By Brooke Didier Starks for 5 Things
A 5-MINUTE READ
Sitting over lunch in a favorite Italian restaurant recently, a woman said “remind me why you decided to do 5 Things.” Really?!? Dang, girl! Did you open the door for me to talk about one of my favorite things on earth? Yee-haw! So I jumped in and gave her all the whys, hands flying in every direction because if I can’t use my hands, then I’m mute. When I’d finished, she was smiling and said “I had forgotten why I loved it so much. I mean, when I came to the one I attended, I had a great time, I remember that I enjoyed it a lot, but I had forgotten that the whole “why” behind it was one of the reasons I loved it so much.” I thanked her for giving me that honest feedback and mentally vowed to have us do a better job of telling our WHY story. So here we go. Five Whys Behind 5 Things.
1. We needed a social space for women.
It seemed like men had the monopoly on this – many kudos to them for figuring it out. We observed businessmen we knew who would gather socially: a table for drinks, a golf league, poker night, season tickets, etc. They would shoot the breeze for 45 minutes, laugh, socialize, make bad jokes but then IT would happen: the realtor might say “hey did you know that building on the corner of Main and First came up for sale?” To which the developer would say “yeah, I’m thinking about putting an offer in on it.” The banker would say “interest rates are pretty low right now, send your documents over and we can get it rolling.” And BAM! A deal was made. Back to drinking, golfing, cards, basketball they’d go. But we weren’t there to be part of those circles. Women were picking up kids after work, running car pools, finding lost uniforms, sitting in the Walmart grocery pickup. We weren’t out for an evening and even if we were, we didn’t know where to find other women where the purpose of the gathering was merely to connect rather than to serve some other mission such as we do with our charitable activities and our kids’ events. We needed a space for women to gather to socialize for their own benefit.
2. We thought we could probably do business in blue jeans, or even yoga pants.
When we were at work, our kids were calling us or texting us for help with this or that and when we were at home, we were checking email, answering client texts, and finishing up projects after the kids went to bed. In between we were volunteers, and we were advocates, and we were constantly and continuously switching in and out of roles so often that we didn’t buy this idea of work-life balance. It was all just one big globby mess of who we are. We didn’t want another networking event where everyone dons her Monday best work wear and enters as polished as if she were walking into a board room. Not happenin’ sis. Not on our watch. We’ve been to too many of those stuffy events. Your pants start to feel too tight and your feet hurt. We wanted our gang to be comfortable, feel good. So we found a barn (the least pretentious of places) and said “come as you are.” And we meant it.
3. We KNOW our people because we ARE our people.
As much as we say we’re all grown ass women who do what we want, we know that’s not true. We do what our calendars tell us to do. Stop laughing. I’m not wrong. And something’s got a 68.7% better chance of getting on a woman’s calendar if it involves substance, a reason. Ok, fine. I made that statistic up, but we still maintain that we know our audience and we have a much better chance of getting you to schedule something on a weeknight if you think you’re getting something for your time, even though we’d argue that you’re getting something way more valuable than speakers when you come to an event, but we’ll get to that in a minute. We needed you to have substance (so you’d actually put it on your calendar and come), so we decided to host speakers.
4. But not with too much content.
Because we ARE you and we can’t think of anything worse than being held hostage on a Tuesday night while someone drones on for 45 minutes on… well… any topic, really. Dude, we are BIZ-EEE. We are all so busy. So we started to think about how we process the info that comes our way: newsletters, blogs, emails, podcasts… they all have a 68.7% better chance (yep, false statistic again) of getting read by us if they break it down into quantifiable chunks: 8 Ways to Add Instant Curb Appeal to Your House; 5 Must-Have Holiday Pieces; 3 Words Never to Use in an Email. You open it, you scan the bold bullet-pointed pieces and IF it intrigues you enough, you allow yourself 4 whole minutes to read the dang thing. Probably while sitting on the toilet with someone yelling through the door. We needed a quantifiable number of speakers with a limited quantity of things to say. So we decided on five. Because that’s how many fingers we have on one hand.
5. We wanted to foster connections.
We mentioned we’ve been to a zillion (that’s a real number, btw) networking events. We’ve passed out boxes of business cards, shaken all the hands, sent the follow up emails… and some of it has worked. But mostly it hasn’t been a super productive use of time. Okay, fine, I’ll say it. Most of it is a waste. People don’t remember you from the other 20 people they met that day and nothing meaningful comes out of it even though you are charming and funny and exhibit a clear mastery of your field. It just isn’t that effective. But you know what IS effective? Liking you. Yep, that’s right. If I LIKE you, then I want to do business with you. I want to see your business succeed and thrive. If I LIKE you, then I want to send my friends and family to you. I want to find ways to have your business and my business work together. I want to tell other business people to promote your business because I LIKE you. To like you, I need to get to know you and to get to know you, I just need some unpretentious time to sit across from you, in my comfy clothes, glass in hand, listening to some lady talk about some life thing and at just the time that I catch myself laughing and nodding in sisterhood with her, I glance over and see you across the table laughing and nodding too… and bam! What’s this I’ve found? A kindred spirit? When she finishes speaking, I’ll say “I noticed you were laughing too when Holly was talking about not liking to play with her kids…” and the rest, as they say, is history…