Building Business Relationships Through Fire, Shoes, & Sondheim

Posted by Kerri Garbis
June 6, 2012

You never know where you'll be building business relationships.

For two weekends in a row now, I have been asked the question that every business owner wants to hear: “may I have your card?” However, I was not in a meeting or at a networking event.  I was sitting around a campfire and buying shoes.

The campfire happened in Maine, right on the water.  It was early in the evening during Memorial Day Weekend, and friends-of-friends had gathered for “happy hour” before everyone took off to their respective dinner plans.  I had just returned from kayaking and was in lake friendly clothing (and not a drop of make-up).

I met the friends-of-friends and, as people do, I was asked “so what do you do?”. I gave the kind questioner my verbal tweet (what I consider to be the best kind of elevator pitch) and a delightful conversation blossomed.  I wasn’t selling, I was just conversing.  He shared with me some issues his company was having and he asked for my card.

building business relationships 4 resized 600Then, just the other day, I was searching for some new shoes at my all-time favorite shoe shopping place, DSW. As I rummaged through the sale rack of “9s” a woman approached me and asked my opinion of her cork-heeled black leather shoes.  “Would these go with this skirt?” she asked.  “Well, yes,” I said, “but what are you planning to wear them for?”

My new friend went on to tell me she was attending a tradeshow in San Francisco and needed some nice shoes to wear when meeting her clients, face to face, for the first time.  She was nervous. “I just don’t know what to say to people. What do you talk about at a networking event?”  Fortuitously, she had asked the right person.  I gave her a few quick tips and, after we found her the perfect pair of shoes, she asked me for my card.

Luckily, I always have my cards on me – ALWAYS.  This habit was instilled in me by my very first theatrical agent in NYC who said, “you must always carry cards with you, no matter where you go, because you never know when you will run into Stephen Sondheim*”.  I have yet to run into Stephen Sondheim at a time when it was appropriate to offer him my card, but I am happy to report that living by the Boy Scouts of America motto “BE PREPARED” has helped tremendously.

*Bonus Fact!:  At 82, Stephen Sondheim is one of the most well-known and prolific composer/lyricists of the American Musical Theatre.  He is responsible for shows such as SWEENEY TODD, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, INTO THE WOODS, FOLLIES, COMPANY and many, many more.


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