The ant and the grasshopper of the networking world

IT Culture

I have a little Microsoft Partner fable I’d like to share with you:

The_Ant_and_the_Grasshopper_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994In a Microsoft TS2 event one summer’s day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content at the free soda line chatting up his big company. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil a stack of business cards, books and conference brochures he was taking to the office, begging people to come to his user group.

“Why not come and work with my busy company,” said the grasshopper, “instead of traveling the country from conference to conference, user group meeting to networking event?

I am helping grow my company into different verticals and different markets,” said the ant, “you should come to our user group meeting and meet some great people.

Share my knowledge with the competitors, are you mad?” said the grasshopper, “I am so busy and I have no time for the groups and conferences.” But the Ant went on its way and continued to WWPC, continued to network locally, continued to build relationships through the blog.

When the winter came and the Orlando housing market fell apart, the real estate agents and their supporting law firms, mortgage brokers, builders, financiers and decorators left the town. The grasshopper had no leads, bankrupt clients on his MSP plan, aging infrastructure and no plan for Server 2008, while it saw the ants looking for new hires, spending on training and growing their project work from the relationships and leads they had collected in the summer.

Then the grasshopper went out of business.

In my years of leading Orlando ITPRO I have heard every reason under the sun why people couldn’t and wouldn’t come to the meetings. Too busy. Too exhausted. Not sharing with their competitors. Not convenient enough to go. No time to go to the conference. No patience to read a book. No time to read a blog. No use for the forums and groups. Nobody told them about the SBSC quarterly confcall. No need for Jessica Emmons. No value in JJ Antequino, nothing to learn from Rene Alamo or James Cuomo. Nothing but spam from Eric Ligman. And groups, facebooks, mailing lists – are you kidding me?

And then… the winter came. Then the economy went south. Now they want the leads. Now they want to try out the services and get into the partner program. Now they can’t get enough time in the webcasts and forums. Now they want to meet the ants they ridiculed so in the summer.

Here is the little thing about the world of networking, ants and grasshoppers. Ants are always sacrificing during the summer to network, to grow, to plan and to strategize. Grasshoppers roll with the flow, are too busy, too swamped, and see no value in hanging out with the ants. Then when the winter comes, they need those ants to survive but guess what – the ants have moved their game to the next level and are not looking back. Particularly not at the people that blew them off when they asked for the time and attention.

When times are good, attendance and memberships in IT communities declines. You’re gainfully employed, who cares about the relationships, connections and knowledge, you alreay know a ton of people. All likely in your own company or segment. And in the winter, when that segment loses interest, funding and eventually clients and salary cap you end up on the street, looking for that user group to find a new job, looking for those partners that circled the globe for some help and insight, looking..

Except now those ants that build solid businessess, relationships and connections have little to no incentive to deal with your defunct grasshopper …

When you look at the world and relationships through the ROI eyes they come back to bite you in the butt at the most inopportune time. Thankfully, you’re neither an ant nor a grasshopper, but you do have a choice of one to model your business and your work ethic around.

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