Meeting Heavy D

In 1988, my uncle got me tickets to see the New Edition NE Heartbreak Tour at Madison Square Garden.  His assistant put my name on the list for the official after-party.  I was a junior at CW Post and had never been to a real music industry party.  I guess it was my first opportunity to network.

The concert was off the hook, my seats were on the floor.  I had hoped to take my girlfriend (now my wife) to the show, but she had a death in the family.  I went with her friend. I know what you’re thinking, but trust me, her friend and I were like in-laws.  We hung out and tolerated each other, but didn’t really like each other. I must give her some props because she got really dressed up, which made me look good strolling around the after-party (until she got into a deep discussion with some other dude, I want to say it was Redhead Kingpin, but don’t quote me).  After the initial shock of not being hassled at the door when I gave my name, we walked in gawking and staring.  Malcolm Jamal Warner shot me a curious look…I think he was checking out my companion, but I told people it was because he thought he was looking in the mirror (in those days, folks called me Theo).  I can’t remember all the celebs that were there, but the highlight of the night was meeting Heavy D.  We didn’t exactly spend 20 minutes chatting.  He simply approached me, looked me in the eye, said what up and gave me a pound.  Like I was a peer! That was the kind of dude he was, always made you feel like you belonged.  And that night, being a broke college student at my first real industry party, that meant more to me than he could imagine. From that night on, Heavy D stayed in the rotation, especially the next summer in 1989,  with the release of  Big Tyme album. I wore out that cassette.  Shoot, I watched Boston Public just to see him play the guidance counselor (or was it because Sharon Leal was on the show?).

So, at my first networking event, the best networker in the room was Heavy D.  I strive to be that kind of warm presence whenever I attend or host a function.

Rest in peace, Heavy D and have a peaceful journey. Thank you for showing me how to work a party.

Reach Out And Touch

Last month, I did a post on collecting biz cards.  Now, I wanna know how often do you go through those old contacts and reach out? How often? Damn.  What good is it if you have all these contacts and you don’t interact with them?

Last year around this time, I was looking through my old contact list so that I could find someone to say, “long time no speak.”  I was also looking to drum up some business as well.  As a small biz owner, no matter the economic climate, you should constantly tap into your networks in order to find work. Well I did  catch up with quite a few folks. And while some of them couldn’t hire me or jump in to some ventures with me immediately, a few of them came back to me months later with some checks (or Paypal transactions).

I think it’s obvious to guess what would have happened if I didn’t decide to reach out and touch some old colleagues.  I truly believe that when you are in your respective game for a long time and run your own shop, you don’t get biz by mailing out your CV.  It’s not what you know, but who you know.  And Larry Sharpe would go one more step by adding, “It’s not who you know, but how well they know you.”

So get out there and nurture those relationships.  Saying hello after 5 years makes (dollars and) sense.

Have any of your dormant friendships turned into dollars?


Opportunities Have No Schedule

Don’t let a referral pass you by.

I was sitting in my boy’s office, when the receptionist rang him.  Someone needed to buy insurance.

When he got on the phone, he determined that the insurance in question was really a property/casualty matter.  Since he was on speakerphone, I heard the conversation, and I immediately grabbed my BNI biz card book and pulled out my prop/casualty guy’s card.  We gave the woman on the phone the info and told her to use my name.

She called my guy and the paperwork is in the pipeline.

Everyday, there is an opportunity to do good and send business to your colleagues.  Use your ears and listen for those opportunities.  Keep your friends top of mind.  I am constantly thinking about ways to refer business or good people to the other good people I know.  And I know that there are associates of mine who are trying to do the same for me.  A networking guru called it Giver’s Gain.

Not a bad credo to live by.

Also, when you are constantly looking for opportunities that may benefit others,  you will end up putting money directly in your own pocket at times.

So please don’t let these opportunities pass you by.

(And yes, I know the above video is not 100% authentic)

Biz Card Hoarder

my business card wall
What do you do with those business cards you’ve collected over the years?  Do you scan em?  Send them off to CloudContacts? Throw em out?

I put mine in huge binders.  Years worth of contact info.  I still have my very first rolodex from my admin asst days in the music industry (1990).  I refer to them often.  A few years ago, I was looking through my binders trying to find a printer I could invite to my BNI chapter. I came upon a guy’s card who was quite memorable.  I met him in 2004, when I used to belong to Ryze and happened to attend one their networking events.  For some reason, we got to talking about Jersey and its hip-hop stars. It was a great conversation.

So in the spring of 2007, I found his card and sent him an email about being my guest at a BNI meeting. While it was not his primary email, it was forwarded to one that he checked regularly.  In a few hours, we were on the phone catching up.  Now mind you, it was a Tuesday late afternoon and my meetings are Wednesday 7am.  Guess who showed up on Wednesday morning?  And shortly after that, he joined.  And then 3 years later, in one of his last acts as a member, he brought a guest that became a business partner in another venture of mine.

So, don’t throw your old biz cards away. Three to six years later, they can still turn into something.  Not to be cliche, but there is a reason they are called business cards.

Using LinkedIn To Generate Referrals And Visitors In BNI

As the incoming president of Manhattan BNI 7, I was trying to think of ways to help my chapter and remembered what BNI Assistant Director and former Manhattan BNI 7 president, Lauren Simpson said at a Leadership Training session about LinkedIn and using it as a tool to connect with other professionals.

In the upper right hand corner of a LinkedIn page to the right of the “people” search tool is an Advanced search button that if you click it, it brings you to another page with greater search capabilities. There you can enter key words and further limit your results by a radius of say ten miles from a certain zip code, thus localizing those results.

At one of our Chapter 7 meeting, a member, an image consultant and personal stylist said she was looking for Matchmakers as referrals and possible power partners, (power partners being people who can be an ongoing source of referrals). This prompted me to search for Matchmakers within a ten mile radius of zip code 10022 in Manhattan.

Once the information was entered and the radius filter set, I saw that there were several pages of results, the first results being those people within the first few degrees of my personal LinkedIn network. This can be handy if there is an immediate connection or link between you and your prospective referral. If there is, you can ask your connection for an introduction and go from there. If not, you can try an e-mail or a phone call assuming you have that information available. In my case, out of a list of about 6 potential prospects, none were within the first degree of my LinkedIn network so I came up with this simple e-mail asking not only if my member can contact them, but I also invited the prospect to learn more about BNI and even come to visit the chapter:


Hello (first name):

I found your profile on LinkedIn. I am the president of Manhattan BNI Chapter 7 and one of my members who offers image consulting and personal styling is looking for an introduction to someone in your profession. Perhaps you would be able to help each other. In any event, her name is (full name of member). Please let me know if I can provide (first name of member) your information and have her contact you.

As well, let me know if you would like to learn more about BNI 7 and/or visit as my guest.

Thank you,

Bill Allen


Notice I don’t give out my members’ info but ask if I can have her contact them as this shows their seriousness and willingness to receive the call and it also confirms that this is an actual referral to my member.

Of the e-mails I sent out, three did not respond and the other 3 responded favorably that they would like to be contacted and one of those also checked out our BNI 7 website, found another member she wanted to speak with and then visited the chapter as my guest the following week.

As well, Chapter 7 like many other BNI Chapters, is always looking to grow so I thought why not do a search for professionals that are not currently represented in our group. In this instance you can do a similar search to the one above and use an e-mail or phrase like this when you speak with them:


Hello (first name):

I found your profile on LinkedIn. I am the president/member of Manhattan BNI 7 and we are looking for a (their profession) to refer business to. Please let me know if you would like to learn more about BNI 7 and/or visit as my guest.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Bill Allen


Again, Lauren Simpson was kind enough to suggest the idea behind this simple, but very effective phrasing which she would use at networking events and cocktail parties. And from this technique alone this year I’ve had 5 or 6 visitors to my chapter.

I don’t mention that we meet every Wednesday at 7 a.m. in the morning or give any further details unless they express a real interest in visiting and then if the seem hesitant I say “come for a visit, I can’t guarantee this will be for you but I can say you will like our group and you will have a good time and then you can decide if it’s something you want to do. There’s no obligation to join and it won’t hurt to visit once.” This gives them an out but it also piques their interest that they should at the very least, check out the scene.

This networking technique does take a bit of time to sift through the search results, and in some instances there is limited contact information available, but many LinkedIn profiles do have company or personal website links which will provide the contact info you’ll need. Try it, and feel free to use and personalize the e-mail templates provided. If the prospects don’t respond, move on, if they do, great! But remember, if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. Keep at it, it will work eventually and the time you invest will benefit your fellow BNI members which in turn will benefit you. For as we all know, Givers Gain!

Best of luck!

Bill Allen

Owner of The William C. Allen Insurance Agency
President of Manhattan BNI 7


Take Some Time To Thank Your Mentor

Look through your contact list and find your mentor and then thank that person.  All of us have a mentor or two that have helped pave the way for us. Even before we knew what networking was, we knew enough to link up with someone who could provide guidance.

My main mentor is a gentleman named Ken Simmons.  Here’s the story:

In 1988, I was a junior at CW Post/LIU studying Communications.  I got my first internship that fall at a place  called MJI Broadcasting.  I had never heard of it before, but the place was popping.  The company produced shows that were syndicated on radio stations on every format around the country.  Some big time folks worked there. At first,  my job was to run errands, but because I showed an interest in production, Ken and Liesl, gave me a razor blade, some tape, and a grease pencil so I could make music beds.  Like I said, it was 1988.

I immediately realized that Ken knew alot of folks in the urban music world.  And he was nice enough to let me ask questions and soak up knowledge.  When the semester ended, I made sure to stay in touch.  I had no idea that I was networking.  I thought I was pestering a guy who had lots of connections.

So in the next semester my PR class had to produce a symposium for our final project.  We chose music.  Things were not falling into place, so I called Ken.  He immediately got on the phone with Doug E. Fresh‘s people (shout out to Charles Rogers).  And Doug E. came out to speak to the students.  Now mind you, this was now Spring 1989…Doug E. was an extremely hot name in hip-hop.  I got an A. I also dressed up as Tina Turner for a publicity stunt to drum up exposure.  All pictures have been burned.

And then, in 1990 after I  graduated from school, I get the opportunity to interview for an assistant position in the Tommy Boy Media Relations dept. I tell Ken, and of course he knows the head of the dept.  I get the job, and my entertainment publicity career gets started. At the time,  the record label  was busy promoting  Queen Latifah, De La Soul, and Digital Underground.  Not a bad way to enter the workforce.

Ken is probably more like my sensei…mentor may not be strong enough considering all the positive things that happen to me when he decides to make a phone call.

That’s why I mentor just about every chance I get.  It didn’t cause Ken any anguish or stress to do those things on my behalf, yet what it meant to me was priceless and life altering. It’s my turn to pay it forward.

Thank you, Ken.


Lessons Learned After Class

What can attending networking events do for you?

The main reason, folks attend these shin-digs is to drum up new business.  But I want to talk about the growth opportunities that can come your way.

I graduated from CW Post in 3 1/2 years.  I left and didn’t really look back. I didn’t have a bad time, but I may have been too young to appreciate all that I got from my alma mater.

A few years ago, I got an invite to attend an alumni  networking mixer at the NY Athletic Club. Being the self-proclaimed king of networking, I RSVP’d to that immediately.  I was impressed that my school was offering a free open bar event at the frikkin NY Athletic Club!

When I went, I was so impressed that I scheduled a meeting with the Director of Development and Director of Alumni Relations to discuss how I could get involved. Long story short, I attended a few Alumni Board meetings and was admitted to the board soon after.  Once you join a Board, your main goal should be to use your sources and resources to make great things happen for that non-profit.  Being on the board should not be about beefing up your Linked In page.

By networking, I met some alums who also wanted to contribute to the school.  We put something together, and voila…their company sponsored the first annual Homecoming Networking Mixer at the school’s Great Hall.  You can imagine how that makes me look to the administration at my alma mater.  Making this happen was not initially on my list, but these are the kinds of accomplishments that beget more opportunities to put feathers in the cap.

And the “I can raise dollars to put on an event” feather is a great one to put in your cap.

So, target a non-profit or two and hang around.  By getting involved and continuing to network, I am sure you will find a great opportunity to help that non-profit.

And if you have already made some things happen for a non-profit, please put them in the comments.

Stalk Your Colleagues

When you decide to attend a panel or seminar in which a good friend is sitting on, please send them a notice that you will be checking them out.  Not only it is a courtesy, but you may be doing them a favor.

True story.

I saw a seminar listing in which a few of my friends were panelists, which immediately made me move my schedule around so I could attend.  I sent both of my buddies a note that I was looking forward to seeing them.  One of the friends called me back and was confused.  “What panel?”  I explained what I knew and forwarded the email that I received.  That person didn’t have the panel on their schedule, because the organizers mentioned it in passing…at a social event.  And the organizers never sent any confirmation notices.  My friend has a busy life and thriving practice, which is why they were invited to be a panelist.  I’m sure they were gonna blow it off, but I mentioned that it was over capacity. My friend then rearranged their schedule to make sure they honored that “commitment.”

Sometimes we all think we did everything on our list.  Sometimes things fall through the cracks.  The organizers weren’t trying to be unprofessional…they just thought they crossed all t’s and dotted every i.  But that lack of follow-through would have made my friend look very unprofessional.

My fellow networkers, sometimes we have to make sure our friends know what is on their own itineraries.


If  information creation or dissemination is a part of your job and you don’t have a smartphone, then what are you waiting for?  Get rid of that old cell phone. Today’s technology makes it easy to network and work on the go.

Case in point.  I was on the bus on my way to a TV interview taping with a client and the producer emailed me for more information.  They needed to write the opening for the segment and they needed a different angle.  Where was my laptop, you say?   A smartphone fits on a belt, which is much easier than wearing a device on the shoulder or back. And why carry all of that when you don’t have to?  I have a Blackberry.

I clicked on the  GMail app and found a couple of press releases that I sent out a few weeks ago.  I copied key points from each press release and pasted in a reply email.  Mini crisis averted.  Plus the producer was pleased, since she only had to wait 10 minutes.

If I only had a regular cell phone, I would have had to write something once I arrived, which would have been an hour after she wanted it.  The producer would have looked at me like I had two heads.  And who knows if she would have taken my calls again? Or imagine if I didn’t see the email until I got to the studio?  Love that push email.

I know most people are already on board, but this is for the few remaining stragglers.  There are many of us who are solo practitioners that have no administrative assistants. Being able to search, copy, paste, and send while out of the office will be mandatory soon.  The person waiting for the info is not going to accept the excuse, “I was away from my desk” much longer.

So please, Get Smart(phone).

Are You Spam-Networking Me?

I was just finishing a meeting in a hotel lounge, when a distinguished looking gentleman approached me.  He reminded me of a family member, so he immediately had my attention.  He asked me some questions and then talked briefly about something that smelled like MLM.   He asked for my card, which I did not give.  I took his card and a flyer and told him that I would email when I looked over the info.

Some would ask, why didn’t you just say you weren’t interested and leave?  Well, I hang around that hotel lounge quite a bit and would hate to feel  awkward in my “satellite office.”  Plus,  with more research I may determine the project to be a great opportunity.  And I’m a networker, I am trained to be polite and welcoming even when I don’t want to be. Just can’t help it.

So the remedy is alternative contact info.  An email or phone number you can give to someone when you are not sure you want to network with that person?  Everyone needs a “Hey, how you doin?/ Sorry you can’t get through/ Leave your name and your number/And I’ll get back to you*” for those spam-networking moments. When I got back to the office, I sent him an email from my rarely-used AOL address saying thanks but no thanks (using only my first name).

Am I going to log into my AOL address five times per day?  No, but I don’t want to miss anything important that may get sent there every once in awhile. I  get notified of new AOL messages twice a day via NutshellMail.  I’m sure many of us have some AOL, Compuserve, Netzero, MSN and etc emails that we once used and never got rid off.  NutshellMail will check these addresses (as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace) as often as you need and send you an email summary.

So if it turns out not to be spam-networking, then I have kept the channels of communication open.  If it is, then they will be spamming an address I don’t use for business or personal.

* – see video

When The Lights Go Out (or Staying Mobile)

Storm 2010
This weekend’s storm has put a lot of things in perspective.  Let me first say that if your house is intact and you have your health, then all is good.

When you work primarily from home and several trees knock out your electricity, internet, and telephone…you are going to be slightly inconvenienced.

I can’t even remember or fathom what folks did when these kinds of things happened 20 years ago.

But in these new times, many consultants travel light. And we’re even more connected now than ever. Let’s go over the checklist:

No electricity:  Not to fret.  My laptop has a battery.  And I can bring it to a relative’s house or the library to plug in and connect. Up until this weekend, I preferred desktops as my main computer.  That has now changed. “What about your fax machine,” my father asks. “I need to fax you the bracket for March Madness.” Go ahead, I tell him, I’ll get it as an email (courtesy of TrustFax).

No phone: I have Google Voice, so my biz landline number was already set up to receive these calls.  So for now, I will be using my cell phone to make and receive calls, but at least I don’t have to give folks a new number to reach me.  If you’re confused about Google Voice, read this).

No internet:  I’m still very nomadic on that one.  I have been using my sister in law’s DSL connection.  I did use a colleague’s ethernet in their conference room for most of the day on Monday, and you’d be surprised at how many folks do not lock up their wireless network (many thanks).  But this situation calls for a MiFi, a wireless card, or the reactivation of my Boingo account in the very near future.  And of course, the Blackberry is in overdrive.

I didn’t set out to travel this light.  But technology keeps offering these tools that are both effective and less than a handful.  Let me also add, that even if I had most of my stuff on a desktop, I backup to a very light external drive every day.  I could have grabbed that and brought with me to use on whoever’s computer. And I’ve been using the cloud a lot more (GMail, Google Docs). But back in the day, when this sort of thing happened, it would have been extremely difficult to stay in communication with colleagues and loved ones, not to mention how hard it would have been to keep working.

Ironic, huh? Having no tethers, makes it easier to stay connected much better.

How mobile are you?

Only Two People Came To My Event, But I Picked Up Two Clients

At one of my monthly networking lunches, one of my partners invited a sales trainer to speak to the group.  It was summer and hardly anyone showed up.  It became an intimate affair with a handful of people.  The sales trainer, Adrian Miller, blew us away.  She was really good.  We then went to lunch a few weeks later.  Since that time, she introduced me to an entertainment attorney, who has become one of my best power partners.

She refers many of her clients to me.  I signed on with an author client of hers in the early part of 2009.  I then asked her to speak at one of my networking lunches and from there she did business with  a designer that was in attendance.  She introduced me to a long time friend and comedian  client of 20+ years, who recently became a client of mine.  And I met a filmmaker client of hers who I hope will come on board shortly.

Even when there is only a handful of people at an event, shake hands and kiss babies.  You are already there, why not make the most of it?  You never know who that one person is going to be and how it can impact your business.  That is why we network.

Even LinkedIn Has No Love For RSS

linkedinA few days before Christmas, LinkedIn decided to “retire” the Network RSS Feed.  I wrote about how important this feature was for networking here almost 5 years ago.  Simply put, you could have all of that activity (people connecting with certain people, people changing jobs, status updates, etc) go to your favorite RSS reader.  So if you have nearly 2,000 connections on LinkedIn it’s very hard to keep up, so it’s handy if you can go to your reader and look at the activity from the past day, week or month.

That is now over.  If you want to stay up to date with the activity, you must keep LinkedIn open on your browser and check back every few minutes or at end of each day to get that info.  Not impossible, but definitely not as easy as having your RSS reader spit it back to you at your convenience.

I understand why LinkedIn would want RSS out of the way.  They know if you value knowing what your contacts are doing you will stay on the site.  But I always hoped that LinkedIn would be different – forget about competing with the Social Network – make your service an indispensable tool for the entrepreneur.  Give us something that helps us with our daily tasks and eases our workload.  Instead, they just added to it.