I have to admit that writing on a topic like network and relationship building feels a bit silly because it inherently implies some sort of expertise on behalf of the author. To clarify upfront- we are not experts. Connected? Yes. Well-liked in our industry? Hopefully. Experts? No. We’ll leave that to the likes of great marketing minds like Seth Godin and Jeffrey Gitomer.
But real life is all we really know. Six years in business and over 200 weddings later, we’ve had the fortune of meeting some incredible partners in our industry—both here in Denver and around the country. In both workshop and mentoring settings, the same conversation surfaces. How did we do it and how can others do the same for themselves?
The textbook answer tells you to: get published in more places, do more style shoots, win the wedding planner over with a family shoot or headshot, gift more gifts to more people in high places, spend money on fancy letterhead and even fancier business cards, wine, dine, impress, and repeat!
These can all be good things and their outcomes, though short-term, may at least get you noticed. But, we’re convinced there’s a better way. It’s nothing heretical or revolutionary, simply an idea, a new set of principles for an old form of networking. The best part is that it doesn’t require your knowing Oprah or having always won at Bingo as a child. All you need is a little kindness and hard work.
And so, in no particular order, here’s a list of the things that really matter if you want to build a network that matters.
Do not discount ANYONE.
We did not get to where we are today without each and every ‘little guy’ we met along the way: florists, planners, rental companies, the one-man violin show, the chatty coordinator at the church, and the play-by-play DJ. Every single one of them has mattered.
Work really hard. Know that hard work never goes unnoticed. Be willing to do more to get the job done right. Go the extra mile (or ten if you need to). Hold the door open, carry the extra box, and give the shirt off your back (or more likely, the hair tie off your wrist).
Hold tight to integrity.
Do what you say you’re going to do and when you make a mistake, as we all do, remember to right your wrongs. It’s important to take ownership of your actions while understanding that you’re not perfect. Be real.
Give your time, attention and gratitude. Be generous. Remember to say thank you and give credit where credit is due. When you believe in someone’s service tell a friend and a client. Your business is not the only one with needs.
Bring energy to everything you do.
Always bring real energy and real interest. For whatever you put in, you will surely get out. Exactly. That. Be a day maker and a joy maker. Show others how to be their best, and from that, you will get their best.
Show passion for your job. Share your dreams. Allow people to be a part of something with you. Be YOU.
And always, always, always remember where you came from. Remember who brought you through it. Remember the planner that took a chance on you. Remember the little guy. Remember the “you” you once were, the heavy boots you once wore and the timid place you once knew. And give back. Make that place a little better, a little less fearful, a little more hopeful for the next guy.
Written by Katie Thurmes, co-owner, Jenna Walker Photographers
Katie Thurmes, her sister Jenna and brother-in-law Matt Walker are industry leaders in the Colorado wedding market with work that is considered both emotional and real. Jenna Walker Photographers imagery has been featured in The Knot, People Magazine Southern Weddings, the New York Times blog and more. They photograph 45 high-end weddings each year and their lifestyle portraiture, TreeSwing Kids, draws celebrity clients including Carmelo Anthony & Lala Vasquez. In all of it, they believe in working hard, playing hard – and choosing substance over the superficial. In 2010, they launched their women’s photography retreat series – Substance Workshops. Moving forward in 2011, they are most excited to unveil a social entrepreneurial component to their brand. At the core of this is their belief that if you strive for significance, success will follow.