Among the various enterprising skills a successful businessman has to build, communication and thus a very good network is one of the most fundamental.
At least that’s what I understand in my very limited knowledge on business. Now, you might wonder: why write about networking and communication skills on the first blog ever?! This story is quite strange even to me!
How it all started.
It was Tuesday afternoon, I remember. The sun was shining although you could feel the chill breeze down your spine —pretty poetic, huh? As we were heading with the marketing team for our first official meeting to discuss the interns’ first blog, I never thought I had to make a decision right there, at that instant. So, imagine my distress when I had to pop out an idea. “Hell no” I could think! I mean, I am still blonde and I have no idea of business, at all. All I could think was a complete nothing! So when I was asked what my favourite book is, I didn’t even blink before I replied with a bright smile on my face: “Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin!”
And here I am now, writing a blog and imagine where our main focus will be! Good guessing everyone! Networking as portrayed in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. What is really strange even now that I am writing is that I never expected I could combine business skills with Pride and Prejudice. I mean, how is the ever-perfect Mr Darcy related to business? Yes, he is a businessman but he inherited his fortune —lucky him!— and as for communication skills, I wouldn’t really look up to him if I was a new businessman. I mean, he is arrogant and has an attitude and his network is created basically due to his family background and, of course, his money! What we could probably look up to in Mr Darcy, apart from how to make the woman you like furious and yet still marry her, is his smartness and success as a businessman. He is actually described as an excellent businessman that raised his inheritance value by a lot more.
But as I was thinking what other layers there are in the story, I realised that the description of the society at the time is actually depicting the nature of networking in the 19th century. Pretty awesome, don’t you think?
Networking as portrayed in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.
So, how was business done in the 19th century? Obviously networking wasn’t that easy as it is today. It was basically done through private societies created and run by rich businessman. These societies, through gatherings and parties, would socialise with each other and, in the midst of all the drinking and smoking, they would gather in an all male room to discuss partnerships and prospective funding dealings. But how do you get an invitation to such a gathering? Is it only for rich people?
Not necessarily. One could get the passport to his big chance of finding his contributor through another friend or acquaintance who happened to know some other individual of the one hosting the party. Imagine, you get this precious little invitation and you are in! How, on Merlin’s beard, do you persuade a rich businessman to invest on your idea? Especially, if you have not got a rich family background and you are a totally poor and uneducated fellow. Well, here is where you need communication skills and, as a matter of fact, excellent communication skills. Eloquent language, persuasive techniques and a tremendously good business plan. Now, put all these communication skills together and imagine you only have one minute. This is insane!!! “Cannot happen in a million years” —you would think— but this is all the time you have to at least draw the attention on you. This is the time you have nowadays as well, but let me ask you something. How much significance do we give to our presentation skills when we have a massive communication engine doing the job for us? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am referring to the internet. I mean you always have to present your idea but you don’t only have one chance when you can promote this idea with various other means.
Well, back then if you didn’t have great communication skills, you could always marry a rich old maid or widower not to mention that, in general, marriage then was more of a business deal rather than a love story. But you had to at least be handsome. I am not talking about being a woman and wanting to start a business because that was out of the question at the time —but as the saying goes, behind every successful man, there stands a woman.
Then, now, the future!
Back at the time, the only opportunity you had to present your idea and create your network was at those events so you really only had one chance. Now things are totally different. We have social media apart from the relevant events. There are much more opportunities given for new entrepreneurs to flourish or not —because it is a really competitive market, let’s admit it!
There is a whole department of Enterprise in the University of Sheffield, that offers you skill build courses and plenty of opportunities for networking either through Sheffield Crowd or the Entrepreneur’s pub and the list of opportunities to raise your communication skills and networking could be endless. Oh, wait! I am an intern here!
The past could have less competitiveness in contrast to our century but the knowledge we have and the opportunities to achieve greatness is vast! The future doesn’t look that bad when you compare it to the past, when you had to be somebody in order to achieve something. Now you only have to have the idea and you can find the means to realise it.
To sum up, I’d say our know-how today is greater and we can build an excellent network but as everything in life, nothing happens without hard work and the agility to always stay informed and prepared about the changes in the world. Communication will always be one of the most important skills now and in the future because no matter how much technology influences our life we will always pass through our messages more effectively by coming into contact with other people.
My personal feeling is that we need to invest more into our communication skills; become better speakers and unique personalities. How else can we create a network full of awesomeness?
(Many thanks to Claudio for his amazing sketches on public speaking and digital communications.)