Networking is an art. And as with anything, the more practice the better you get. The men behind 1209 Enterprise and SuccessNet, know just this. It is one of the reasons Frank Waters and Henry Nelson launched Brooklyn, New York-based 1209 Enterprise in 2007.
"My partner and I felt there was a lack of openness at various networking events already being held in the New York City area and we wanted to open such events up to larger groups of people," says Waters. "The networking functions at the time included a closed circle of people who were already successful; we wanted to give these same opportunities to people looking to make it."
1209 Enterprise is a consortium that offers various services to members, which range from the most basic business needs such as printing and design to financial services. Once a company is a member of 1209 Enterprise, 1209 then acts as a broker, marketing companies through its vast members network, thus allowing all members to utilize the services of each other, instead of going outside of the 1209 network. This, in turn, brings a steady stream of business to your company. "If someone is looking for a certain type of business or product, they come to us and we can find a match in our database of over 5,000 individuals," says Waters.
The pair is continuing to grow 1209 Enterprise. Waters and Henry are especially looking forward to developing connections for their members with the Barclays Center, the future home of the NBA Nets. "We have suppliers, service providers, and food vendors, all of whom can partner with the new center," says Nelson. "One of the reasons we came to Brooklyn with our company is because we wanted to be in a place that was exciting, a place that was offering new business opportunities, and a place that was growing. We want our members to take advantage of all that Brooklyn has to offer," adds Waters. The pair is also considering throwing networking events within the Barclays Center.
They will soon need a larger venue to hold their networking events, which fall under the 1209 Affair: Networking for the Serious-Minded Entrepreneur umbrella, which is 1209 Enterprise’s corporate networking event. The 1209 Affair event allows new members and old members to interact and network with each other as well as with potential members. Networking events were nothing new to Nelson, who successfully held monthly seminar/networking events in Brooklyn called, “Brooklyn, Stay in Business.” Each month Henry highlighted a professional entrepreneur who gave advice and information to small-to -medium business owners. The 1209 Affair events now draw up to 600 people per event.
Waters and Henry have major plans for 1209 Enterprise this year. "We are looking to expand in 2012," says Waters. The website, the1209affair.com, will become much more interactive. "Members will have the opportunity to network online with each other. It will be a social networking experience. We are always looking for the most effective ways to encourage communication between our members. The website will also allow members to greet and develop groups and events." Adds Nelson, "The website is also for networking with people all over the world. We will be able to create a forum for international members.”
There are various divisions of 1209 Enterprise. One is the SuccessNet, through which "we have high profile speakers such as Dr. Julianne Malveaux, business mogul and billionaire Michael V. Roberts, and motivational speaker author Lisa Nichols speak at our events”. "Before launching 1209 Enterprise we had been attending events hosted by other organizations that offered the same type of high profile speakers. But what we found was that these events were always very expensive thus blocking out up-and-coming entrepreneurs and businesspeople who would really benefit," says Waters. "We wanted to create the same sort of events with similar speakers such as Susan Taylor but make it affordable." Adds Nelson, "These events are great opportunities not only to learn from and be inspired by the high profile speakers we have but also, with the amount of people at each event, it is a great opportunity to promote yourself and or product/services."
This year, Waters and Nelson will also create a tiered membership. 1209 Enterprise will now offer a "Professional" and "Executive" membership, each of which offers special event discounts and other services not available for those under the general membership level, which is free.
But as 1209 Enterprise continues to grow and branch out, its goal and mission remains the same--to promote the power of networking. "Ninety percent of one’s income comes from a relationship and you can only build and sell our product or services via relationships. This is the power of networking," says Nelson.
Tips for successful networking, according to Nelson and Waters:
• Get to know the person you have met. Move past the traditional conversation about weather and have a more meaningful conversation that can give you an idea on who they are and where they are hoping to take their business. Great conversation and getting to know the other person will hopefully accelerate building a trusted relationship.
• Find ways in which you can assist the people you meet. Perhaps it’s a connection, a lead, or referring them for a business opportunity. Share information, shoot a quick email and follow up. It will come back to you ten-fold.
• Ask them to join you. Going to an event that would be of interest to a new business associate? Why not secure or purchase an extra ticket and invite the person along?
• Make a friend not a sale. Avoid trying to sell your product and service with the “over talking” technique. Listen and develop a relationship first; you can always sell later.
• Being prepared. Understanding what your business goals are and being able to articulate them. An opportunity can present itself at any time. It is critical that you are able to articulate those goals in a persuasive way.
• The art of “Thank you”. It’s important to always thank people for their time. Once a week sit down and write thank you notes to people you have met and/or have shared resources and or contacts. A simple thank you goes along way.