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Stop networking. Start connecting.

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Mike Brewerton attends one of the many tech events in Charleston. (Photo/Thomas Heath)I can’t stand networking.

To me, it’s inauthentic. If someone is trying to “network” with me, I usually find they’re only looking out for themselves and how they could sell me something. 

That’s no way to develop long-term client relationships.

How to spot a networker? Here are two dead giveaways:

Their opening line is: “What do you do?” (This is even before asking me about something, let’s say, like my name. Go figure.) 

Or without prompting, their business card is shoved in my face, while I’m juggling a beverage and a carrot stick with drippy ranch dressing from that store-bought vegetable crudité (you event veterans know what I’m talking about.)  

If you’re that person, please stop networking and start connecting. 

It may take longer, but in the end, you’ll grow a stronger foundation of loyal customers based on a relationship of mutual trust. 

Here’s my six tips to start:

Understand the concept of connecting. The dictionary definition means “being joined.” It takes time for most humans to join together. For me, I usually make a connection based on trust. Does a person invest time to get to really know me and my wants?

Show up early. If you want unrushed time to get to know people, arrive at your event 20-30 minutes early. (Yes, that means less sleep for that breakfast meeting.) Quite often, you’ll have the opportunity to help put things out for the gathering, but in the process of being in service, you can learn something about a person on a deeper level.

Choose a better icebreaker. To me, the first person that asks: “What do you do?” loses. How about these instead: “Have you been to this event before? How long have you been a member here? What part of town do you live in?” Those are the type of questions that get real conversations going.

Observe business card etiquette. First, actually bring some cards. I recently had several young professionals state: “I don’t carry cards. They’re so old school.” Well, guess what? That’s unprofessional and an obstacle to people following up with you (just saying.) And like my ol’ Southern sales manager Jean Fisk used to say: “Don’t give out your card, unless someone asks for it. No sir.” Her theory was that if a person is really interested in your service or product (meaning they’re a good prospect), then they’ll ask for your card.

Help others first. At the appropriate time, while meeting someone new, ask: “How can I help you?” You’d be amazed how this simple question can be an authentic differentiator in establishing a long-term connection.

Keep showing up. Mike Brewerton is one of the few people in our city that goes to as many events as I do. He shares, “Consistency is the key. You cannot show up to an event one time and expect great things.”  Mike and I believe the same thing: Making connections takes time.

Are you ready to stop networking and start connecting?

Thomas Heath, CLC is a business coach, strategic advisor and founder of Thomas Heath Coaching. Got a question? Planning a great startup event? He loves to respond to our readers. Contact him at or on LinkedIn at

Startup Roundup

An insider’s view into the Charleston region’s startup community

Welcome to the third volume of Startup Roundup. I make a living coaching companies on how to best grow, including many early stage businesses. Because of the nature of my work, I go to a lot of events and have learned which ones are worthwhile to attend.

If you’re looking for one calendar to find the best startup, tech, digital and entrepreneurial events around the Holy City, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are my picks for the best happenings coming up:

One Million Cups (1MC)
9-10 a.m. March 8, 15, 22, 29
Need a dose of inspiration? Then come join this roomful of entrepreneurial “dreamers” that is the Charleston community of 1MC. This fast-growing, diverse group of dynamic business professionals provide positive feedback each week to a different startup on how to best grow their company. On March 8: Capaven, a real estate investment platform. The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, 1505 King St. Extension, North Charleston. FREE. (Note: Leave time to get there; the location can be tricky to find. Enter through Boomtown’s front doors.)

Launching a New Product
1-3 p.m. March 8
Jim Wasson and the S.C. Small Business Development Center will be offering this workshop for entrepreneurs who want to develop a product and take it to the market. Special focus as well on marketing and financing. Charleston County Public Services Building (Lonnie Hamilton Building) 4045 Bridge View Drive, North Charleston. $20. Register: or call 843-740-6160.

Lowcountry Local First - Monthly Mixer
5:30-7 p.m. March 8
Started 10 years ago by Jamee Haley, Lowcountry Local First is all about cultivating an economy based on local, independently owned businesses. To support that effort, each month they bring together existing and prospective members for a fun mixer. For March, it’s going to be at The Macintosh, one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston. Chef Jeremiah Bacon (a three-time James Beard semifinalist) is bound to put out some amazing grub. The Macintosh, 479B King St. Members: Free. Nonmembers: $10 at door. Limited space, RSVP required:

Power Up Your LinkedIn Profile
10 a.m-12 p.m. March 9
If you’re in business, it’s important to have a strong presence on LinkedIn. But where do you start? In this interactive workshop, yours truly (Thomas Heath) teaches you eight starter tips on how to power up your profile. It’s my most popular class that I normally offer only to my coaching clients, but now I’m opening it up to CRBJ readers. Only 25 seats available. The Life Guidance Center, 3030 Ashley Town Center Drive, Building B-203. $25. Register on Eventbrite:

Business in your Backyard
7:30-9 a.m March 14
If you live, work or are thinking of opening up a business west of the Ashley, then you might want to know what’s going on with the new West Ashley Master Plan. It’ll play a pivotal role in shaping the future of that area. Charleston Metro West (the new local area group serving James Island, Johns Island and West Ashley that’s part of larger Charleston Metro Chamber), will host Jacob Lindsey, the director of planning for the city of Charleston. Great event to have your voice heard. Town & Country Inn and Suites, 2008 Savannah Highway, $15 advanced registration; $25 day of event; Chamber members and prospective members only. Register: or contact Therese Gordon at 

8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. March 17
Ernest Andrade and the folks at the Charleston Digital Corridor are putting together this day-long series of workshops for tech companies that will share the dos and don’ts of starting and sustaining a successful business. Experts will be presenting from the fields of finance, law, human resources, sales and marketing. At the end of the day, you’ll leave with actionable business intelligence that you can immediately start to apply. Flagship, 475-A East Bay St., Charleston. $119 (limited to 24 entrepreneurs who have already started their business.) Register:

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