Tablecloths and Cheesy Wotsits

You’ve all heard the expression, “It’s not what you know but who you know” – well that doesn’t really ring more true than in networking.

Only today I had to be in my office by 7am to oversee a VIP board level client breakfast meeting that started at 8am. Our office services had a slight hiccup with their order of linen tablecloths and I found myself staring aghast at three trestle tables decked out, in what can only best be described as something waiting for a children’s party to start.

They were linen LOOK paper tablecloths of a quality that a public toilet wouldn’t sniff at.

My options were limited because the shops weren’t open, however my networking contacts were always about. A discreet call to a neighbouring hotel and minutes later I’m back with 3 complimentary, loaned, starched white linen tablecloths and the whole room took on a radiant professional edge setting off the food perfectly.

And the Wotsits – which actually wouldn’t have looked out of place at my faux “children’s-party-disaster” are allegedly an absolute favourite of our visiting COO (or Cheetos as he refers to them) …. and so on my morning jaunt to the neighbouring hotel I picked up a couple of bags from a supermarket that never shuts and the transformation was complete – perfect tablecloths for my breakfast meeting and one hell of a chuffed COO who was hosting it.

So the principle of this story is that you can never ever be short of making new contacts. You never know when you might need them and at what hour. The important tip here is that you start close to home and work your patch, and by home I mean your workplace.

There is nothing more satisfying than being able to actually put your money where your mouth is. It’s all well and good visiting exotic venues and going on “Fam” (familiarisation) trips where you’re wined and dined, but when you are starting out it does you no favours if you cannot utilise that venue or contact.

We’re all in this for business – never forget that important fact. If you’re only after booking yourself in as many events as possible for a freebie vino and a few canapés you’re the wrong calibre of PA and the only thing you’ll be gaining in is weight.

If you want to be taken seriously, you need to work your networks.

Ask yourself what are the hotels around your office area; can you negotiate any corporate rates, what are the conference rooms like, the accommodation. Then make a call and introduce yourself to the Sales Director. They’ll only be too happy to want to meet you (it helps them with their monthly sales targets) plus you get to make a really good and useful contact.

My hotel sales directors keep in contact with me when they change jobs and move around their hotel networks and therefore I’m always up to date with any new hotels that pop up that they might move too. Hospitality is an incestuous business and you’ll come across a great wealth of networking once you make one contact. Networking goes both ways, you can introduce them to your PA colleagues and likewise they will make roads for you in their hotel networks. They are a brilliant way to build your networking.

Your work place might already be using a hotel, so it’s really in your interest to go check it out and meet the people in person. If you were in a strange city and someone recommended a hotel or restaurant to you, you are more likely to trust a personal recommendation than walk off the street on a gut instinct. If you need back up, ask the hotel to arrange a show around for you and your PA work colleagues. You’ll get to experience their hospitality first hand and see the place for real. If that hotel is a chain you’ll probably get invited to their sister events and thus your network will grow.

You’re more likely to place regular business with your locals so you should maximise on that potential. If the boss is happy with the service that hotel provides he’ll be more likely to take an interest in the same chain if he travels overseas and then you’re on your way to making that call to your local contact for an introduction to their fab new sister hotel that opened in Europe (right next door to a prospective client your company is dealing with) and so on……OK so that’s in an ideal world, but start small, think big, you’ll never know when you might need to place a request for a tablecloth at silly o’clock in the morning in Timbuktu!

Written by Jackie Barry

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