How to Network

Tammy Shaklee, the founder and CEO of H4M, an online matchmaking service designed exclusively for gay professionals, reveals the similarities between matchmaking and networking techniques.

By Emma Whalen , Photo by Korey Howell
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Since 2012, Tammy Shaklee, founder of LGBT matchmaking service H4M, has been creating personal, offline connections for gay professionals in Austin and beyond. Through her work, she has found the networking skills needed to expand her business were not so different from the interpersonal skills she encourages her clients to utilize. 

“A matchmaker’s goal is for everyone to find their person,” Shaklee says. “Matching with the right business connections is, in some ways, just like dating. I like to think of both in three steps: introductions, courting and dating.”

Below, she outlines in her own words how her relationship advice translates to professional networking.

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Introductions:

With each new introduction, look for ways to have a mutually beneficial relationship. I once met a videographer at a Chamber of Commerce lunch and she was assertive in giving me her card. I thought, “I don’t need video marketing,” until I did. When a Shark Tank casting director called me to submit a five-minute professional pitch video in less than a week, I called her in minutes.  

Whether it’s Metropolitan Breakfast Club, Leadership Austin, a meet-up or any Chamber of Commerce event, there are many opportunities to introduce yourself and your business. When you’re in a room of potential business “matches,” pick only the top three to follow up with initially. Take note of their names, have your business card ready and approach them at the meeting’s end. 

Courting:

The process of courting to earn someone’s business is a two-way street, especially for service providers. It may start with coffee, but don’t be afraid to get creative. The sales representative that now has my printing business actually invited me for a scoop of ice cream. The shop happened to be next door to his business, so I was able to walk over and meet the owner. It helps to stand out among the others when courting a potential business connection. A snow-cone stand or food-trailer court can be unique Keep Austin Weird locations for a business meeting.

Connecting others is a great way to court. When a resource, nonprofit or business solicits me, I try to help. If I can’t help, I try to connect them with a better fit. Some tips on making that courtship connection:

  • Phone calls work. Leaving a business-like voicemail sets you apart from the emailed follow up. 
  • Lead with giving, not taking. Never ask for anything without first giving something to help with their business needs.
  • Use social media to court. Liking or posting on their business page matters, so tag, tweet…and do shout-outs.    

Networking is Dating:

Business relationships take time. After investing a year as a member of the Metropolitan Breakfast Club, I continue to benefit from those weekly introductions. From meeting a charity auctioneer, whom I introduced to co-chairs of a black-tie gala, to hiring the best movers in Austin for my home and business moves, I still make use of my connections.

When you take time to court, the real networking becomes easier and more fruitful. People give to people. Whether it’s discounts on advertising, sponsorships, prime volunteer slots or access to more networks, the best opportunities come from the people you’ve taken the time to get to know. Some tips on establishing fruitful connections: 

  • “You should meet…” These are three powerful words. Never let a business introduction end with you. Referrals are hot. Remember the influence you have by introducing that person to whom you know, and vice versa.
  • Volunteer your time. When you can’t afford the sponsorship, volunteer to work the event instead, especially at the registration table.
  • Tickets and invitations are to be shared. Give away the extra seats or passes for events. Even the call to offer them makes a difference.
  • Be your own matchmaker in business by simply refreshing your daily priorities with what we have known for generations: Connecting with others can lead to unexpected and great opportunities.

Tammy Shaklee founded H4M (He’s for Me) in 2012 in Austin, in order to bring an offline matchmaking service—traditionally enjoyed only by the straight community—to an LGBT audience. H4M is the private, offline and personal matchmaking service designed exclusively for gay professionals. Now serving clients throughout the nation and world, including Texas lesbian women and bisexuals, H4M facilitates traditional introductions, courting and dating for today’s modern gay single seeking a long-term relationship. For more information, visit h4m.com and follow H4M on Facebook


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