Brief encounters – a personal approach to networking

I am not the shrinking violet type – perhaps because of my upbringing in the North of England.  I engage in conversation wherever I go and – whilst sometimes not appreciated by everyone – it has certainly helped my business grow.

Around a year ago I was in Dubai’s airport waiting for a flight to Africa.  I was looking for somewhere to watch a football match and settled into a bar where I struck up a conversation with another business person.  Invariably I initiate conversation and this occasion was no different.

Completely by chance the person I met was working with a company that appeared to be an ideal partner for an anti-fraud project that had been in my mind for some time.  I had spent the previous six months looking for a company to partner with: scouring the web; checking LinkedIn; using my network; but nothing had materialised.  Here, sat in Dubai airport was the right person, in the right company, with the decision-making capacity to make this project happen in partnership.

There is an old saying, usually attributed to golf professional Gary Player, “The harder I practice the luckier I get”.  Player himself denied saying the phrase – citing a fellow golfer Jerry Barber as the initiator of the quote, but it is difficult to deny the sentiment.  I could have had no idea, on arriving at that bar, that I would meet someone from a company that perfectly fitted the criteria required.  Had I not been the outgoing type, most likely the idea would still be a pipe dream – not a significant source of revenue.

Travelling the world running my business, and previously in my role as CEO of large telecommunications networks, I have met hundreds if not thousands of interesting people.  These experiences have been as diverse as encounters in the mountains of Afghanistan with local tribes people or singing with a chart topping boy band in a night club in Portugal.  I do not find any of this remotely strange, yet when I share this on social networks people are astonished.

Whoever you meet, wherever in the world, I have always found people happy and excited to share their culture and, if you are happy to get involved in local custom, people are usually delighted to make connections for you, help your business and make you feel extremely welcome.  This is probably why my business has operated in more than 100 countries around the globe, despite not being anywhere near a large corporation.

This is perhaps why I am less sceptical about the future than many, despite the uncertainty that Brexit brings to the UK economy.  I fully appreciate the concerns of those companies that primarily trade with the European Union.  Uncertainty about the future is incredibly unsettling for business.  But I am comforted by the knowledge that in 10 years of trading an incredibly niche and complex set of software solutions globally, I have experienced far more kindness than hostility and by showing an interest in others, some incredibly fortuitous business opportunities have occurred.

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