Start With WHAT
The American Heritage Dictionary defines networking as “an extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.” Our profession is not generally thought of as one that networks much at the technician or operator level. This has been changing slowly over the years, mostly because of the opportunities available online. You may be thinking, “I don’t have time for that,” “I can’t do that” (due to shyness, etc), or “I won’t share business ideas with others who will eventually steal my clients.” Every single professional, no matter what her job title is, needs support to grow at some point in her career. Hesitation to ask for input should not be a factor in the decision to network or not.
Networking is essential to making yourself and your business more successful. To me, networking means constantly building relationships. A good networker has two ears and one mouth and should use them accordingly, in many cases listening more than talking. Offering assistance to those who ask builds trust as well as relationship. Effective networking takes effort and requires seeking out beyond your usual contacts.
Networking involves setting goals as to what you wish to gain from the relationships formed. However, you should be careful not to run into a networking junkie or someone everyone else runs from when they see you coming. Tailor your networking strategies to each forum so that you fit in without being tuned out.
Vicki Peters, vice president of operations for Kupa, believes networking in two directions is essential to personal and professional growth: “In our industry we work alone a lot. Networking with other techs is important to realize there are others out there dealing with the same issue,” says Peters. “Networking locally is key to building customers.”
Where to Go
There are numerous opportunities to network locally if you seek them out: chamber of commerce, online, trade shows, and classes, to name a few.
You may want to check out the local chapters of these organizations:
Rotary International (www.rotary.org)
Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org)
Kiwanis Club International (www.kiwanis.org)
These local groups will not help you learn technique, but they will expand your relationships in your local market, allowing you to increase traffic to your salon.
Peters created her own chamber of commerce - so to speak - during her years as a technician. “I had a business card file in my desk that included my veterinarian, dentist, doctor, etc., who were all clients. I networked that way and end up with a tremendous business using those resources,” she says. Once she started in the competition arena, she would gather all the competitors and go to dinner afterward to talk shop.
Another option cropping up around the United States are Networking Day events. These events consist of 10-60 technicians and educators spending and entire day trading ideas, improving technique, and creative valuable relationships, Darlene Sammons of Chattanooga, Ten., has hosted two such events and is planning another soon. “Everyone who has attended an event says it was such a great learning experience. I am having another because I met so many new people that I can network with,” says Sammons.
Online, you will find numerous and varied forums, from message boards to mailing list and live chats. Before participating you should evaluate the forum to determine if it is geared to professionals or consumers. These forums will allow you to gain valuable knowledge in expanding your business and dealing with employees, renters, and your customer.
In the beauty industry, the nail technicians are way out in front in the networking race to success. While forums and opportunities exist for almost every aspect of the industry, none take advantage like the nail technicians do. Estheticians run a close second in the chase to connect and expand. Participants in online forums range from the not-yet enrolled in school to Who’s Who list in the industry.
Given the large numbers participating in some of these forums, you are bound to find some have ideals and techniques very different from your own. Wendy Molitor of St. Petersburg, Fla., says everyone should realize that there is never one way to do something. “An oldie or a newbie might just learn something different. Never dismiss something prior to investigation,” she advises.
So what about that shy technician? How can she climb out of her shell and experience growth? Even though the average nail technician is outgoing many have self-esteem or shyness issues. A good start would be to buy a book on networking and read every word. At shows and classes the timid tech should not sit in back and hide from the group, but instead, sit in the front and make an attempt to get involved, making it a point to speak to at least two to three people. Online forums are also a great option.
Educators should be taking a major role in this personality transformation by surveying class attendance for introverts and draw them into the fold. Sammons, who teaches in a local school and does manufacturer and private classes, quickly learns the names if the shy students, drawing them out, getting them to agree or disagree with a point or comment that was made. “I look to them for confirmation when I am talking about something, asking a direct question that requires a verbal response,” she says.
WHY It’s Important
Often, we as nail technicians can be emotionally drained by our clients - listening to their stories, playing psychologist daily, and more. And active participant in the forums at BeautyTech.com, Bethany Boyd of Tucson, Ariz., recharges herself by attending every class she can, even if she doesn’t use the product. “People who go to classes are usually ecstatic about learning,” says Boyd. “Most local techs are scared they will give up their 'secrets,' says Beth Wallen of Charlotte, N.C. “Thank goodness for the NailTech Mailing list. I would be lost with not a soul to turn to for ideas, tips, techniques, and friendship.”
WHEN to Make a Move
I can hear you thinking, “I don’t have time for this.” Some online forums are accessible 24/7/365 making this a workable option for anyone, with any schedule. Keep in mind some forums do require a commitment. For example if you join the BeautyTech Mailing Lists, the posted message will come to your e-mail box as they are posted, so if you are not diligent about checking your e-mail, this may not be your forum of choice. Message boards are web-based; the posted messages are there for you to read through at your convenience. The live chat hosted by BeautyTech begins Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. EST and continues for several hours, allowing you to stop in when your time permits and stay as long as you like.