Nurses often say, “You must have known quite a few attorneys when you started,” suggesting that the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is the guaranteed path to launching a successful business as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant.
Actually, I didn’t know any attorneys when I got started! I didn’t live in their neighborhoods or get invited to their parties. When I decided to become a legal nurse consultant I didn’t even think I knew anyone who knew an attorney. That false-ism, “It’s not what you know it’s who you know,” is a leftover from the 1980s, when “networking” was the buzzword among out-of-work professionals vying for consulting or other business. They gathered at events to eat, drink, pass out business cards and ask for referrals. Sometimes it resulted in new business and sometimes it was just an excuse to drink.
While referral and word-of-mouth promotion are still the strongest and the most cost-effective ways of building an attorney-client base, networking only works for you when you are selective. Unless you’re selective, networking events become nothing more than a waste of your time, i.e. networking is NOT working.
As Dale Barnes, a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, shared, “The worst advice I followed had to do with a networking group. I think networking groups are wonderful and can be effective, but it has to be the right one. I had a friend who belonged to a group and received a lot of business because of this group, so I joined too. I found that there were manicurists, massage therapists, hairdressers, network marketing people, construction company owners, electricians, etc. in this group. There were no attorneys and no one seemed to know any attorneys. I stuck with it for a year. I was able to find some good resources for my own personal use, but it never helped grow my CLNC® business and was a waste of time and money. I later joined a high-powered business networking group for attorneys, CPAs, bankers, upper management and administrative people. My CLNC® business did grow due to this connection. I wish I had not wasted that first year. It pays to really check out the makeup of a group and its main focus prior to joining.”
That one year Dale spent in the wrong networking group is an example of where networking was not working – at least as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. She wisely sought out and found the appropriate group to network with.
Networking is often overrated. I’ve seen people spend countless hours in meaningless conversation with people they really don’t want to spend time with while trying to build a business. The best way to find attorneys through networking is to spend time with potential attorney-prospects or people closely related to them. Your prospects are attorneys, so if you want to hang somewhere, hang out at the courthouse. Target your networking to where it will make the most impact.
Be cautious also with established networking groups, such as associations, and with how much power you give them over your success. Sometimes when you’re within a network, and your ideas don’t align with that network, people can try to persuade you to their side and it can often be the “dark side.” I often wonder what people expect when they join a closed-minded organization. Do they expect members to share business (Sure, I’ve been working with Bob Smith but you can cut me out)? Or even worse, the network will try to eliminate you or blackball you in your industry because of your ideas or stance.
Your own ideas, your own career plan, your own business model have to be strong enough to stand alone, without network support. That’s the entrepreneurial secret that has helped to build this country and that I’ve used to build my business.
After pioneering the industry of legal nurse consulting, I took a grand departure from what others believed our industry needed. I believed we needed a standardized certification program. They disagreed. So what did I do? I ticked some people off by creating what became the first and most widely recognized certification for legal nurse consultants and the largest association for legal nurse consultants – the National Alliance for Certified Legal Nurse Consultants (NACLNC®).
In short, the less approval is important to you, the freer you are to succeed. Don’t let association groupthink dictate what is acceptable or appropriate for your future. Taking a grand departure from conventional wisdom can take you places no other has dared to go before. Something else to remember is that when someone’s status quo is threatened they’ll react with fear and do what they can to discourage you and put down your ideas. This especially includes new group members who want their own piece of the pie.
Networks are often an incestuous “go along” type of situation and when it comes to career building, striving to “go along to get along” is not necessarily a formula for success. Did Madonna “go along” to skyrocket her career? Does Donald Trump “go along” with anybody? Is Richard Branson “going along” as he promotes one crazy, successful venture after another?
As I started to achieve success, I began to realize that my position would be stronger if I didn’t rely on an outside network to advance my company but instead built a strong company of free thinkers. I believe in inviting my staff to disagree with me and they are quite vocal and quite comfortable (sometimes too comfortable) doing so. My ideas often get shot down. We are a stronger company for that.
You have to be willing to take a stand. Audaciously successful people often stand contrary to what the world believes is right and proper, and they don’t care if their ideas upset people. Of course your goal is not to upset people but to express your ideas and opinions, uncensored, in your truest voice.
Neutrality is a death sentence. You’ll never please everybody, so don’t kill your nursing career – and your earning potential – by trying. As we say in Texas, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” You don’t want to be either.
Dramatic success comes from taking a stance, even if it’s contrary to the experts or to the self-proclaimed experts. It’s your nursing career and to make the most of it, you need to be willing to stir things up, stand out and maybe tick off a few people. Let other nurses “go along” and have their middle-of-the-road successes. But, don’t let one of those “other” nurses be you.
Success Is Inside!
P.S. Comment and share networking strategies that paid off for you as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant.