UNREIMBURSED BUSINESS EXPENSES.
Old Law allowed W-2 employees the ability to deduct unreimbursed job-related expenses paid with personal funds as miscellaneous itemized deductions on their personal income tax returns. Some examples of unreimbursed related business expenses would be meals, travel, auto, office in the home and many others.
New Law eliminates most miscellaneous itemized deductions (including unreimbursed employee business expenses), eliminating the opportunity for employees (including S corporation owners who also serve as employees of those companies) to deduct business expenses on their individual.
The good news for S corporation owner-employees is that, by implementing an “Accountable Plan” a (a reimbursement program which meets certain IRS regulations), S Corporation owner-employees can continue to deduct business expenses that they pay for personally by “passing” them along to the business. Essentially, an Accountable Plan is an IRS-approved reimbursement program that allows a business to reimburse employees for business expenses they incur as part of their work.
The business is then able to deduct those reimbursed amounts as if the business had incurred the initial expense, itself.
If an Accountable Plan is not adopted, all reimbursements even through for a business expenses would be considered compensation to the owner/employee.
However, it’s important to note that the deductibility of an expense incurred by an employee isn’t changed when submitted for reimbursement to an employer. Thus, any limitations or restrictions inherently associated with a deductible expense remain in place (e.g., the 50% deductibility of meal expenses) and the documentation required.
There are three simple guidelines an Accountable Plan must follow to be considered valid: 1) all expenses to be reimbursed through the plan must have a business connection, 2) expenses must be “timely substantiated,” and 3) any excess advances provided to the employee must be “timely ACCOUNTABLE PLAN EXPENSES MUST HAVE A BUSINESS CONNECTION
Under Treasury Regulation Section 1.62-2(d), in order for expenses to be reimbursed under an Accountable Plan arrangement, they must have a business connection. In other words, the expenses must be incurred by the employee in the course of performing services for the employer.
Said differently, an accountable plan can’t turn a non-deductible business expense into a deductible business expense simply because an employer decides to reimburse an employee for an expenditure. Rather, the expense must still be a business expense.
NOT REQUIRED BUT BEST PRACTICE: FORMALIZE THE ADOPTION OF A WRITTEN ACCOUNTABLE PLAN
Interestingly, there is no requirement in Treasury Regulation Section 1.62-2, the Internal Revenue Code, or elsewhere, that a company maintain (or create) an Accountable Plan in writing. However, as a matter of good practice, and to provide the best defense to a potential IRS inquiry, businesses should take appropriate steps to formalize the adoption of an Accountable Plan, including establishing a written “plan”.
Any questions regarding “Accountable Plans” please contact,
Joseph P. Acquavella CPA Tax Partner—732-855-9600 x 17
Nicole Stewart CPA Tax Manager———-732-855-9600 x 35
Tatsiana Chubatyy Tax Senior————–732-855-9600 x 40
I’m not a natural networker. My background is in nuclear physics,
and when I got the mandatory lobotomy in order to go into sales,
I found myself woefully unprepared to compete against seasoned
professionals. Well-intentioned managers gave me sound
business networking tips, but they seemed somewhat foreign to
me. Understanding emotional buying concepts, the importance
of establishing strong personal relationships, etc. were just not in
my DNA. Networking was probably the scariest activity of all.
One common business networking tip was, “Just keep putting
yourself out there.” That sounded great in theory, but the
thought of introducing myself to strangers, especially people who
were already engaged in conversation, seemed almost rude or
pushy. Little did I know at the time that at networking events, it’s
expected that strangers will be striking up and leaving
conversations at a dizzying rate. When I finally got up the courage
to join a circle of three or four people, I was amazed to find that
they would invariably make room for me.
It’s imperative to have your elevator pitch practiced and ready.
But instead of just telling people “what I do for a living,” a better
business networking tip is to explain how you help your clients.
For example, I’m a reverse mortgage loan officer. That’s what’s
on my business card, but that’s not what I do for a living. What I
do is help seniors to be able to afford to remain in their home for
the long term, and live a better quality of life.
As I got more comfortable and experienced in group networking
environments, I stumbled upon some strategies that maximized
the value of those few minutes that you have with each group (or
individual). I now say, “I help seniors to be able to afford to
remain in their home for the long term, and live a better quality of
life, with the most misunderstood financial product.” What do
you think goes on in people’s minds when they hear that? What
is this misunderstood financial product? Then, when someone
asks me about it, they’re much more engaged in the conversation,
and are much more likely to remember me and what I do. Think
about what you do, and then how you can describe it in such a
way that it prompts the listener to ask for more information.
Despite some early success in seeing people become interested in
me and my services, very little business resulted from these
networking activities. I learned that you can’t just “touch-and-
go.” Just because someone has your business card in their desk
drawer doesn’t mean that you’re in their thoughts. An important
business networking tip is to keep regular contact with the people
who you’ve met. Monthly newsletters, or an occasional news
article that’s relevant to the recipient, etc. can provide touch
points that keep people reminded of you.
The primary goal of making a good first impression is not to
“wow” them, but rather to schedule a one-on-one meeting with a
potential referral partner, away from the hubbub of the
networking event, and ideally at their work location or someplace
close to them. The purpose of this meeting is not to ask for
referrals, but rather to start establishing a good personal and
professional relationship. Ask about their family, how they got
into their line of work, what they like most about their job, etc.
Find as much common ground as possible. Perhaps you’re both
raising teenagers, or root for the same sports team. The more
they talk (and the less you do), the more they will come to like
you. You just need to come across as someone who is
knowledgeable, trustworthy, and likeable at this point.
One of the most uncomfortable things for me early on was the
point in the conversation at which I asked for referrals. You can
spend significant time building rapport, having pleasant
conversation, and maybe even making a new friend, but unless
there’s business to be had in the end, you’re wasting your
valuable time. So, one business networking tip is to first ask the
other person what their ideal client looks like. You want this
relationship to be a two-way street, so communicate how you
might be able to refer to the other person.
When it comes time to ask for referrals, get in the frame of mind
that you’re there to help the other person’s clients. Once you’ve
learned about his or her typical clientele, offer some examples of
how you’ve helped your clients who were in similar situations.
Come across as someone who is “on his team,” and/or as a
resource who complements his services. One of the easiest ways
to ask for a referral is simply, “I don’t suppose you know someone
who would benefit from …?”
The best referral is one in which your referral partner makes the
first contact with his client (your new prospect), to introduce you,
ideally in person, but more likely on the phone. You might not get
this the first or second time out, but once you’ve shown that
you’re capable of competently working with his clients, he’ll be
more comfortable referring to you. Always keep him informed of
the status of your communications with his client. You don’t want
his client informing him of something important (especially if it’s
something negative), before you’ve had the chance to speak with
I’m still not a natural networker, but I think I’m getting better at it.
Sales have certainly improved. One final note: There’s no
shortage of people who will offer their business networking tips,
but be judicious and not blindly start doing something, just
because it seems to be working for someone else. You should get
out of your comfort zone, in order to improve, but remain true to
yourself and your values. Good luck!
By Rick Schluter, Reverseman
Hi! I’m Damon Finaldi, and I’m the president of Tele-Data Solutions in Union, New
Jersey. We help small and midsize businesses throughout the New Jersey area solve
their business problems through voice-over IP phone systems and solutions. I’ve been
in this VoIP industry for a long time now, and through those years, I’ve developed a
diverse base of professional associates, customers, and fellow business owners. When
I first started my career, though, I didn’t have this network at my disposal or the
experience to even know how to start. I knew I needed a leg up and more than a little bit
of help, so I started seeking out organizations that offered networking in NJ.
Short on practical experience but big on enthusiasm, I began diving into my options.
Knowing I wanted to join a networking group was an important first step, but I soon
found I had little means to evaluate the quality and concrete value of these different
groups. I quickly found myself asking: What sets one group apart from the other? Which
one can help me achieve my business goals?
Eventually I decided the only way to figure it out was simply to commit to one. My first
real foray into networking in NJ was through LeTip International, Inc. I joined this group
early in my career, and after one year of 7:00 a.m. meetings (and lots of accompanying
stale Danishes), I had learned some basic but still valuable networking skills. However, I
had also learned this group didn’t fish in the same proverbial pond as I did. I needed to
connect with other leaders who operated companies in the B2B tech sphere. LeTip
helped me begin to get a sense of what networking could do for me and my business,
but I learned an even more important lesson over that year: not all networking
opportunities are equally beneficial to all businesspeople.
Next, I moved on to Business Network International (BNI). Founded in 1985, this group
has an impressive number of members (nearly a quarter million) and over eight
thousand local chapters. I could definitely tell I’d graduated to the next networking level,
and I soon found this organization did a great job of educating its members about how
to use the power of networking to build a personal brand. The group also helped instill in
me the thorough belief that if you can elevate the community members around you,
you’ll have succes in your own right. These are valuable lessons I carry with me in my
professional life to this day.
Again, though, after about a year attending events with roughly fifty other people (and
those seemingly obligatory stale Danishes), I realized my fellow members mostly sold
their products and services to the consumer end user (B2C). After several years
networking in NJ, I felt I had the basics down. I now knew with more conviction than
ever that what I really needed at this stage was to be with people who sold to
corporations (B2B)—people who understood and spent time with business influencers.
That’s when I came to the Executives’ Association of New Jersey (EANJ). EANJ is part
of a parent organization that’s been around since 1935, and I could tell right away I’d
become part of something that was simply a better breed of networking in NJ. The
group was of a caliber I hadn’t encountered before, and while helping fellow members
was, of course, still at its heart, there was a profound and helpful focus on selling to and
working with other B2B corporations. I finally felt I was where I needed to be in order to
elevate my brand and my company’s brand and to work toward my personal
The group puts on over thirty-six events annually, which range from breakfast meetings,
education topics, to fun nighttime activities, and I share my chapter with about fifty other
business professionals. Thanks to the sincerity, quality, and professionalism of those
other people in the room, I’ve enjoyed a high level of professional success, both in
terms of actual business referrals and ongoing education. EANJ’s dedication to
professional education is particularly admirable, and after seeing my fair share of
conference presentations, I can confidently say the quality of their keynote speakers is
truly second to none. During my time in the group, I’ve seen concrete results for my
business, and I’ve consistently grown as an entrepreneur. Yes, EANJ has undoubtedly
helped my business grow and thrive, but perhaps even more importantly, it’s equipped
me with many of the tools necessary to become a better businessperson.
Take it from someone who has spent years working through groups that focus on
networking in NJ: there’s a better option than endless weeks of stale Danishes! I’d
highly recommend EANJ to all people who are looking to take their businesses to the next level.
By Damon Finaldi, Tele-Data Solutions
Business is about numbers, and most people do business with people they know, like & trust. Whether your business is b2b or b2c even in today’s world of social media; business development requires getting out and meeting prospects / client’s face to face.
If you were to Google “Networking” you will find “Networking is a process that fosters the exchange of information and ideas among individuals or groups that share a common interest. It may be for social or business purposes”. We launched NJGEC in January of 2013, and in the past six years, Business to Business Networking has been our most successful form of marketing in building our business.
Networking takes time and it is all about building relationships. Again people do business with people they know, like and trust. Have you ever attended a networking event when someone will approach you, hand you a business card or brochure and immediately jump into a sales pitch. Please don’t be that guy; nobody wants to do business with that guy. I know business is about numbers, but networking is not about selling and getting your business card into as many hands as possible. You will be more successful having one quality conversation with another professional and growing your network of quality people, than you will passing out a box of business cards to a bunch of people who simply will not care about you or your business.
The most important thing you can do when meeting new people at a business to business event is listen. During a conversation, stay focused on what the other person is saying. Ask questions, to learn how you can help each new connection, so you can make quality introductions to others in your network. Be excited about networking, ditch the elevator pitch and set goals of building new relationships. Interesting people easily make meaningful connections, be prepared to talk about topics outside of your business, be yourself and have fun. It’s also important to follow up with new connections, meet for a cup of coffee be helpful and genuine.
In today’s world, networking is a necessity for growing and branding your business. Research shows that professional networks lead to more business opportunities. Succeeding in business is all about making the right professional connections; it helps you grow your business and opens doors to new opportunities. Business to business networking is the process of establishing mutually beneficial relationships with other business people and entrepreneurs to form professional relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. One of the best ways to meet those contacts is by attending business to business networking events. Sharing information and learning more about other’s and their business models can and will provide quality referrals.
The primary purpose of business to business networking is to tell others about your business and hopefully they can refer you to someone they know, who may benefit from your products or services. Building your network of business referrals makes you a more valued resource to your client base. You are the expert in your field, however being a referral resource to your customers for challenges they may be experiencing outside of your expertise, makes you an extremely valued resource. It will also build your client relationships. I always feel comfortable and make a point of telling my clients that I enjoy and do a lot of business to business networking. Outside of their energy management needs, I have a large network of professionals that I can refer them to should they have any challenges they like to speak to a high quality professional about. It’s just an introduction and a conversation. They can decide for themselves should they decide to do business with your referral. You are simply making an introduction to a quality person who may be in a position to help. If you look at it from a client’s point of view, you are a problem solver. This can only strengthen your relationship, as long as you choose and make quality referrals. Remember your referrals are a direct reflection on you, make sure you know who you are recommending.
NJGEC is a member of EANJ https://www.eanj.com (The Executives Association of New Jersey) which is one of the state’s oldest and most prestigious networking organizations. EANJ has been around since the 1930’s and has 50+ members from a wide range of industries and disciplines all over the state. Over the past few years, each and every member has not only become a quality referral for NJGEC, they have all become personal friends. EANJ is a business to business networking group that is more of a family than networking partners and that is something very special. Many members are also clients. Please click on our web site to learn more about EANJ and it’s members. I would be happy to make a personal introduction to anyone in the group you would like to meet.
Remember, people do business with people they know like and trust. Business to business networking does it all.
By Bob Leech, NJGEC
My decades of experience in the commercial real estate and property management field have shown me that your business is only as successful as your ability to retain existing clients, while simultaneously attracting new ones. This is what makes an effective networking strategy so essential.
It requires more sophistication than simply chatting up every person you encounter. I consistently seek to enhance my process, and the below are three of my favorite business networking tips for bolstering my client base.
“Really get to know them”
Networking groups have proven to be an invaluable tool. I’ve found the overall experience both enjoyable and profitable. However, while becoming a group member and attending periodic meetings is a great starting point, one of my essential business networking tips is that the real opportunity lies beyond the scope of the group.
My personal strategy within the group starts with initially identifying those individuals with whom I’m most likely to be able to have a direct positive impact. From there, I reach out with a handshake, a smile, and maybe a text or two, all with a goal of building a personal relationship beyond the group setting. Interaction with fellow members during monthly meetings, over coffee and a bagel, is the norm. The key to maximizing those relationships for me is to get to know someone one-on-one, perhaps during a lunch or dinner. That individual meeting where the discussions inevitably turn to personal and real-life experiences and common ground have turned out to be the difference maker when the time comes for a referral.
As business networking tips go, pretty much everyone is aware that social media is a remarkably potent tool for fostering business growth. For business professionals, LinkedIn has become the standard for seeing and being seen. Many of the same basic principles apply to LinkedIn as to a networking group. It’s not enough to pay for a nice portrait image and then post it along with some background information. You need to commit to online engagement, which in our digital world is just another term for “networking.
I regularly share relevant content and information, whether generated by me, my company, or a third party. In this manner, those I’m connected with are reminded that I am fully engaged in the business of commercial real estate.
Part of my daily routine is to scan LinkedIn’s updates on career milestones, promotions and other similar items and make sure to respond with concise, appropriately crafted messages – typically something like “That’s wonderful news!,” or “Way to go!” or “Wow – I’m impressed!” When fellow professionals realize that you’ve taken the time to acknowledge their achievements, they’ll be far more likely to turn to you when they have a business need.
Those you know, those you don’t
Speaking of social media and networking, this is one of those business networking tips about what not to do. I may even be the key mistake for many companies and individuals. They put most or even all of their emphasis on outreach to prospective clients, while practically ignoring the tremendously valuable, current relationships they should also be fostering. Doing this is absolutely a recipe for stunting future growth.
How you utilize the various social media utilities you elect to use will vary depending on the field you’re in and the specific nature and scope of your business. There are several tactics that are almost universally effective. Know your core message – know exactly what it is you want and need to say and drive that point home with conviction. You are aware of what information can help your business thrive, so make sure that’s what you’re conveying with everything you post – whether you’re using words, images, or video.
In addition, when individuals or companies take the time to respond to your social media content, make sure you communicate with them, even if only with a “Thanks!” or a thumbs up emoji. When you post content on social media, you’re seeking attention for your business – so you want to be sure to recognize attention whenever you receive it.
Effective networking is time-consuming, and there’s often a temptation to put it on the back-burner to deal with what may seem like more pressing business concerns. But if there’s a single statement that incorporates all my business networking tips, it’s this – outreach and networking should become a part of your everyday routine. A strong, consistent networking effort is as much a key to my business and my professional success as the old reliables of follow up and follow through.
As the old adage goes, “what you put in is what you get out.” When it comes to networking, there’s no truer statement.
Marcy Gross, Executive VP, Sheldon Gross Realty
If you asked me a few years back what networking in NJ was like and how it could help me, I don’t think I could have answered you. Fast forward, and now I can tell you how much networking in NJ has helped me.
Three years ago I was promoted to a Branch Manager position at M & T Bank. A big part of my job was to bring in business clients, and I was terrified. At first I tried cold calling and walking into businesses, asking to speak with the owner. I didn’t enjoy either one of those approaches and was getting worried about how I was going to bring in business.
I started attending small business events to meet business owners, and then I was told by others who were successful in their job to attend one networking event a week to try to meet as many people as I could just to get my name out there.
One thing I love about M&T Bank is they focus on the relationship between the banker and the client. I attended a class on how to pitch your elevator speech and when I gave it, I was given feedback that it wasn’t personal enough. I reworked it and now I talk about why I love my job and what I do. Networking in NJ is not easy but if you do it correctly you can make good friends, help clients, build our business and help others you network with.
I met someone at a networking event that I really connected with and that was when I started enjoying networking. It is really important to make sure to follow up with people and have one on ones to explore the possibility of forming a relationship where you really want to help one another.
The first person I really clicked with happened to know a lot of people in networking groups, so when I attended more events, I would drop her name. When people heard I was friends with Nicole, more people wanted to get to know me and it opened doors. As I got to know more people, my confidence lifted and I started to become successful in networking in NJ.
You have to have confidence or it won’t work. I kept meeting the same woman at numerous events. One day I walked up to her and said I would love to learn more about her and her business. We agreed to meet for coffee. We became instant friends and felt like we knew each other forever. We helped each other make connections and we kept meeting to see how we could keep helping each other. During one of our meetings she mentioned that she was in a great networking group where the people all really cared about one another. A person in the networking group had just left and she thought I would be a great fit. That brought me to EANJ.
I have been a member of EANJ for over 2 years now and it was the best decision I could have made. Not only have I gotten business from the group but I’ve given leads to others in the and have worked with many of the members personally. I have made some great friends and really enjoy attending the weekly meetings. I have learned to always listen when someone is talking because I normally can make a connection for them since I know so many great people. When people ask me how I knew I was picking the right group to join I tell them I viewed a lot of networking groups but I didn’t feel comfortable with the people. When I walked into EANJ for the first time everyone was so welcoming. You need to put in a lot of time to have great networking relationships but I have found that in the end, it’s worth all the effort.
Networking has helped me figure out what I am truly passionate about. I have found that I love helping people, whether that means introducing two people that can help each other or help them with their banking needs.
When I first became a Branch Manager I was wondering how I was going to add value for people, whether it was a client or a fellow networker. I get really excited whenever I can make a connection, and now I understand how I add value. I truly care about helping others, and now I love networking. I encourage anyone that needs to network to make sure they find a group they truly enjoy going to and that they genuinely want to help the people in the group.
If you understand that you need to give in order to get, you will be successful in networking in NJ.
Written by: Melissa Geiger, M & T Bank
I have been practicing law for over 49 years. I am a general practice attorney but I focus on real estate transactions for residential and commercial clients. I handle zoning and planning matters and in fact, anything problem that relates to real estate. I have a growing first mortgage loan business.
When I started as a young lawyer, the legal community did not see lawyer advertising as an ethical practice. We were expected to rely upon the strength of our prior good work and reputation in order to draw new business to our office. In the intervening half century a lot has changed. Advertising for injury lawyers and other specialties is now the norm. I have not gotten used to it. In fact, I sort of resent being selected by a new client out of a listing, the internet or some other impersonal method. I prefer developing a relationship with the client that is asking me for some of my attention. I want them to know me and I need to know them and their preferences. That is the strength of networking for me.
Our networking group, EANJ, is comprised of business owners and executives who take pride in their accomplishments and experience. These people are successful at what they do and they associate with other business people who are also successful. This group of achievers regularly directs referral business to me which I treat with extra attention because I know that it comes from my group and extra attention is expected by both the potential client and the referring member. I don’t mind extending additional effort and in fact take pride in working the task at a superior level of professional conduct.
This dynamic works to develop satisfaction for the client and my staff as well. It generates a sense of pride which reverberates and is highly likely to produce a good result. Everybody wins in the end. A good job is done. My staff members doing the work are happy. The client is happy. Hopefully they will send in all others that they know need our services. More referral business is the end result. But this is not the only important benefit of being a member of EANJ.
On more than one occasion, my clients need something and don’t know where they can find assistance. I have a 60 member group of active business individuals that provide a resource core for me to use in satisfying a client’s need. When the need arises, I can find a solution to the problem by contacting one of my members and asking for their best effort on behalf of my client. This makes me a part of the solution and keeps the client’s attention pointed in my direction. I consider this a bonus arising on my membership.
I am very happy being a member of EANJ and have found over the past 3 years that the cost of time and money in this group has returned to me far more than any advertising could have provided. And it doesn’t end there. I have not mentioned that the regular interaction with members of this group develops friendships that are continuing and enduring. I am sure that when my business membership comes to an end, the relationships that have developed will continue for my lifetime.
Harvey Gilbert, esq
One of the biggest challenges that companies face is figuring out how to grow a small business without breaking the bank. Here are some cost-effective ideas.
• Social Media: Having your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or some other social media outlet, is a great way to introduce your company to potential customers, promote your products and services, stay in touch with current customers, and ultimately to grow a small business.
• E-Mail Marketing: Today’s smartphones have made e-mailing an important way for companies to communicate with customers. Create an e-mail marketing list and stay in touch with your customers as well as reach out to prospects.
• Be the Problem-Solver: Everyone loves a problem-solver! Helping to find solutions to problems goes a long way in keeping current clients loyal to you and setting yourself apart from the competition for prospective customers.
• The Personal Touch: Take the time to get to know your customers and their business. They will appreciate the care you show and remember you for their next project. They will also be more apt to refer your business to others. And we all know how important referrals are to grow a small business! • The Right Employees: The math is simple. Great employees will help you grow your business and contribute to its success. The wrong employee for the job will just cost you money.
• Go Out and Meet People: Networking is a great and inexpensive way to grow a small business by meeting people in your community, sharing ideas with other business owners, getting referrals, and gaining new clients.
• Learn from Your Competition: Check out your competitors to gain insight and ideas on what works and what doesn’t work.
• Signage: For retail businesses, outdoor advertising is a smart way to attract local business. Hanging a banner outside or placing graphics in windows are easy ways to draw potential customers inside.
Free Stuff: Promotional products can be one of your most powerful marketing tools. People like to get them and they tend to keep them. They remind people of your business every time they are used. Choose promotional items that are useful and have a long shelf-life. Personalize them with your company name, logo, phone number, and website. But make sure the info is large enough to be easily read.
• Affordable Marketing: Every-Door-Direct-Mail (EDDM) is an affordable way to market to your customers and prospects. With EDDM, you do not need to buy an expensive mailing list. You can target Business-to-Business or Business-to- Consumer by just choosing the zip code and carrier route you want. EDDM is one of the most cost-effective ways to grow a small business.
Written by: Russell Evans, Print-Tech
As a Business Development Manager, I truly enjoy meeting new people and learning about their businesses. Whenever I meet a business owner or salesperson for the first time, I make it a point to ask them what sales techniques or best practices they regularly use that they feel helped them take their sales to the next level. Not surprising to me, networking comes up as one of the top answers to this question.
With that said, here’s a few valuable business networking tips that I commonly follow that have absolutely helped me gain new clients and help keep my pipeline robust.
- Select the right groups.Not every networking group will be targeting the same type of businesses as you. Look for groups where there’s a natural affinity for the types of people and businesses you are targeting. For example, if you’re trying to meet people in commercial real estate, you wouldn’t select a group that focuses mainly on residential real estate.
- Networking is all about building relationships. Networking is not about trying to sell your product or service. It’s about meeting like-minded business professionals, getting to know them and their business and figuring out how you can help each other. You need to forge genuine relationships and gain the trust of the people in the group before they’ll ever feel comfortable referring business your way. In the process, they will get to learn about your business and who your ideal referrals are. You must establish a level of trust and comfort before you can expect anyone in a networking group to send you a qualified referral. Who in their right mind would give a warm introduction to one of their top clients to someone they barely know? The bottom line is: People do business with people they like and trust and it takes time to build relationships.
Too often, people walk into a networking group for the first time with the hope of making a sale or getting qualified referrals. Basically they have the “what can you do for me attitude.” In any established professional networking group these people are red flagged and never receive a second invite. It takes time to gain someone’s trust. As a member of one of the premiere networking groups in NJ, The Executives Association of NJ (EANJ), it took almost a full year before I started getting highly qualified referrals.
- Always be prepared.Bring plenty of business cards, but only give them to people who you have meaningful conversations with who take an interest in what you do. Don’t just run around like you’re in a contest to give out as many business cards as you can. Go for quality over quantity. I’ve found that it’s best to speak to someone first and then offer them your card after.
- Ask questions then shut up and listen. There’s an old saying: “he who talks the least wins.” The basic premise of this is that many salespeople actually talk themselves out of a sale by over talking. This is also true when networking with a new group of people you’ve never met. You should be short and concise rather than ramble on and dominate the entire conversation. Listen more than you speak. This is one of those business networking tips that can be applied to all conversations you have (business and casual) and works like a charm on a sales call. Ask people questions about themselves and their business, and then listen intently to their answers. In addition, show a genuine interest when they’re speaking. There’s nothing more off-putting than a person whipping out their cell phone to check messages while you’re in the middle of speaking to them. Find points of commonality that you can bring into the conversation. Have your “elevator speech” ready to go and keep it short and to the point when it’s your turn to tell the other person about your business.
- You have to give to get. In my opinion this is the Holy Grail of business networking tips. Focus on what you can do for others, and be a great giver of referrals without automatically expecting one in return. You’ll quickly establish yourself as a “giver” and it will come back to you in spades.
- Follow up.If you make a good connection with someone, after the event, send a short email letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting them. You can also include an article or some kind of information that they might find helpful. At this time, you can also ask them if they may have some time in the coming weeks to get together. It could be for a cup of coffee, or over lunch, to spend some more time getting to know each other’s businesses and to further discuss how you may be able to help one another.
- Always dress appropriately and professionally. First impressions truly are important. (This should be obvious but you’d be surprised.) I’m not saying that a guy should show up in a tuxedo. However, showing up in a well fitted suit with an appropriate tie and polished shoes will never be frowned upon.
To sum it up, networking is a long-term, ongoing process. Take the time to develop relationships with people who you are confident you could provide qualified referrals to, who in turn can do the same for you. You will likely have to visit a few different groups until you find one that you see yourself in for the long haul. So go ahead and try out some or all of these business networking tips. You’ll not only develop great business networking relationships, you’ll also develop some great friendships along the way. It’s a win/win!
Written by: Chris Bergman, SSP Architects
Networking in NJ has become a way of life for me. The majority of my business takes place in New Jersey, so networking in NJ is the one of the most effective ways for me to increase my business.
While Networking in NJ I have noticed that many of the same people attend a variety of networking events. Finding different venues to expand my network in NJ has become a challenge. Many people try networking and become discouraged. Growing one’s business through networking is a commitment. You can’t attend one or two events and expect to see returns immediately.
First, networking is about giving, not taking. Learning how to introduce each other without the expectation for anything in return separates good networkers from the rest. Keeping your rolodex in the front of your mind while networking is the first step for successful networking.
Second, you must listen. People tell you what they need or who their audience is. Many times you’ll know someone else that has similar needs; but provides a different service or product. Introducing these two people will help each of them help each other.
Third, make sure that the people you introduce are reliable sources of supply. You can ruin your reputation by introducing someone that doesn’t provide a high level of service. Have a cup of coffee or a sandwich with someone to get to know them will help give a sense of that person. Don’t be afraid to meet with people that have nothing to do with your business. The person you’ve met with could know several individuals that may be of interest to you.
Be sure to network in the same places over and over again for a while. Building relationships takes time. You can’t expect to refer people you don’t know well or expect them to refer you. While networking in NJ, putting in the time to build relationships pays dividends in the future. As people know you better and become more comfortable with you, you’ll be able to deepen your relationship to refer each other more often and give better referrals.
To start networking in NJ, pick one or two networking organizations such as a local chamber of commerce, a LeTip or BNI and begin attending meetings regularly. The fruits of your efforts will take 6 months to a year to harvest. You should sense if the chemistry and vibe is good for you after attending 5 or 6 meetings. If the fit doesn’t feel right, then move on.
Two basic types of networking organizations exist. Those that have exclusive classifications for members, one plumber, one financial planner and so forth, and those without exclusivity. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Networking with other individuals in your industry or overlapping industries provides resources to help your business and your customers. There’s nothing better than having a friendly competitor to compare notes with. Groups with exclusive categories give the confidence to share information with others that you might not feel free to discuss otherwise.
Once you start networking in NJ, other networking opportunities present themselves unexpectedly. I get invited to events that I would never have thought of attending in the past like awards dinners and celebrity hosted events.
You can also create your own networking events. Every other month or so, my firm hosts a happy hour. We invite referral sources, allied businesses, suppliers and friends. Our guests find the events to be enjoyable and worthwhile. People have begun to ask when our next event will be. A friend of mine hosts a networking event every other month. Most of the attendees are regulars. He invites some new people or one timers to every event. His events have high energy with a lot of good information exchanged. You can charge admission to your events to cover the cost of food and soft drinks. If the meetings are worthwhile, people will pay to come. Plus, if people pay, they’ll put a higher value on their investment in making the event work for them.
Many people attend golf outings, tennis events or even bicycling networking events. You can use your imagination to create any kind of event that you have interest in and find likeminded individuals to join and have fun. If the events are fun with high quality networkers, they’ll be more successful.
Expanding the number and quality of people you network with will help your business in ways you can’t anticipate. A result of expanding your sphere of influence while networking in NJ makes resources available to help grow your business beyond new referrals. Having resources available to ask questions regarding contracts, human resources, suggestions regarding a difficult negotiation or personal matters and more. When I can make a phone call to a friend to ask for help resolving a difficult situation, life becomes easier.
In short, networking in NJ is a fun and interesting way to increase business. Try to attend as many events as possible without spreading yourself too thin. Bring plenty of business cards. Give it a try.
Written by: Mark Yecies, SunQuest Funding