One grandfather was an insurance salesman and my dad was a food salesman. My other grandfather was part owner of a jewelry company in the what was the at one time the Jewelry Capital of the World, Providence, RI. I also had cousins that owned businesses and others that simply did not take the typical route through Corporate America. Entrepreneurship was alive and well back in 1985 but it was how you built your business that was different than today.
I remembered growing up in the 1980s and how both my dad and grandfather had a gift of gab and the ability to relate to all types of people. My Dad was a food salesman, so he frequently the many restaurants in Rhode Island and it seems every time we went somewhere, he would engage in multiple conversations with just about anyone that was within three feet of him. He was the ultimate extrovert. He demonstrated networking before there was networking. Back in 1985, there was no such thing as social media or formal business networking. I think BNI was around, but that was about it. When you were in sales, you had to really hustle like my Dad did or go door-to-door selling insurance like my grandfather did.
The difference today is that we have so many tools available from social media and email campaigns that even the introvert can venture into sales. Imagine what my dad or grandfather could have done with a smartphone?
So how does 1985 compare to 2018 when it comes to business networking?
In 1985, door-to-door sales and cold calling were king. The local newspaper was your main method of mass advertising and your networking event was your local church group or soccer field. I think it was a better time to network since there were no smartphones and people actually had to get out of their shell and talk to people. Another networking scene that was pretty prevalent back in 1985 was your local pub or restaurant. Case in point with my dad, he closed a lot of his deals over a scotch and made more of his connections meeting people that led to more people that would match anyone today with tools available. In 1985, there was no Facebook, Twitter or texting. You had to pick up a phone with a cord and call people. Relationship building was easier since you really got to know someone and understood their reaction right away. Today, you can never know the tone from an email or a text message. Thinking back to 1985, the world was more social and interactive. Relationship building was happening in places that today would not be thought of. You mean, I need to pick up a phone?
Fast forward to today, you have everything I mentioned that we had in 1985, plus social media and formal business networking. So why does it seem things are harder today? Yes, there is relationship building like back in 1985, but it is now normally done through a screen. The cold call simply does not work and the pub scene is not like it was in 1985. The soccer field is a big click. The culprit seems to be that damn smart phone. Go to any bar or sports event today, what do you see? Everyone's hand is glued to some device. Relationship building is harder despite the many options to meet people and potential business prospects but because of all the technology, everyone seems to be introverted and simply afraid to pick up the phone, go door-to-door or go to a business event.
So in summary, the difference between 1985 and 2018 is simple. 1985 was all about personal interaction and instant reaction. Networking was not know as networking. It was socializing. 2018 was all about using technology to cover up the fear of interaction and people's reaction to your inquiry. There are a lot more business networking events today, but it is forced. You can tell by all of the elevator pitches you hear at an event and LinkedIn requests you get after the event. One way communication, no interaction and immediate reaction. Now does LinkedIn help you pick up the phone and call someone? Not really. Sometimes, I think, take me back to 1985.