Rubbing elbows with diverse people is not just for entrepreneurs

Rainmakers are known for networking skills. Next to sky-high core competency and type-A drive, networking is the most valuable skill. Entrepreneurs who are poor networkers often fail. The business is out there, and the best way to find it is talking to one person, then another and another.

Foreign born U.S. billionaires are a strong testament to the power of networking. Most made their wealth the most common way — building something from nothing while learning a new language and a new culture. They sold their product person-to-person — users, investors, resellers and improved the skill as they steered their business into prominence.

But they also insist that their employees network.

It’s a harsh fact that employees by definition aren’t the networking entrepreneurs we are. But we bosses make diamonds out of coal. We seek better rainmakers than ourselves. I worry about that daily.

It would put me at ease, both to grow the business, and for succession planning, were I assured my team could build a better empire than mine.

What makes a team

My litigation partner, Scott Bratton, is a great networker. He works the clients and the courts, and his cases are often precedent-setting in the Board of Immigration Appeals, Immigration Court and Circuit Courts. His reputation makes rain aplenty.

My other partner, Francis Fungsang, has built up our corporate practice. This year he joined Leadership Cleveland’s program, Cleveland Bridge Builders. Bridge Builders will hone his interpersonal and leadership skills while meeting with peers from businesses across the region, working community projects.

I constantly push the rest of my team at networking opportunities. My associates, like my partners, are buried doing filings, meeting clients across a spectrum of circumstances and traveling across the country. They appear with and speak for corporate and individual clients in court or with other officials. Their noses are as close to the grindstone as mine. So I encourage them to rub elbows with diverse folk, both potential clients and others.

Other horizons

Networking isn’t just for business development. I love meeting diverse people to broaden my experience beyond my world of drafting briefs, winning appeals and trials. I need to be where I’m available to help, to see and meet different interesting people. If business develops from this, that’s wonderful. If not, just learning can be equally wonderful; so too, for my team.

My team networks in associations and professional clubs; community heritage organization events celebrating cultural awareness; awards ceremonies — a growing development tool that works great for networking; and community training, where we provide free information with a sales pitch.

I have an immigration radio show broadcast in three cities, five days a week, in three languages. My attorneys sit in for me occasionally. My team volunteers on nonprofit boards. One of our team members frequently blogs about the events he attends. We call the blog “Out and About,” fashioned after the work of the late Cleveland Press columnist Winsor French.

Don’t let your team just stare at the clouds. Show them how to network, and they’ll make it rain.

Margaret Wong is the founder of Margaret W. Wong & Associates Co. LPA. Margaret has been practicing immigration law for more than 38 years and is internationally renowned as an expert in the field. She is a co-chair of the National Asian American Bar Association’s Immigration Law Committee and an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the Case Western Reserve University
School of Law. She has the highest rating, AV, from Martindale-Hubbell and is recognized as a “Super Lawyer” and among the “Best Lawyers in America” by her peers. Visit www.imwong.com