Network Like a Jedi 

Published December 23, 2015

“I'd like to welcome all of our new students to the Jedi Academy. Here we will train you in ways of the Force. You will learn to defend yourself with a lightsaber. You will also study diplomacy, history and more.

Now, let's begin with your first lessons, and the may the Force be with you.”

Luke Skywalker

The current highly anticipated premiere of the film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens offers a new look inside a fictional galaxy where multi-generational teams work together masterfully, using technology along with time tested-tools and smarts to battle the dark side. When you get right down to it, perhaps it is not too different from today’s practitioners working alongside four different generations to battle the forces of the new business landscape to achieve success for their clients and their colleagues.  

One thing is for sure, there are some critical skills essential to success. Our ability to network is high on the list. Although networking has been around for a long time, it has received a major overhaul with the inception and popularity of social networks over the past decade.

  • There are now 7.2 billion people on the planet and just over 3 billion are internet users
  • Nearly 2.1 billion people have social media accounts
  • There are nearly 1.4 billion Facebook users
  • 47 percent of all internet users are on Facebook
  • LinkedIn dominates the professional social network segment with 347 million users
  • There are over 39 million students and recent college grads on LinkedIn
  • Twitter has over 284 million active users and over 500 million tweets each day

With all the social networking taking place it is interesting to note that recent research from International Data Corporation has discovered that face-to-face interaction is still one of the most important relationship-building techniques. Whether you are networking at a local industry meeting, a business association gathering or a Beta Alpha Psi event at the university where you recruit, it is more important than ever to get face-to-face with individuals to forge new relationships and strengthen existing ones. The key here is to find a good balance of in-person and online networking. So let’s take a look at some best practices that you can put to work in your own firm.   

New Networking Tools for Your Firm

Just like the formal Jedi training conducted by Luke Skywalker, firms need to create a process around networking. Not only does such a process help everyone on the team understand how to put this critical skill to work, it helps ensure that they will follow up, solidifying new connections.

As your firm looks to build a more formal networking process, you can turn to the resources in the PCPS Firm inMotion e-Toolkit. Here you will find a number of comprehensive tools that you can use right away in your practice.

Networking Recommendations by Level

Want to know what types of networking activities are recommended for each level in your firm? Here is a sneak peek at a portion of the Networking Policy and Procedures Template that you can easily adapt for your practice.

 

 Associate  Senior Associate Manager   Senior Manager
Participate in three networking activities with a senior associate, manager or senior manager. Participate in two networking activities per year. Participate in four networking activities or two professional or community groups per year.  Participate in four networking activities or two professional or community groups per year.
Participate in one community or professional activity.
Invite an associate or junior staff member to one networking activity.  Invite a junior staff member to two activities.  Invite a junior staff member to two activities.
  Participate in two professional or community groups per year.
 
Oversee one networking staff training event per year. Coordinate one networking event per year.

 
PCPS Networking Groups 

Once your firm establishes a networking process, it’s a good time to reach out to other firms for in-depth practice management roundtable discussions and an exchange of information on firm operations and professional issues. Think about the PCPS Networking Groups as the Jedi Counsel for CPAs. Through each group's informal system, networking group members may take advantage of the valuable knowledge of their colleagues and share their own knowledge with their peers. Networking groups are segmented by firm size and there are two new small firm networking groups for women and young owners/decision makers.

Shine Brightly During the Holidays 

During the holiday season you will likely have lots of opportunities to talk about the work that you do. These casual conversations will take place at parties and other holiday gatherings. It is during these times that you and your colleagues can shine brightly. Even better, no light saber is required. The magic happens in the way you talk about your role in your firm.

  • Be a brand ambassador
    Realize it or not, each person on your team is an ambassador for your firm. Equip everyone to take on this important role. Let them know that they represent the firm and its brand each time they are out in the community - whether it is for business or not. Help them understand what your firm’s brand stands for and how they fit into that brand.    

  • Talk about what you enjoy
    Answering the question – ‘What do you do?’ can be a tough one. Rather than simply saying ‘I’m a CPA,’ help them gain people’s imagination with a better understanding of what that means. Encourage them to share something about their job that they truly enjoy. Let others know why it is so enjoyable or meaningful. 

  • Tell stories
    One of the best ways to help people understand what you do is to share a story. It enables someone to walk into your life for a few minutes and see things on the inside. Tell an anecdote about a recent situation that occurred during your workday. Scrap the technical jargon and replace it with a conversation that the person you are talking to can relate. Everyone loves a story – no matter if they are aged two or ninety-two. 

For more insight visit the YOU are the Value Workshop located in the PCPS Practice Growth & Client Service section.

Don’t Forget the Follow-Up                                                                                            

One of the toughest things about networking is the follow-up. Unfortunately, in this crazy busy world it can be a struggle to reconnect with those you meet at networking functions. The “Followup Framework” developed by Derek Halpern, founder of Social Triggers, is both simple and takes away some of the uncomfortableness that often accompanies the follow-up process. 

  1. Tell Them Your Intentions
    When you meet someone that you think can help you and you can help them, tell them. It’s as simple as “I would like to follow up with you.” Let them know that you will send them an email so they can expect your correspondence.

  2. Add a Calendar Reminder 
    Go ahead and add a calendar reminder to follow up right while you are there with them. “Let me put this reminder on my calendar right now so I don’t forget.” If you are at a busy conference, plan to follow-up within a week to 10 days. Jot down a few notes about what you talked about to jog your memory when you are ready to reconnect.

  3. What To Say When You Follow Up
    Offer a potential solution to a problem that they mentioned. If you don’t recollect a problem, share a piece of data or research that you think will be of interest. When you’re at a loss, try “It was nice meeting you. Are you launching anything new or going to any new events in the next few months?” This question lets them provide more information that will help you offer value.

Wishing you a great season of networking and may the Force be with you in the New Year!



Sole Practitioner
Small Firm
Medium Firm
Large Firm



A A A


 
Copyright © 2006-2016 American Institute of CPAs.