On a dark and stormy night…
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. No serious writer would start his article with such a tired old cliché. You probably think I’m some boorish amateur.
But seriously, it is a dark and stormy night. And kind of lonely too. And other than the thunder, it’s awfully quiet.
It’s late Wednesday night, and I’m sitting by myself inside a barbeque joint in Kansas City, Missouri. There’s nothing like driving rain to keep people away from late-night pork ribs and baked beans, so essentially, I have the place to myself. In fact, I’m kind of surprised they bothered to stay open.
So, the scene here is set – stormy night, deserted restaurant, and a booth next to the window which constantly fills with flickering light from cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. It’s the perfect time to think, contemplate and reflect.
Right now I’m thinking about the day that was. It was a good day, a productive day. I attended a meeting here in Kansas City earlier this evening.
As a professional speaker, I’m a member of the National Speakers Association. It’s a professional association designed to help speakers become better at their craft and find new sources of speaking business. I joined NSA a couple years ago, but I was never a member of a local chapter. My city doesn’t have one. Kansas City has a very good one. The Kansas City chapter is 165 miles away, but it is the closest to my home. So, despite the distance, I attended a meeting and submitted an application for membership.
As a new guy, I enjoyed a warm welcome. The current members seemed amazed that someone would drive so far to attend the meeting. I heard comments like:
“Wow, I’m so impressed you came all this way.”
“Sorry you had to drive so far.”
I must admit at one point I did question myself, thinking it was an awfully long way to drive for a meeting, but then I remembered why I sought out this organization in the first place. Like people in any industry, professional speakers benefit mightily when they have a group of colleagues they can help and from whom they can receive help.
But as I quietly sat in that restaurant, another thought came to mind. By joining this “local” organization, I get the rare opportunity to build a “local” base in two geographic markets. In fact, it’s a privilege to be involved in a local organization outside my home market.
Think about it. I’m already well connected at home. I have lived in Omaha, Nebraska most of my life. I work there. I’m raising my kids there. I host a radio show there. I like it there. I already have great colleagues and trusted mentors in my home town. In other words, I’m doing things right at home.
By joining a local organization in Kansas City, I now have the chance to build friendships, develop referral networks and foster mutually beneficial professional relationships in a different place. It also gives me easier, more direct access to a whole new market of prospective clients.
It’s like I’m living two professional lives!
Hmmm…Perhaps I’m on to something. Maybe other people could benefit from this.
Admittedly, some readers of this article work only “virtually” or have a truly national or international focus. Most of us, however, benefit by having a strong local base. We can milk that base and also use it as a foundation, upon which we can stand as we chase national or worldwide business.
Given all of this, there are several questions you might want to ask yourself. How can you broaden your local base? What can you do to make areas outside your home market feel like your own turf? Does it make sense for you in your industry to dip your toes in two local ponds?
What a great day this turned out to be. Something as simple as seeking the closest NSA chapter appears to be leading me to potential benefits I didn’t quite grasp just a few hours ago.
I’m looking forward to seeing what opportunities arise from my new “local” colleagues in Kansas City, and I’m hopeful that I can help them do better in their businesses as well.
Uh oh…The bus boy is giving me dirty looks. I have overstayed my welcome. Problem is…I don’t want to leave. I like it here. It’s really cool sitting by this window thinking and writing – protected from the storm.
Oh well, all good things come to an end. I just hope I can run to the car fast enough to avoid a complete soaking. After all, the 165-mile drive to my real home town won’t be comfortable if I’m drenching wet.