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To Give or Not To Give Your Business Card? 3 Simple Rules to Follow When Networking

You’re at a networking event and are about to start speaking with someone you just met. You expect to learn a little bit about them and the services and products their company provides.

At some point in your conversation, you are going to want to be able to give out your business card to them and you expect to receive their card in return.

The question most people ask themselves is “when is it appropriate to do so?”

Typically people will introduce themselves and immediately attempt to thrust their business card into the hands of the person they just met. Not only is this rude because it assumes that the other person wants your contact information, it also is incredibly intrusive as you are entering the other person’s ‘personal space’ without permission.

You can avoid this faux pas by following three simple rules when it comes to giving and asking for business cards.

  • If you are the one who initiated the conversation, do not ask for the other person’s business card until towards the end of the conversation. You want to stay focused on the subject and the direction of the conversation. If the conversation is a good one, you want to end it by asking the other person for their card and contact details so that you can stay in touch. Asking for the card at the end of the conversation shows respect for the other person’s time and their message and sends a message that you listened to them instead of just wanting to get their contact information.

  • Do not give your business card unless specifically asked by the other person or if you ask and receive permission to give them your card. Just because you’re having a nice conversation doesn’t necessarily mean that other the person wants to stay in touch with you. You may even find yourself looking to get away from them. As cruel as it sounds, there are people who will want your card just so they and put you on their ‘avoid list’. If they ask for your card, then give it but always remember to ask if they would like yours in return. Never assume that they do.

  • Make sure that your cards are kept in a spot that is easily accessible. No one wants to feel awkward. Gentlemen, if you are wearing a jacket, make sure you keep your cards in a pocket on one side and use another pocket inside the jacket or perhaps on your shirt to store the cards from the people you have met at the event. Ladies, you may want to keep your cards in a special spot in your purse or carry around a card case so that you aren’t fumbling looking for cards to give out.

“We don’t carry business cards.”

A trend that seems to be turning into the norm at some events is that some of the younger attendees at networking events no longer carry business cards.

It has happened several times to me over the past few years. I would have an amazing conversation and towards the end, when I asked for their card, some have told me they don’t have one to give. This doesn’t mean that they would not like to receive my contact information or give me theirs. When I asked why, some have told me they want to conserve and save natural resources; others want to live a minimalist lifestyle without the clutter.” Whatever their reason, I respect it.

The immediate reaction by “some seasoned business people” (i.e. those of us are over age 35) is to think Millennials are irresponsible or not serious about their job or business. One thing we have to remember is that the Millennials live in a digital world and communicate differently than prior generations.

To bridge the digital divide, I offer a compromise:

  • I will ask them if they have an app on their smartphone like Evernote or CamCard. Then I will offer my card so that they can take a photo of it as these apps can scan and import contact information directly into their smartphone’s contact manager. (And I’m not offended if they give my card back after doing it).”

  • Then I ask them to either text or email their contact information right there and then, so I can confirm that I got it.

So remember, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for someone’s business card or to offer to give them your card. When you do ask for it or offer yours towards the end of the conversation, it not only respects the other people’s time and “space” it also makes you a more effective networker.

Starting a Minority Owned Business

Starting a business involves planning, making financial decisions and completing legal activities; minority business owners also face challenges accessing capital, marketing and resources.

However, in recent years thanks to the Minority Business Development Agency, it’s now possible for minorities to become successful entrepreneurs.

The agency helps minorities secure financing, create effective marketing plans and provide other valuable resources. So, here’s a basic list of what is needed before seeking help.

1. Write a Business Plan

I know what you’re thinking “not the dreadful business plan”.

However, the business plan is a valuable resource to you and your business, providing a guide on how the business will operate. While writing your business plan, you will start visualizing your business and will learn and develop the characteristics of your customer; who is your customer? What does your customer look like? What’s your customer’s income? You will also understand the role of your competitors and vendors. When writing your business plan, think outside the box show your investors that you’re serious and have the necessary data to support your vision. A well written business plan will open many doors for you.

2. Business Structure

It’s important for you to know what type of business structure you will form. This will determine the taxes you will pay, the personal liabilities you will face and how you will raise money. Types of ownership -

• Sole Proprietorship

Sole proprietors are the most common form of business structure. This type of business is easy to form and operate. However, the business owner is personally liable for all debts incurred by the business.

• Partnership

A partnership is when two or more people agree to give money or a skill set to a business. Both partners share the profits and losses of the business, and each partner is personally liable for the debts incurred in the business.

• Corporation

A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders. This means that the corporation is separate from its owners, and the corporation is liable for the actions and debts the business incurs.

3. Financing

Many financing options exist on the market today, and choosing the right one for your business can mean the difference between failing and succeeding. Though, you may look at certain organizations to help you with financing. Most government agencies do not provide loans directly. They guarantee the loans once you have met certain criteria.

It’s a good idea to have other financing options available; bank loans, family or friends, refinancing or 401K plans.

To conclude, starting a minority owned business can be an intimidating process at times. However, following these basic steps will give you the confidence and courage on the path to entrepreneurship.

Business Owners Can Enjoy Their Holidays

People start businesses for many reasons. One oft-cited reason is that people believe that they will have greater control over their time and hence have greater freedom. However, in reality, many businesses struggle when the owner is away. As a result many business owners do not get a holiday at all! In other cases the business owners cannot imagine others can run their business as well as they can. Here are some tips so that business owners to can enjoy their holidays.

All things are possible with careful planning and robust systems. Having competent people, particularly senior people is a great start.

Select the Time

If you have run the business for several years, you will know the seasonal trends. You can then plan your holiday break and use your billing history to discover your business’ peaks and troughs.

Prepare your Senior Staff

Ensure staff training is complete and responsibility and accountability align. Share your daily routines and philosophy of decision-making with your second in charge, so that they have the best chance of making the right decisions. Make notes of key expectations relating to customers and suppliers. Perhaps make some “video notes”

Consider hiring support (temporary) staff to fill any gaps, so they have the best chance of running the business as you want them to run the business.

Prepare your Customers

Let your customers know that you will be away and who will be acting on your behalf. Introduce your second in charge personally to key customers to provide comfort and knowledge on who to contact.

Occasionally check in, as a last resort. It’s almost impossible to completely get away from your business and the temptation to check emails, call and check with your staff on the state of your business is irresistible for some. If it will ease your mind to check in, then do so but limit your check in calls and so that you can focus on relaxing and enjoying your holiday.

Remember, that if you do not check-in it sends a message to your staff that you trust them to run the operation in your absence.

Try not to become one of the many business owners who struggle to take a holiday and eventually “burn-out”. Remain fresh and excited about your business and life.

In summary, selecting the right senior staff, providing the proper training and sharing your detailed notes will go a long way in creating an environment for success. Business Owners can enjoy their holidays. Perhaps the business will even run well while you are away. Remain fresh and excited about your business and life – make a plan to get away.