February 17, 2015 – by Floortje Verheul &samhoud women
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review 99% of networking is a waste of time (January 22nd, by Greg McKeown). The article features Richard Stromback, the (unofficial) World Economic Forum network expert because every year, he knows who is who and who to talk to. He has so many people feeding him information, and he makes sure to be at the center of the action. Over time, this has turned into a surreal set of relationships. In the article Richard “Mr. Davos” Stromback claims that networking is about making a connection and being authentic. This made me realise that the value of networking must be in how well you spend the remaining 1%. You have to make sure you don’t get distracted by the 99% but use it to your advantage. The badges and name tags and – to Stromback’s opinion – even the first impression are part of the 99% that is waste of time. The way you build your relationship afterwards is more important. People are looking for real conversations and relationships, not networking conversations or being used for what is written on their badge.
The Women Network event
January 22nd I attended my first network event ever; the &samhoud women network event. To add on to the inspiring location – this new year’s event took place at &samhoud Places – the theme of this event was innovation. In total 85 women attended the event and 50 lucky ladies enjoyed an amazing dinner while chef Moshik talked about his feminine side (he claimed he is at least 60% female) and how this makes him such a good chef. He wasn’t the only one sharing some inspiring thoughts, Carolien Bijen, founder of the network, spoke about &samhoud women and Vera Hoynk van Papendrecht talked about how we bring our innovative food products such as the &Tomeato to the masses.
Being my first network event experience, I wondered if every other event has such a nice ambiance. I asked some of the women what they thought about networking and this women network in particular. Everyone I spoke to has been or still is part of at least one other network and most of them also of another women’s network. This network however was really special to all of them. Everyone I spoke tries to come to every &samhoud women event. But why? The reasons are various. A few purely come for business opportunities; they like &samhoud events best because it attracts a certain kind of women. Authentic, ambitious women. Others attend because they like talking to other like-minded women because it helps them in their personal development.
One woman told me she feels she can bring something too and really wants to give something back to us and the other women. She feels appreciated by &samhoud and loyally attends every time. Through these events she, and a lot of other women, stay connected, to each other and to us as a company. It’s not all about the wine and shine. It’s carrying out the philosophy of the value profit chain. I don’t know about the financial perspective but I’ve seen how this event creates value for the attendees and for us. In personal development, in keeping up relations, in being inspired by us and each other. It also creates value for society, in developing female leadership.
How is this related to what Stromback tells us about networking? Davos is one of the largest network events but Stromback says that 99% of what you can experience at Davos is something you can find elsewhere. It might even be more convenient elsewhere. The key is to stop networking and start connecting. Something we at &samhoud know a thing or two about. Our core values, authenticity, friendship, intensity and core qualities, inspiration, connection, change and entrepreneurship align perfectly with the 1% of networking you should focus on. Making connections in an authentic way, starting new friendships – or attending an event just because you are friends – instead of focusing on relationships that are only work related.
The goal of this network is to inform, inspire and connect ambitious women and to contribute to their personal development. It’s easy accessible and that’s why so many women keep attending. When I asked them why network and why a women’s network, most of them felt that ambitious women are very different from ambitious men. Women want to help others with their personal and professional goals. The discussion about female leadership led to various opinions. This was one of them: “Female leadership is no different from male leadership, I just want to be judged by my qualities as a leader, it should not matter if I am a women or a man”. This is interesting, it doesn’t matter which way you put it, women differ from men, but no person is the same as another and therefor people have different strengths and weaknesses. Personally I feel that by focusing on gender by positive discrimination the chasm between women and men keeps on existing. We have to act upon it by doing and playing our strengths. This women network could help women act up on their strengths as (female) leaders and in this way get judged by their qualities and not by their gender.
&samhoud research on networking
A couple of years ago &samhoud did a research on networking and successful women. One of the results was that the network of a successful woman starts at home. In short, the way you connect with family and friends is also part of your network. As mentioned earlier, networking is about being authentic and creating value for the people in it. Another result was that successful women think of themselves as good networkers while less successful women don’t see themselves as good at networking. From this research one can conclude that networking is a step on the way to success. Of course there are more ways to get there. Stromback tells us that 99% of what happens at a network event like Davos is a waste of time, but even so, the 1% can make a difference. And one can make this difference by networking in a value creating way. From this one can conclude that our network has 99% of the 1% Stromback mentions.