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It’s the network Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2009

To be a good communicator, Joe Wells says that you need to start with a firm belief in the words that come out of your mouth.

“You have to have a message that you believe and that you are passionate about,” says Wells, founder, chairman and CEO of Max Muscle. “That helps you communicate that message a little better. You have to really know the person you are talking to and understand how to communicate with that person.”

Wells, a former linebacker for the Oakland Raiders, has translated his engaging personality and way with words into a successful chain of sports nutrition franchises. With more than 150 stores employing about 500 people, Max Muscle posted 2008 revenue of approximately $18 million. And Wells is confident that the value he places on social networking is one of the reasons his business has succeeded.

“I have hundreds of friends in the industry,” Wells says. “It is all reciprocation. You help people, and they help you.”

Smart Business spoke with Wells about the keys to developing an effective network of peers and being a good communicator.

Take advantage of industry events. You are going to develop a lot of friends when you go to trade shows. I have hundreds of friends in the industry, not necessarily people that I hang out with on the weekends, but at the same time, people I know I can call on if I am looking for somebody.

It comes with mutual respect.

Make an effort. I have limited time to spend networking and have social lunches and social dinners. But in the course of the day, an old friend calls me, I walk in and see a current vendor that I use and like, and I put the two together. That happens two or three times a week. It’s something that helps you be successful. You need to learn that right away.

Get to know a lot of people and reciprocate. If you are the type that just calls somebody when you need something, after awhile, they’re going to stop helping you. If you are the guy that knows when to call up and say, ‘So-and-so has Lakers tickets and cannot go. Do you want to go?’

You do something for them, and they do something for you. You are not going to get a lot of reciprocation if you do not do something first. Go to trade shows and make a lot of friends. Make sure you give before you are getting.

You figure it out pretty quick when somebody is getting more than they are giving.

Take a cue from others. Some of our vendors, they come in once or twice a week, and pretty soon, you get to know them.

A good example of networking is I have a guy that does printing. He wants to get work from us, but there is nothing new on the horizon. He comes in once a week, and he thinks of different ways he can get our attention.

He finds us a company that sells a chocolate flavor. We really like this chocolate flavor. It does not have anything to do with printing labels, but he knew somebody that he was printing labels for that makes the chocolate bar. He puts them in contact with us.

Now he’s worked his way into our network. When I know somebody is looking for chocolate or a particular kind of printed wrap, I’ll send him to vendor X or vendor Y.

He did not just stop with the chocolate bar. He brought in beef jerky, anything he could think of that would help our business or a product we would be interested in. That got us to feel like we kind of owe this guy something. We need to do some printing with this guy.

Think before you speak. If you are speaking to the guys in your warehouse, you might talk a different way than you do to your sales reps or your customer service reps or your accounting people. You have to understand the message, who it’s going to and what you’re trying to deliver to get the most impact.

I need to say, ‘OK, this person.’ In my brain, I kind of click on what type of person this is. As you are speaking to that person, you can get where they are coming from and you can read people.

It comes down to the consistency of the message and trying to be a little bit creative in how you say the message. Know the person you are talking to and understand how to communicate with that person. If you want to be an effective manager, you have to learn to make people hear you and understand you.

Good leaders help their message to be heard. It has to be very clear and concise, but at the same time, it helps to come up with a creative and fun way of how you are going to deliver the message.

Be a good listener. It opens the lines of communication. When you let an employee make a decision that comes up with a better idea or an alternative way to handle it, you empower them. You make them a better employee. That was their decision, and now they have to make it work.

How to reach: Max Muscle, (714) 456-0700 or www.maxmuscle.com