Play Is the New Networking

Building enduring relationships outside of the boardroom

September 30, 2016

The landscape of how business development is done is evolving. There is a culture shift happening globally for B2B, B2C, and even nonprofit organizations. The days of stuffy business suits, mahogany boardrooms, and strict employee rulebooks are becoming a thing of the past as more professionals are embracing non-traditional forms of growing their businesses, networking, and even onboarding talent. The meetings of today look more like a discussion at a local art festival, a museum meet-up, a working hike, or a chat over sushi. Over time, the line between play and business is becoming blurred and its positive impact is affecting internal teams and our bottom lines.

The saying goes, “people do business with people they know, like, and trust.” As a business owner, I have built many non-traditional relationships in unique ways. Whether sitting on a plane or in a fitness class, modern business owners are open to meeting people, building relationships, and doing business differently. One of the most creative, artistic, and distinctive ways that I have experienced this shift in business culture is through a curated art experience I attended at Hive.org’s Global Leaders Program.

“The days of stuffy business suits, mahogany boardrooms, and strict employee rulebooks are becoming a thing of the past as more professionals are embracing non-traditional forms of growing their businesses, networking, and even onboarding talent.”

This program is aimed at providing leadership  and entrepreneurship training for extraordinary purpose-driven leaders, by showing us that there’s a better way to do business. The networking portion of this leadership program was produced by LATE NITE ART (LNA), a company that blends art, team building and schmoozing into one space in a blur of paint brushes, bright colors, butcher paper, and an assembly of beautifully connected strangers. The LNA team travels all over the country and organizes events that inspire individuals, groups, and teams to break through the creative and social walls that we build taller and stronger as we get older. The vast majority of the individuals I met at this event mixing play and business were in the C-Suite, and leaders in their respective communities – people who were decision makers in charge of cultivating their work environments, the deal makers, movers and shakers, and culture changers.

The beauty is that these type of artistic environments foster a vulnerability and honesty in building relationships that is much more challenging to find in a typical corporate setting. I would argue that it provides a more authentic insight into the type of business professional who might end up being your biggest client or partner. Sometimes doing business isn’t about the paycheck, but rather, it’s about the chemistry and long-term professional relationship and satisfaction that it yields. Although it may seem too woo woo guru for some, these opportunities to connect with professionals in lowpressure, creative environments can be powerful marketing tools. They are a chance not only to attract potential big money partnerships and clients, but also, to solicit the best pool of internal talent. The best employees of today look to join companies that have a unique balance of play, innovation, community activism, personal fulfillment, and business ferocity. For instance, Salesforce allows employees as many as 56 total paid hours for volunteering annually. The employees who take advantage of all 56 hours subsequently receive a $1,000 grant to be donated to a nonprofit of their choice. Companies like Salesforce know that offering philanthropic opportunities that excite the interests and passions of their employees is how smart companies build their most effective teams. Similarly, young companies like HubSpot, NetFlix, Quicken Loans, Google and Zappos are regulars on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies and Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work lists for actively and consistently acknowledging and integrating play with business activities. Even older companies like Aetna have embraced new age ideologies that speak to the hearts of their employees by introducing yoga and mindfulness training, raising wages, and improving health benefits. All of these examples lead to higher retention rates, morale, and ultimately lower turnover. It’s good for the people and the company’s bottom line, a part of the new win-win mentality.

“With nationwide unemployment below 6% and a constantly evolving workforce, employee satisfaction is a critical factor that a company must explore to be competitive in a market where incentives are expected, talent is limited, and poaching is common.”

As Elevate My Brand has grown over the years with a variety of employees and personalities, it has become increasingly important for me as a CEO to implement a play and business model for managing my team, which includes yoga, working hikes, group lunches, massages, summer outings, and team-building games. We have even implemented a policy we took from the CEO of Vow to Be Chic and implemented a required coffee date for all new employees with all existing teams to foster relationships and connection within the company. With nationwide unemployment below 6% and a constantly evolving workforce, employee satisfaction is a critical factor that a company must explore to be competitive in a market where incentives are expected, talent is limited, and poaching is common. The same can be said for growing business relationships with non-traditional creative tactics, such as bonding over volunteer experiences or meeting at the opening of a museum exhibition to encourage a deeper and more fulfilling business and personal relationship.

It’s imperative as decision makers and industry leaders that we constantly anticipate changing business tides and become flexible to new ideas and opportunities for business growth, while supporting industry developments striving to create a new normal.

Sources: Forbes, Fortune, Recruiter Box
Disclosure: LATE NITE ART (lateniteart.com)is a current client of  Elevate My Brand

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