.
I started out in consulting with Andersen Consulting, which became Accenture. It was enjoyable, learning new things and moving from project to project, but wanted to stop traveling. Later came a job at a national apartment owner and manager as a project manager. This was on a team that was focused on operations improvements and we were sort of an internal consulting team. It was a great way to learn the business and I took on projects that focused on analytics and reporting.
After a few years, a friend of mine who worked in the HR department asked if I would consider moving over to HR to do some of the analytics and reporting. I said yes and the I’ve been in HR for the past 13 years now. I started in HRIS and analytics and grew into performance management, compensation, and benefits functions. I’ve done almost everything in HR, except for employee relations.
From there, I have moved around to other companies that were big, small, and everywhere in between. Some of these moves were by choice and some weren’t. I’ve been laid off and I’ve resigned, and no matter how it has gone down, I feel like I have always learned something and moved on to something better.
On the side, I have run a few small businesses from rental real estate, to a food truck, to a children’s education business.
In all of my experiences, I have learned the power of building a vibrant professional network.
On the networking side – what do you do?
I have a strong belief in the power of having a vibrant professional network. Every time I have transitioned in my career, my network has been the catalyst for the next move. At the same time, I am deeply introverted and the thought of going to networking events is so unappealing to me, I don’t even force myself to go. As a result, I’ve developed an approach to networking that doesn’t require networking events, cold calls, or spammy emails.
I’ve started teaching this approach to groups of people who are introverts like me. Some of these people are looking for career changes and some are trying to build consulting businesses, but all of them hate the idea of networking events and want to find a different way to do it.
I teach them how.
- Becoming an HR consultant is hard. You go from being a leader inside a well-established business to an empty office with no phone ringing as a new consultant. What’s your advice to new consultants or people thinking of going out on their own?
A few things come to mind:
- Get started before you are ready. You may not have your product or service completely refined but start telling people about it and see how they react.
- Make sure people have the problem you are trying to solve. You may think your expertise is amazing, but if no one is willing to pay for the problem you solve, then you don’t have a business.
- Be sure you have enough work to keep yourself busy before you go out on your own. It sounds great to leave the corporate world behind, but once you are on your own, you better have enough work lined up to keep you busy. Get the projects lined up before you make the jump.
Can you share some specific networking tips?
Here’s what I share when I teach people about networking.
- Start with who you know – Everyone knows someone. Especially if you have been in the working world for a while, there are tons of people you worked with in the past you should reconnect with. Because they know you, it makes it easy to connect with them and talk to them about what you are working on.
- Get offline – While social media is a great way to track people down, you need to have conversations with people on the phone or in person. That is the only way to develop a relationship that will benefit both of you.
- Listen and give – When you talk to your contacts in person, ask them what is new with them and then listen. Don’t start off selling your idea to them. Listen to what they are working on. Find out what problems they have. When you have an idea, give it to them. If you know of someone they should meet, introduce them. Give without the intention of getting.
- Be easy to help – Once you listen and give, the other person will want to give back. When they insist on asking how they can help you, be easy to help. This means being very specific about how they can help you. Is there a specific person you want to meet that they know? Ask them to introduce you. Is there a certain company where you want to meet the CEO? Tell them that is what you need help with. If you just say things like, “Who do you know?” they won’t have any frame of reference to provide info. Give them a list of people or types of people you want to meet. Give them a list of companies you want to learn more about. Make it so easy for them to help you that there is no way they can’t help you.
- Make this a habit – People think about networking as an event. This is something you should do every day. You should contact one person every day. You should try to help someone every day. You should ask for help every day. If you do this every day, your network will be so powerful, you will have more opportunities than you can handle.
Any tips on interesting people, websites, tools, podcasts, or books that HR consultants should check out to grow faster?
Two books . . .
Give and Take by Adam Grant. Chapter 2 talks all about networking and dormant ties, which speaks to my first networking tip.
Friend of a Friend of a Friend – by David Burkus. It’s all about network science with detailed research about why we do what we do when we connect with people.
My thanks to Greg for sharing all these excellent tips – definitely take note and take action if you want to grow your own consultancy!
If you want to learn more about Greg or about how he can help you:
Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.
Visit his website: GregsRoche.com.
He also has a free 5-day email course on improving your networking using some of the tips mentioned above.
While you’re here . . .
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