Networking is essential for developing your contacts and making your business profitable. In keeping with this, and to satisfy a clientele whose needs are more targeted, Alain Boudreault, Vice-President of Programming and Innovation at the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM), and Guillaume Fortin, President and Founder of PairConnex, launched a new networking concept: Business Clans. They both spoke to us about it.
CCMM – How did you come up with the idea of Business Clans?
Alain Boudreault (A.B.) – We were thinking, Guillaume and I, about the best way to connect people who had told us about their needs. They were very specific and we asked ourselves how we could help them meet businesspeople who could offer them added value. After dividing up this clientele, we noticed that there was some noticeable overlap apart from their initial requirement (this being rather sector-specific), such as wanting to meet more than once either early in the morning or at lunch, to get advice to grow their business, to share professional issues, etc.
Guillaume Fortin (G.F.) – We used pairing algorithms developed by PairConnex to measure the compatibility of people from all sectors. We then refined these results after reading all the information, to create clans with high potential and unique chemistry.
A.B. – This approach resulted in a first Business Clan cohort in autumn 2017. Since the participants liked the formula, we continued our efforts to refine the method used to create our networking groups thanks to intelligence from data.
CCMM – So it’s a project that’s constantly evolving?
A.B. – Absolutely. The business intelligence that the networking is based on changes with each cohort, thanks to the feedback we get from participants and the algorithm we keep improving. Our goal is to increase the interests that we serve even more.
CCMM – What are these meetings like?
G.F. – Each group, made up of 14 to 20 people, meets four times during the cohort. This recurrence, without being too restrictive, is to build trust and collaborative synergy in order to create solid business relationships.
A.B. – The meetings include a host (none other than Guillaume himself) and themes for discussion.
CCMM – What is the goal of this mandated framework?
G.F. – To help the participants get the most from their meetings. We start by being clear about why each person is there: we devote the first meeting to introducing everyone (who they are, what they’re looking for and what they have to offer). Then, we promote conversations thanks to periodic discussion points that enable both introverts and professionals who are used to networking to discuss and enrich each other through sharing their experiences. On my end, as a host, I stimulate conversations and ensure that each participant uses their speaking time fully.
CCMM – What have you observed during these meetings?
G.F. – The network that each person creates. But remember this: business relationships aren’t created around a table, but away from it. This means that, in a spirit of collaboration and mutual aid, people share information after the discussion. Unlike other networking methods, and because you know that you will meet the people there again soon, your interactions with them (like sharing article links and introducing them to contacts) are genuine. We then start interacting at a higher level.
CCMM – What were the results of the previous cohort?
A.B. – The satisfaction rate of those who participated in the first cohorts exceeded 88%. More precisely, 80% of people felt they had gotten useful information from the discussions. By the fourth meeting, a third of participants had already made sales.
CCMM – What are a couple of tips for participants in the next cohort?
G.F. – Be authentic and come in with an open mind. We aren’t participating in this kind of meeting to sell, thinking of the 19 people around the table as potential clients. No. The best approach is to want to help people. It’s thanks to this attitude that we will help you in turn when the time comes.
My second piece of advice is to perfect your elevator pitch. As I was saying earlier, each person’s speaking time is limited. As such, it is essential to know how to succinctly present yourself. Keep in mind that speaking longer doesn’t make your statements more relevant.
A.B. – I’ll finish on a more general note: the network determines the growth of a business. You need patience and perseverance to build it.
Other than the advice, I’ve noticed that being in a small group with a framework and progressively building bonds are good learning tools for anyone starting out in networking and an effective concept for more experienced networkers.