"I know a guy." Standing 6 foot 5 inches tall with a solid frame, Esco's Coy Christoffel, isn't your typical social butterfly. I really can't imagine him fluttering around at all so maybe we should just refer to him as a social bull? Whatever you want to call him, Coy has been crowned Esco's expert networker.
When Coy joined the Esco outside sales team in 2015, we joked that when we went looking for resources outside of our company, Coy always, "knew a guy." I always wondered how one could know that many “guys” and if they could actually help us. The thing is, "his guys" have pulled through on more than one occasion. Coy helped us bolster our cyber security best practices, connected us with a professional who improved our IT support and staff situation, and provided a reliable vendor for marketing promotional activities, all while bringing in new customers for our business - and all of it resulting from knowing someone or knowing someone who knows someone in each industry.
How does he do it? What makes him a good networker? Why are making personal connections so important and how do you leverage these relationships to benefit you, other networkers, or your company? I sat down with Coy to learn a thing or two about improving my networking skills, because no matter what industry or job position you are in, it is always good to know a guy.
How do you meet people?
Coy: Everywhere – the clerk at the gas station, a fellow customer at the dry cleaners, my local produce guy, the pizza delivery guy (For most it's a second job. He could be a petroleum engineer going through a Dave Ramsey program). I've had a beer with the CEO of major energy companies who look like beach bums. Appearances can be deceiving.
What are some of the organizations you are involved in?
Coy: I'm the Secretary for the local STLE Chapter, SMRP Houston Chapter, as well as Cub Master for my son’s Boy Scout Pack.
But my passion is the RedNet, which I run out of the Redneck Country Club. I started this group almost three years ago as a business networking/small business incubator to help small business owners or corporate guys pursue their small manufacturing company they run out of their garage. During this time we've helped five small business owners start their companies and generate enough revenue to leave their corporate life. Currently the RedNet consists of about 450 members with an average meeting attendance of 80 each month.
How do you leverage your networks to bring in business?
Coy: It takes one very important ingredient - a servant mentality. Like the Boy Scouts, the RedNet's main mantra is dedication to being a service organization. We are here to serve each other. Many other networking groups are filled with vampires looking to line their pockets and move on. I follow up on all referrals 100% of the time because my name is attached to that business, and I want to do good business.
What are some of the ways you have directly benefited from your networking?
Coy: It's not all about the money. Influence and trust is a much more valuable currency, but always requires a large amount of respect.
From coming to work at ESCO because of my relationship with you guys over the years. It has brought me business as well. It brought me what I expect to turn into my first white paper by helping one of the largest airports in the nation revamp their maintenance program.
What’s the number one thing to remember when networking?
Coy: I'm a Tim Ferris junky. I listen to every podcast, and the 4hour work week is one of my main reference books. Tim has a great podcast on networking and one of the best quotes for networking. “Don’t dismiss people, don’t be a d*ck, and don’t rush. Play the long game.” – Tim Ferriss
How do I combat any social anxiety and start up a conversation with people I don’t know?
Coy: Realize that the other person may be just as uncomfortable as you are, and that's ok. What’s not ok is going through life without taking any risks.
Are there any other important takeaways or tips to improve networking?
Coy: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS IS THAT IT IS ALL ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP. People do business with people they like and trust. I want every client to trust me with their business, their money, and their trust. I recommend reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, to determine where you fit in the networking spectrum.
Coy gives great advice when it comes to networking, and we are lucky to have him on the Esco Sales team. As a company, we try to grow our network all of the time. Not only can you meet new people, it’s a way to share ideas and start new partnerships or develop new products. We attend industry tradeshows and networking events like Noria’s Reliable Plant or The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Annual Conference and local Houston chapter conference. Some of our best products and product improvements were developed from talking with attendees at tradeshows. We also sponsor corporate events, like golf tournaments, and host events such as lunch-and-learn presentations as a way to interact with our customers.
Volunteering is a great way to network and do something good for your community. What are some of the ways you like to network?