One day, years ago, I had lunch with two friendly faces. We met at a nice little place in downtown Buffalo. One gentlemen was a business partner of mine at the time (Let’s call him Bob) and the other was a fellow soccer coach, who also happened to be an attorney (Let’s call him Don). While we caught up on the details of our lives, people kept dropping by our table to say “hello” to my friends. Most of the interactions were very formal and very brief, but it happened often enough that it struck me as odd and definitely left an impression.
When our meal came to an end, Bob and I walked out together and he marveled at how funny it was that I was on a first name basis with one of the most powerful and influential people in the area. I didn’t even know who he was talking about, which made it even more comical for him. It was then Bob explained to me who Don really was. I had no idea that my good friend Don was in fact, “Mr. Smith, high-powered attorney extraordinaire” to most of the free world!
Interestingly, this has happened to me again and again, over the years. The office is on high alert because “Mr. So-and-So” is coming in from large company X. Mr. S shows up and guess what? He’s actually Jimmy or Sandy or Kev. I usually get greeted with a “Tommy” or “Tommy Boy!” and then there’s five to ten minutes of soccer talk before we even broach the business of why they’ve come to Algonquin.
You see, I’m heavily involved in the soccer community here in Western New York and that involvement has led to some great friendships with some well-connected people.
My point here is not to convince anyone that I’m a big shot or special in any way. Name droppers annoy me to be honest, hence the fictional names above. But, to me, stories like this are great testaments to the fact that it’s so important to think beyond the office… To get out into our communities and become involved. There are thousands of organizations out there in need of quality leaders and volunteers. Finding one that speaks to you can offer the amazing opportunity to both make a difference and make some new friends. And, to be brutally honest, sales guys can always use more friends.
I realize this might come across as calculated, but that’s not my intention at all. I’m not suggesting you join boards or organizations in order to schmooze potential clients. What I am suggesting is that if you put yourself out there, in a way that you’re genuinely motivated to do, you’ll meet like-minded people and like-minded people often make the best clients.
The cornerstone of the corporate culture here at Algonquin Studios is the idea of “Family, Faith, and Work,” recognizing that “Faith” doesn’t have to be Sunday worship. Maybe your faith is about building houses with Habitat for Humanity or teaching kids the value of team sports and exercise with Buffalo Soccer Club. Whatever it is, think about giving it some of your time and best efforts.
I hear it all the time. “I don’t have time to volunteer for an organization outside of my day job.” But the funny thing is, if you make the time, you just might find that you really enjoy it and who knows… Mr. Smith, who sits on the board, might just become your “good friend Don.”