JD Graffam runs Simple Focus, a digital product agency that works with enterprises, software companies and well-funded startups. In addition, he also owns a portfolio of successful, bootstrapped SaaS business. Follow him @jdgraffam.
Recently, YEC spoke with JD about his experiences networking and his advice for others aspiring to improve their own experience. His best advice is below.
Always Be Connecting
Ask everyone who’s local and in your line of business to lunch. Specify that it’s lunch and that you don’t have an ulterior motive. Make it clear you just want to meet people in your line of work and make connections.
Recently, I got to know someone in my industry this way and we talked about how passionate we are about our work. I never asked him to hire me for a project. Six months later, he reached out to me. Sometimes, the best way to ask for something is not to ask for it. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and share what you do.
Just make friends while breaking bread together. There’s something special about sharing a meal.
Keep Track of Every Task
I keep a to-do list using Good ToDo. When I started Simple Focus, I didn’t have a process for staying organized. As my business got more complex, I couldn’t hold everything in my head — I’d completely miss meetings and proposal deadlines. It was costing me money and dissolving my clients’ confidence in the business I was building.
Once I stopped relying on my inbox (which had thousands of unread messages) and switched to a proper to-do list, everything improved. Now, my clients know me as one of the few people who’ll always deliver on their promise.
Ask How You Can Help
Smile, be friendly, answer their questions directly, and don’t oversell yourself. Offer ways to help instead.
People are not immediately interested in what you have to sell. They’re interested in what other people and businesses can do for them. Remember, the long game is about planting seeds and building relationships. Stop worrying about wasting your time or giving away your “secret sauce” for free. There’s nothing special about your knowledge, even if your knowledge is awesome. Lots of people have awesome knowledge.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not saying you should work for free, but you shouldn’t be so protective of what you have learned. Share it! People know who to go to when they need something done the right way. And if you’ve always been someone they can count on, they’ll think of you when the time comes.
If you insist on charging for all the little things and favors people ask of you, you are building a wall; a barrier to entry. If you’re focused on building relationships and you’re helpful to people, it’s OK to ask favors of them, too (favors such as, “Hey, can we bid on that massive project that finally came around?”).