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10 points to improve your networking experience

One of my new years resolutions is to attend more networking events this year. I not just only would like to broaden my international network, but also would like to meet people that share the same values and interests from a business and personal point of view. Networking is basically meeting and talking to people to socialize, share ideas, make new friends or a way to find suppliers, customers or business partners. I would like to focus this post on the business side. For many people professional networking can be quiet daunting, but I hope that  the below list of recommendations will make it easier for you and also more enjoyable.

1. Decide carefully what you would like to get out of going to a networking event. Do you like to gain some more industry knowledge, find potential customers or business associates or maybe a new supplier?

2. Find a suitable networking event that suits your above chosen goal. Most networking events will be posted on online platforms, such as LinkedIn or meetup.

3. Due to these online platforms it is much easier to prepare for networking events. Check the attendees and find people that might be interesting to meet on the event. It is much easier if you have a name or even a face that you might recognise. Additionally, you might already know what they are looking for and it is easier to approach them.

4. Write down a few lines about your business and what you are offering or looking for. This will help you to present your business in a professional way and does not waste your time and the time of people attending the event.

5. Take enough business cards to your business networking event.

6. Don’t be shy. At the end, all the people attending these events are there to network and want to talk to you. Therefore, enter the crowd and you will see how quick you will find somebody to have a conversation with.

7. Make the round and try to speak with as many people as possible. Time is running and sometimes you just speak to three or four people and an hour is gone without actually having met the people you came to see.

8. When you have spoken to an interesting person you might want to quickly make some notes about the person on the business card or even better directly book a follow up appointment to discuss things further.

9. The day after the networking event, add your new contacts to your LinkedIn or Xing network. Even when most of them might not be directly somebody that might help you now to grow your business, but in future you might looking exactly for someone you have already met on a networking event. After all, it is easier to trusts somebody you have already met.

10. Just a note at the end. networking does not need to cost the world. There are many business networking events that only have a small fee or are even free. If you like business networking you can always join a regular networking group where you have to pay an annual fee.

Have fun networking and just give it a shot. I am sure you will enjoy it. Please also let me know what you have found to be useful when doing business networking.

Life can be so simple

Isn’t it true that we sometimes make things more complicated than they actually are? I just watched this wonderful little video and it made me think.

Every day we do things a little bit more complicated. For example, in business I am constantly thinking about the next new marketing tool that I can use to get more customers instead of just talking to people I know and meet every day and tell them about the products we sell in our business. This is not just much cheaper and cost effective, but also much more fun. Additionally, it is a proven thing that people trust people more when they know them already and get a recommendation.

Another great example at the workplace might be that we doing meetings after meetings in order to make sure that everybody knows everything and the service levels do increase. However, by being in meetings all the time and talking about what should be done, we actually forget to have enough people on the floor to provide a great customer service experience.

Unfortunately, I currently cannot recall anything that I do in my private life that could be all a bit more straight forward or made easier. But I am sure there are many things that can be simplified and actually would work better with less stress or workload. Therefore, think before you do things.

Maybe you have something that just came into your mind when you watched the above video or read this post. Please share your thoughts.

The liberation of work: The Seven-Day-Weekend

For this blog post I will try something new. I just read a really interesting article in German, but unfortunately could not really find any good articles about the same subject in English. Therefore, I decided to translate the German blog post into English.

First of all, I also would like to say thank you to David Rotter who put this fascinating article together that can be read on the here: http://www.sein.de/gesellschaft/neue-wirtschaft/2010/die-befreiung-der-arbeit-das-7-tage-wochenende.html.

The liberation fo work: The Seven-Day-Weekend

Managers from around the world look at the brazilian company Semco, a service sector company with a service offer from industry equipment to postal solutions, with disbelief : Things that happen there are controversial and against all their beliefs. The 3000 employees choose their own managers, set their own working times and salaries. There are no business plans, no human resources, nearly no hierarchy. All earnings will be divided by a voting system, the salaries and all business records are available to everybody, but the emails are seen as strictly private and how much money is spend on business trips and for computer equipment is up to the individual.

Respect as secret to success

For current human resources managers this must sound like an anarchic nightmare, but in a reality it is a success story. Since the changes put into place by owner Ricardo Semler, the earnings rose from 35 million to 220 million dollars. And not only the figures will support him, but foremost the employees: the staff retention is above 99%.

The recipe is simple: Treat your employees like adults, then they will act like one. The more freedom you give them, the more productive, satisfied and innovative they are. A business consist of grown up and equal people, not employees. Everybody has the right to develop and find his personal work-life-balance. In contrast to the current belief, pressure and stress do not increase productivity, but make people sick. And this is where the business will loose as well as the person itself.

The aim of Mr. Semler is to create a new understanding of work: A company is a shared undertaking, in the best case scenario a shared passion. However, society teaches us something different. We should see ourselves more like a mason,  painter or handyman instead of the creator of a cathedral. At Semco, employees are an integral part, there co-creators, not just a small wheel in the system. They have ideas, know they work and know what they are worth.

Trust instead of control

However, our current human resources managers still believe that employees have to be controlled by clocking in and out, firm shift patterns, production reports and email spying. Semco has given up on that belief and exchanged control by trust – and seriously: Who wants to work with people you cannot trust?

For Semler, the control obsession of some companies is just crazy. His employees are educating their own children and vote for governours, they are adults that know best what they want and need.

” The idea that people are still so fixated on how something is done is absolutely crazy. Here, nobody says: ‘You are 5 minutes late’ or ‘ why is this worker again going to the toilet’ […] If you look at an office at Semco you will find a lot of empty seats. The question is: Where are the people? I have no clou and I don’t want to know.

It does not concern me in the context that I don’t want to assure that employees spend a certain amount of hours per day at work. Who needs a certain amount of hours per day? We need people that deliver a certain target. With four hours, 7 hours or twelve hours in the office – Sundays in and Mondays off. It does not bother me.”, explains Semler strangely obvious.

No hierarchies, but teams

Semco is something that should not be allowed according to current managers. And if it would be allowed, it should not work. But it does. There are three questions Semler constantly faces: Are you really doing that? Does it really work? And: What now?

The first two are easy to answer: “We are doing this now for 25 years and nearly everybody who was interested to see if it works was here to see it themselves. And our figures show the rest.”, says Semler self-confident.

For him, breaking up the structure of the company was the only possible answer to the unhuman working world we have today. He learned it the hard way, when he suddenly woke up in a hospital with a complete burn out. That was the point when he made the decision to never again subordinate his personal and mental health to the job – and to asked the same from his employees. That the insanity has to stop.

” If we really look at it, it becomes evident that the traditional system does not work. And this is the stimulation to look for something else.” – plain simple by Semler.

But it is still very difficult for many companies to let go of control. Because current businesses are not organised like places for creation, but rather like the military: with hierarchical power system, with order givers and takers. But Semco is built up of concentric and venerable circles, there are no titles and no dedicated office spaces. Nobody has to come to work. It is up to the individuals and teams if they work from home, in the jungle or at the cafe in town.

These teams are the backbone of Semco. People are working in groups that individually produce a product or subproduct. How they do it, in which time frame and what money is up to them. The person who wants to take a rest because they are tired, just goes to the company garden and has a little snooze – a person that is tired make anyway only mistakes.

The company without human resources

Semco has 3000 employees and no human resources office. This when traditional company owners get cold sweat on their forehead. Who employes the people? Who controls achievements?

This is all done by the employees them selves. When a team discovers that they need a new person, they post a meeting on the intranet. This meeting is not mandatory: everybody can come, but nobody has to.

” We do not want that people get involved in something that they are not interested in. Therefore, all meetings are optional. This means, meetings will be announced and the person that is interested can come to it and shall leave the moment it become boring.”, explains Semler the philosophy behind meetings.

People that would leave a meeting because they are bored – that would drive some managers into insanity. But at Semco only those people should make a decision that have a shared interest. On such a meeting, it would be possible to decide that a new person is needed and what qualities and knowledge this person has to posses. Then they would post an advertisement for the position and as soon as CV’s arrive they are commonly shared within the team: Everybody who is interested can take some CV’s home and shares the most interesting with other team members. Instead of interviews there are group meetings with all candidates at the same time – and everybody is free to join.

The only employees that are formally appraised are the decision-makers – appraised by all others. If one of these managers regularly gets bad appraisals he usually leaves the company on their own.

Peer pressure

Actually, most things get done by the teams themselves. If someone makes a good job it will be discussed within the team or in a meeting. Someone who allocates themself a big salary increases the expectations from the team and pressure from peers. But also the employees have a different relationship with work: If somebody earns a lot of money, the whole week actually only plays golf, but still makes a good job and gets his things done – who cares? The result counts.

A study by CNN recognised that employees at Semco have a much healthier work-life-balance, more time for relationships, children and hobbies, but on the other hand also show great dedication and extraordinary results at the workplace. Not despite but because of more freedom. For Semler, this is not surprising: people must have space for development, to bring in their potential.

And it works

Semler is sure: his concept works everywhere. He himself used it is factories and IT-offices. Actually, it is the other way around – this is the only way it works. Our current working environment with burn-out-syndromes, mobbing, stress, gastric ulcers and depression does not work at all, it is continued insanity.

It is time, that we create a society where a profession has something to do with appointment or mission and passion instead of slavery and exploitation. A society where people can make their own decisions and get the respect they deserve. A society where private life and work are seen as equal – including the managers. It is time for the 7-day-weekend.

Ricardo Semler  published a few books: ” The Seven-Day-Weekend: A Better Way to Work in the 21st Century” and “The Semco System: Management with out managers”.

Reflecting on 2011

Inspired by an email I received today from business partners in Hungary,  I would like to share with you some thoughts about the upcoming festive season. It is always the time when we start to relax and maybe reflect on the past year while sitting not in front of the TV, but in a candle lid room and these fantastic Christmas smells. And I don’t know about you – but after having reflected on the past year, there comes the time to look ahead into the new year, the future, of what might be and want we want to achieve or make different.

Personally, I am happy to say that 2011 was a great year with many interesting people that I met and lot’s of new things that I learned. I am very thankful that I have an amazing family and the best girlfriend I can imagine to support me in all my endeavours – if sometimes stupid or not! I know that we will have many, many happy years ahead and will life a fulfilled life. One of the most exciting things that I will take with me from this year was that my dreams or goals are more precise and I have a better idea what I want to do, what person I would like to be and how my life shall look like in future, which according to many people are the foundation to a happy life. A small step on a long journey, but  life will  always be a journey and that makes it fun!

However, I did not achieve all the goals that I did set out to achieve this year, but I honestly believe that this will change in 2012 for the better. I do believe that a year when the Olympics will come to London there will be a lot of exciting things happening and I will be able to play a part in it and will take the necessary steps towards my life goals.

I wish that all of you will have a great festive season as well. I do hope that you will take some time to reflect on the past year and to say thank you to one’s you love. But also look forward to an even better year 2012 with so many things to learn, explore and experience.

And I would like to end this post with a saying that really made me think this year a lot: “In the end everything will be fine. But if it not fine that it is not the end yet.”

Vitamin D

This post will be the start of a new series of blog posts about vitamins and minerals, about their function in the body, sources and benefits. Due to the time of the year and some articles I came across in newspapers and other media, I would like to start this series of posts with Vitamin D.

But why do we need vitamin D and what are the health benefits?

Vitamin D has several important functions within the body, but mostly promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphate and therefore has a direct impact on bone and tooth health. Additionally, together with Calcium vitamin D can prevent osteoporosis. Furthermore, according to leading scientists, vitamin D shows breast, colon and immune health.

What are sources of vitamin D?

According to the NHS, most of the vitamin D is produced under the skin when exposed to sunlight. However, this is not the only source. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) in the US, vitamin D can be also found in the following foods:

  • oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines
  • eggs
  • milk
  • fortified cereals

Sardines at Amanzimtoti in June 2007

However, with a balanced diet and enough sun exposure it is possible to maintain a healthy amount of vitamin D in our bodies.

Who might be at risk not having enough vitamin D?

According to the ODS, they are certain groups of people who are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency.

  • breastfed infants
  • elderly people
  • people with dark skin
  • people with a lack of sun exposure
  • obese people

Looking at all the above facts that I have obtained from various reliable sources, it seems like that people living in Britain might be one of the risk groups to have a vitamin D deficiency, because I am sure that there are not many people who eat the above mentioned foods regularly and get enough sun exposure during the autumn and winter month. Therefore, why not give it a try with supplements…

Rejection can happen

Here we go. Another day in the office and before some interesting meeting with a potential client or business owner. What a day! Which brings me straight to my subject of today’s post – rejection.The meeting earlier today was again unsuccessful in the case of selling another product or having somebody to join my business as a partner. However, I think it all depends on how you see it. You hear it at business functions, meetings and read it in books and still it is so difficult to accept that not everybody will like your product or is into what I am doing. I think every successful person went through these periods of rejection of either the product or the business idea. Maybe, I should try what Jerry Yang, co-founder of yahoo, did in order to overcome his fear of rejection. He literally went on the street and talked to complete strangers about anything that came into his mind and got many, many times rejected and people gave him weird looks.  

At the end, I want to find people I can work with, that are ambitious and want to make their dreams come true. There people might be difficult to find, but they are out there – at least I hope! So, here is the question that I have in my head all day – where do I find these people? They must be somewhere and I will find them.In a recent meeting with a very successful business man, I was told that every time I talk to a person about my business idea and the products is worth about £300. This is actually quiet amazing considering that this chat will only take about an hour or two. This is quiet good hourly rate!

I promised myself that I will not give up until I have told enough people about my business idea, so that I cam make sure that I can have the opportunity to decide every morning what I want to do today. Sounds great? It does!!!!!!!!

But first, I need to some work, as it does come from nothing and freedom is at least a great thing to look forward to and worth putting some extra effort into it. What would you be willing to give up for the freedom to decide each day what you would like to do today?

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