I feel that I live a pretty fortunate life, that is to say I am able to work full time on my own web design company and make enough to not only pay the bills, but have a downtown office, and pay people to help me on my projects. There are obvious pro’s and con’s to doing the business thing day in and day out (and it often is a seven days a week sort of deal), but some days I am reminded why I do it.
Part of running a business is networking and meeting people, as well as being an advocate for the things that really push the industry (and your company) further. The core of this networking and advocacy is to join and start groups that brings people together that you wish to meet, educate, and learn from. Today consisted mainly of working on and with those groups that I am a part of.
This started by at 9:00 where I attended a local group called Micro Co-working. Simply put, Micro Co-working it is a way for small business people, entrepreneurs, and those who are self employed to get some social interaction during a work day. This interaction and networking can be very refreshing, anyone who has worked from home or in a small office will relate to the feeling of isolation that one gets in such a situation. Despite the fact that I did not get billable work done, I did get to networking and interact with others in similar fields. These same people could some day recommend work to my company, or partner with my company on projects (that could come straight to me, and I need their help or vice versa.) Case in point, I was able to obtain the help of local Ann Arbor Information Architect Dan Cooney on some wireframes that I was working on for an upcoming web service project that I am a part owner of.
Not only was this valuable in the service that he provided to me (for free), but additionally I learn the extent of his expertise so that I can pull him in on larger projects, or refer people his way when I can’t help them directly.
Straight from co-working I attended a local lunch group called LA2M or Lunch Ann Arbor, Marketing, where expert Jamie Cope from nFormation Design talked about engaging user experiences and how his company uses 3D modeling to create them. His insights were incredibly useful, and as someone who is an advocate of conversion based web design I found myself saying “wow I never thought of that” more often than I would like to admit.
From LA2M I filled myself with work, before learning that my poor wonderful cat buster may be sick… which was cause for a quick run home and status update, followed by plenty of advice from Nicole on what to do next before taking him to the vet.
But I couldn’t stay with Buster as I had another networking event by the name of Refresh Detroit. Had it been any other event I would have surely missed it, however this one that I co-founded and planned it all. Surely it would be bad taste to simply not go, and there was little that could be done in two hours when it came to my cat Buster.
However there was a lot of value in going, even though the chances of me winning business through the connections of Refresh Detroit, the knowledge that is shared through such a group of like minded web professionals is invaluable. We all have secrets and methods that can help our industries and business become successful, and it simply is a matter of getting together to share war stories. I even learned of a few local people who are readers of this blog, which is flattering and reason to keep writing. Thanks Karen Tuttle and Jeffy Mackey for tuning in.
This day really got me thinking about the core of what keeps me self employed (and in turn able to employ others), and it boils down to relationships. I may have a skillset that is desirable, and able to use that skill set to provide a valuable service to others… but it is the relationships that I have with current clients, past clients, and will have with future clients that will keep this business moving forward. Even if I was the most skilled at what I do in the world, with out the ability to build and manage relationships no one would want to work with me.
It is often that the account people of advertising and marketing get overlooked despite the fact that their job is essential. Having done (and at this point continuing) both I truly understand the value and importance of managing expectations and relationships with those who wish to give you money in return for valuable services.
Being part of and managing these types of groups and networks is simply a set of the relationships that you need to maintain and grow in order to be successful at the business you do.
With out the networks and relationships you will never be able to achieve the goals you so wish to achieve.