In response to a recent article I wrote called "How to Quick-Start Networking Conversations" for RainToday.com, I got an email message from Dr. Sarah Layton, CMC of the Corporate Strategy Institute, Inc. She wanted to share this incredible networking story. So I thought I’d pass it along, in the spirit of "you just never know."
Ten years ago this past May, I sat next to a lovely lady on a Delta flight from Orlando to NYC. I struck up a conversation by helping her get settled in her seat and asking if she was traveling for business or pleasure. She was then off and running telling me about her business, the oldest direct mail company in NYC. In the course of the conversation, she learned that, while I had been to NYC many times, I had never "done NY" because I was working on my doctorate and running my business. To make a very long story tolerable, here are just the major events.
1. She invited me to spend a weekend with her so she could show me NYC. She wanted to send me an airline ticket. We tousled briefly about that and I told her to send a check for the amount of the ticket to a college on which I serve as a Trustee, Florida Southern College. She sent a check for $10,000.
2. She hired me on retainer that Sept and I served until we successfully sold her company to the next generation of partners on 9/12. Yes, I was on a plane on final approach into LaGuardia at 9:00 in the morning on 9/11. What a week that was, but we did have the closing.
3. Fast forwarding a number of years, this past Friday, there was a huge celebration at Florida Southern for the ground breaking of the Humanities building she built for the college. Yes, she serves with me on the Board of Trustees of that college.
4. I serve on the board of directors of her sold company, where she is still the Chair.
She won’t mind my telling the story because the ground breaking has been picked up by all the major media outlets. Florida Southern College is the largest single exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world and gets a lot of attention.
When my colleagues tell me they like to hunker down in their seats and bury their heads in reading material or a DVD and not talk to anyone, I say, "Fine," secretly smiling that it leaves more people with whom I can connect.
I’ve been traveling a lot lately and have noticed that, especially with personal TV screens on the back of every seat, most people don’t even say hello to their seat mates anymore. Have you noticed that too?