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Episode 85: Networking Effectively (Jim Catalano)

In this SeizeYourBusiness.com entrepreneur video, Jim Catalano discusses networking through social media, giving to clients before receiving, and knowing your brand.

In this SeizeYourBusiness.com entrepreneur video, Jim Catalano discusses networking through social media, giving to clients before receiving, and knowing your brand.

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: And our guest today is Jim Catalano from Catalano and Caboor and also The Music CPA. We had Jim’s dad, Jerry, on a couple episodes ago, and that quickly became one of our most popular lawyer episodes ever. I’m really happy to have Jim here.  Jim, why don’t you tell us about your role in the firm, and actually maybe give us a refresher on what Catalano and Caboor is all about too.  

JIM CATALANO: Sure.  I’m the marketing director for both entities; I’m in charge of the social networking and the websites as well as the networking groups and putting the name out for the firm. 

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: And I forgot to mention our topic today is going to be networking tips. 

JIM WASZAK: Which brings me to a question: So today’s world everybody wants to do everything on social media, but there’s still a role for person-to-person networking, isn’t there? 

JIM CATALANO: Indeed. Indeed, there is. It’s very important that -- Some of the younger crowds they don’t really -- They’re more about what’s on their smart phone.  But the above 30 is really appreciative of person-to-person, and the biggest thing I’ve seen at networking groups is that always have a lot of business cards on hand either on your person or in your car.  There’s so many times I’ve been in a networking group where I’ll be like, “Hey, can I have your card?”  ​​“I ran out.” It’s like you can still maybe connect afterwards, and maybe they’ll send you an email; maybe they won’t.  ​

JIM WASZAK: It doesn’t get things off on the right foot.   

JIM CATALANO: Right.  This way if it’s in your vehicle, worst case scenario, you run back out grab more and come back in.  

JIM WASZAK: So what would you say -- Say you’re at a networking group, right, and you see this guy like Kevin over there? He’s standing by himself, and you want to go up to him and say hello. How do you go about the introduction, starting the process? What do you say? What do you don’t say?  

JIM CATALANO: I like to ask the person first what they do for a living, and then that gets the wheels in my head turning of who do I know that would be a good fit for this person.  Are we a good fit for this person, or -- I’m all about synergies.  I want to help as many people in the room as I can either get together, or we can help them.But I’ll find out what that person does, and then I will let them know we’re a full accounting service firm located in Lombard and that we provide tax audit and accounting services for businesses and individuals and see where it goes. And then there’s times -- “Hey, I recognize your symbol,” or, ”Hey, I know this person in your firm.” I’m always trying to -- We synergize really well with bankers, attorneys, and financial planners. But then at the same time, there’s so many other aspects -- People in insurance they come across, families with different needs. Like one of our CPA does adoption tax credits. So, “Hey, if you happen to know anybody who’s adopting --”  It’s all about keeping the wheels turning.  Or if you meet somebody else at the same event -- “Hey, you might want to talk to so and so over there,” or “Hey, let me go introduce you,” and it’s just great.  It’s just great.   

JIM WASZAK: Sure.  What do you do -- There’s two types of people I find that are difficult to sort of get anywhere with at networking groups: One are the introverts, and the other are the talkers.  So, what do you do with a person who doesn’t seem to have anything to say, and what do you do with a person that won’t shut up?

JIM CATALANO: I think the people that don’t have anything to say, the introverts, is ask them about themselves.  They’re so nervous about talking about anything else, but I think everybody has a comfort level of talking about yourself. “What do you do?”  If they can’t even talk about what their job is, then they’re really easy to -- psychological might be needed.  

JIM WASZAK: Then you might try to connect them with a therapist. 

JIM CATALANO: “Hey, there’s this therapist over there.”

JIM WASZAK: All right.  Go ahead.  

JIM CATALANO: “Here’s his card.”  No.  But I think that’s the key with them -- it’s finding out about people and what do they do and what will help them.  Then the person that just keeps talking, again, try to assess who’s a good fit for them. Is there somebody else in the room?  “Hey, have you met so and so?” or, “Hey, you know--” Again keep the wheels turning of how can you benefit this person other than the services you provide yourself, and I think if something great comes out of it to yourself, great.  But it’s about helping other people, then it kind of comes back.  Karma is a beautiful thing.  

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: And I think that’s a really important thing -- is that that’s what converts people to someone who have your business card and forget about you to someone who will actually want to help you back.  And it’s not currency, but if you do enough good for other people, if you put them in connection with certain people, if you send an invite to events all the time, if you do enough positive for somebody, you’re at least going to stay in top of mind for them when somebody says, “Oh, I need an accountant.  Jim’s gotten me involved in 3 different groups, and he’s done -- Kevin’s had me on his podcast.” You think of other than just sending referrals; you find other ways to add value to people, and that’s a really important thing.   

JIM CATALANO: Exactly.  

JIM WASZAK: Now, how do you handle this question --

JIM CATALANO: Yeah, yeah.  Sure.   

JIM WASZAK: So let’s say -- Because I’ve seen a lot of people sort of drop the ball at this point. But let’s say you connected me to somebody that worked out for me, and then I say I really want to thank you.  Who can I connect you to?  How do you answer that question?  Do you have specific companies? Do you have specific niche or --

JIM CATALANO: We’re a well-rounded accounting firm. I would say the only thing that we don’t do is schools and government entities.  One of our partners does tax planning for veterans; one does nonprofit organization, accounting and audits, political campaign accounting, business interruption; we have another CPA that does startups as well as back taxes. As I mentioned the adoption tax credit, 401K audits, movie and entertainment industry accounting, tax credits for movies.​So it’s pretty much anybody and everybody, but I would say if you didn’t know me -- Let’s just say we met at the event -- and said, “Wow Jim hooked me up with this person.”  Just go to the website.  Reference your business card that you got, and go to the website that hooked you up and say, “Hey, what do they do?  I happen to know --“ See what lightbulbs go off, and if you don’t know anybody, then maybe a thank you card.  I’ve gotten those before.  You get a handwritten card, or occasionally someone will send you a $5 or $10 card to Starbucks or whatever.  It’s not necessary and, again, it’s not anything to do it for.   

JIM WASZAK: Let me ask you about another thing that I sometimes find troubling is -- follow up.    

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: That’s the toughest part. 

JIM WASZAK:  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met people, and some of them almost are desperate for a job.  “Call this guy,” or, “Call me up.”  And people do nothing.  So talk about the importance of it, and how you do that mechanically.  

JIM CATALANO: Good thing you mentioned that too. That’s another thing in addition to sending out notifications of network groups.  And if you know anybody, if anybody in the audience knows anybody that has networking groups, forward them to me and I’ll forward them out.  It’s all about getting new people into the events and more fresh faces, so they don’t become stagnant.  So that’s also trying to be useful to everybody in the room is too -- people in transition.  Send in your resume.  I’ve been doing this for four years now.  I’ve come across a bunch of recruiters that I have a special set of emails that I send out to them.  “Hey, this person’s in transition.”A big tip is when you go to a networking group, have one pocket for the business cards you’re going to give out and another pocket for the business cards that you receive. And that same pocket that you receive, bring a sandwich bag with you and a Sharpie marker. And what you do with it is write down the event that you’re at on the bag and the date, and then that way after the event’s over, put all those cards in the baggy. I learned that from a gentleman.  I’ll give props out to Mike Kennedy who suggested that to me.

JIM WASZAK: He’s a financial advisor, right?  

JIM CATALANO: Yes, he is.

JIM WASZAK: I know him.  

JIM CATALANO: Real great guy.  Real great guy.  In any case, when you take that baggy back to your office, your home, or wherever you go to either email people or connect on LinkedIn, you have a reference point.  So let’s just say, like you said, you don’t have a lot of time. Maybe you went to a networking group a week ago, and you met a bunch of people. Then you got this pile of cards, and you’re just going, “Oh, man. Where did I meet these people?”  So this you can look through the bag, and you have a reference point when you contact them.

JIM WASZAK: So let me ask you this question.   Let’s say you go to a group in the morning, right?  And you network for a while, and you get this sandwich bag full of business cards, and then you come back. Now it’s lunchtime.  What do you do to make sure you don’t mix up the network cards with your lunch and that you don’t eat out of the bag?  No, I’m just -- we always try to have one.

JIM CATALANO: “Oh, man. It’s a little chewy.”

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Well, I actually have a legit question that can oppose from that -- is you’ve got this sandwich bag full of cards, and how do you -- What’s the step that you follow to actually turn that into business?  I’ll tell you what I do, and maybe we can exchange some ideas here.  But usually what I’ll try to do is try to set up a one-on-one coffee; I’ll usually do it at my office, make it a half hour, then make it a checklist that I can help people.  “Do any of these apply?  Can I help you -- Would you like to be in the rotary club? Would you like to join this group?”  The main thing I try to do is get them into a group that I’m already in because then I know they’re plugged into my universe; I’m going to see them every month.  And that I don’t have to worry about them anymore.  If I can’t do that, and if I’m being real diligent and on top of my game, then I’ll schedule a follow up six weeks later, take them out to lunch or something, then do escalating meetings. But it becomes a lot harder if you can’t get them involved in a group or event that you’re already doing.  Is that similar to what your process is?  

JIM CATALANO: Very similar. And that way when I send out notifications about groups, I’ll meet them at other groups, but LinkedIn is first and for most.

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: See that’s not something I do much at all.  

JIM CATALANO: Audience, if you’re not on LinkedIn, get on LinkedIn.  Use the free.  You don’t have to pay nothing.  But get on LinkedIn, because there’s so many times that there’s individuals like myself that after the event they’re going to look you up and/or even on their smart phone after the event.  And the biggest pet peeve I have that I still see a lot out there is on the LinkedIn profile make sure you put your phone number and contact information -- email and phone number -- on your profile.  Because there’s even people that will say -- You’ll scroll through the profile, and it will say way to contact so and so, email me.  And then there’s no email on the profile.  How am I supposed to grasp that out of the air?  Call 1-800-PSYCHIC.  But yeah, I would say LinkedIn a huge.  It’s kind of your digital Rolodex.

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So what do you do once you’ve added them, and you’ve become friends with them on LinkedIn. I don’t know if that’s the correct term.   

JIM CATALANO: Yeah, yeah.  

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Once you’ve added them on LinkedIn, what do you do to pursue their relationship? Do you send them a message or --

JIM CATALANO: Yes, let them know what you do.  There’s some people that go, “Oh, man this person’s selling me.”  No, you’re telling them what you do.  That’s why you met each other.  If you don’t want to know more about each other, then they won’t connect with you to begin with, or that’s what it’s about -- is telling each other about each other, so if you don’t --

JIM WASZAK: Here’s a pet peeve.  I tell the audience don’t do this.  I’ll get a connection request from somebody I’ve never met, and that’s fine.  But then I’ll usually respond to it, and I’ll say something like, “How do you see us helping each other?” or, “What lead you to me?” or whatever.  And they don’t respond.  And I feel -- Hey, you reached out to me; you want to network for me, but then you won’t even respond to my -- So don’t do that.  Follow up. 

JIM CATALANO: It could be a few things.  It depends on how you have your settings set up. You could have your settings set up that everybody can see who you’re connected to, or who all your connections are, or you could have just your connection could see just the people that you share a connection with.  If you have it open to everybody, they could be farming your connections.  They might connect with you see everybody and try to connect with them for one reason or another.  Not necessary malicious, but for whatever reason.   

JIM WASZAK: I usually don’t connect to those people.  

JIM CATALANO: But you just try, “How can we help each other?” And I think the biggest thing is -- I’m a big advocate in connecting to, at least in our industry, anyone and everyone.  And I think even for all three of us.  The amazing thing about LinkedIn is how small it makes the world in a blink of an eye. When you scroll down and see the shared connections.  “Hey, how do you know Blah Blah Blah?”“Oh, that’s my neighbor,” “That was my past boss.”  And it just it turns you from a complete stranger to “Oh, my God. You’re a Bob’s neighbor.  Okay, cool.”  So it’s --  

JIM WASZAK: It is amazing.  I’ll notice a lot of times I’ll meet somebody, and I’ll look them up.  I’ll always know people who know them.  

JIM CATALANO: If anything, that’s an ice breaker too. I see we both know John Smith.  How do you know him?  It just it’s so amazing though how many people connect just based on who knows who. It’s beautiful.  

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Well Jim, you talked to trying to talk to everyone -- anyone and everyone -- and other Jim you’re a little more choosy about your connections.  The way I look at it is LinkedIn and Facebook are distribution networks for my blog.  And if someone sees a blog -- even if I have no connection to them.  If they happen to see a blog article run across their feet and read it and maybe reach out to me, then it’s worthwhile.  So I’ll just add as many as friends as LinkedIn will let me.   

JIM WASZAK: The downside of doing that though is it’s been frustrating to me a couple times where I’ll say, “Kevin, you know Joe Doaks?  Can you introduce me?”  Then you say, “I don’t really know him. We just connected on --“ 

JIM CATALANO: But that can still be -- Again, it makes you not a stranger.  You know him whether you know him or not on the screen.  Psychologically it puts you at a comfort level of “Wow, you know so and so?” Whether you really know him or not, it puts you a little more at ease.But the only not everybody and anybody -- Don’t get me wrong; there’s a ton of spammers that are out there on there.  Like you’re seeing some from Saint Johannesburg, Africa, or whatever. Then you connect them, and they’re going to send you spam, then don’t make the connection or -- 

JIM WASZAK: You make an interesting point, because I get these emails, and it’s telling me that I’ve inherited like a million dollars in South Africa or something.  I got so many of them that they all ask for the same thing.  So I just now put in my signature on my email -- I put my social security number, my credit cards, my driver’s -- so then they just have it. They don’t have to worry about it.  

JIM CATALANO: Right. Yeah, make it simpler.  A big thing is just being smart about where you think -- There’s people that reach out from all the time from different countries, and whether you can --  My father has the music CPA that he can help musicians from around the world if they need taxes in US handled.  So he’ll get people like that, but if you just see like they’re a trading company or an oil rigging company in Beijing or wherever.  What do you seriously -- What are you going to do? And you can click ignore and nobody’s --

JIM WASZAK: So our viewers love to hear stories.  Can you tell us a success story about some networking experience you had that lead for some business for you?  

JIM CATALANO: To pin point one -- 

KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Well, you met me working an event and now you’re on the podcast. 

JIM CATALANO: Well, I mean, we just -- I met a great guy at a network event up in Schaumberg, and it’s one of those things that -- We’re a very ethical firm, so we don’t steal people away from people.  If we know somebody’s happy with their accountant, God bless you.  Just know that we’re here in case something goes a fall.  When I met this gentleman, I was telling him about how my dad had said in his podcast is that we like to be futurists and not historians.  We want to look to the future, and most accountants out there, not all, but there’s just a lot that just look at let me do your tax return. “Thanks. Bye. See you later!” And we’re all about helping them grow and become future clients. So I mentioned that to him, and “My current accountant is a historian.”  He came in and talked to us, and we saved him a lot of money and got him in a lot of angles of helping his business grow. That’s what it’s all about is relationships. 

​JIM WASZAK: That is true.