Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Insights From the New VP

by Michelle Merritt, VP Member Relations & Communications

I’ve officially completed week four at the Chamber.  With almost an entire month behind me I’m starting to get my feet under me & am speaking with a little more confidence about a variety of topics.  I’m meeting new people every day, giving presentations to great groups, & interacting with some amazing community members I hadn’t known before.  I guess you could say I’m expanding my network even more. 

For some reason, the word “networking” gets attached to my name quite often. Twice this past week I was referred to as the “Queen of Networking”.  I admit it made me laugh.  I’m guessing it’s because I’ve made a lot of friends & connections in the two years I’ve lived in Fort Wayne.  With Fort Wayne being such a welcoming city, that’s been the easy part.  After all, people do business with people they like & I like the people of Fort Wayne

It doesn’t offend me to be called the “Queen of Networking”, as I know it was intended as a compliment.  However, I’m considering having the word “networking” banished.  Yes, banished.  While I may not have the relationships yet to have it removed from the entire dictionary, I believe I’m going to remove it from my own personal dictionary.  I’m starting a mini campaign to stop “networking” & all that has traditionally come with it. 

When most of us think of “networking” we think of being slimed by someone in a cheap suit trying to force a product or service on us that we don’t need while balancing a plate of meatballs stabbed by a toothpick on top of a plastic cup filled with cheap wine.  Who could possibly find that to be enjoyable?  I know I don’t.  Traditional networking & networking events often feel like a business meat market, an economic bar scene if you will.  If you feel the need to shower immediately after “networking” then you’re never going to like it and never going to want to do it again. 

I’m wondering what happens when we replace networking (and all of its slime) with building relationships.  What would happen if we focused on the importance of building meaningful relationships with people?  What if we actually cared about the people we connect with in our communities personally & professionally?  I believe we would change how business gets done.  The real reason I’ve been able to “make it happen” in my life had nothing to do with networking.  My success comes from the relationships I’ve built with people.  It’s what makes working at the Chamber so rewarding.  They share my philosophy on building relationships in the community which is allowing me to flourish. 

So here’s my commitment to each of you.  As the Chamber moves forward in its 135th year we are working to continue building relationships with you that help you get where you want to go.  We’re designing & redesigning events that don’t feel like a business meat market.  You’ll find great people at these events, have a good time, and maybe even learn something.  We’re creating educational opportunities that will help you improve your skills & build relationships with people who have similar interests/needs.  Your job is to show up & introduce yourself to a few new people.  If you’re a little uneasy (or still afraid of being slimed) find one of us on the Chamber team & we’ll introduce you to slime free people you’ll enjoy building a relationship with!  

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