The opposite of Networking is NOT working

Andrea NierenbergI typically talk about food and food related topics on my blog but for this I’ll make an exception and chalk it up to my obsession with the entrepeneurial spirit and how the woman pictured to the left embodies the concept. For all of you foodies out there who own businesses, read on.  

I think it’s safe to say that “Networking,” the “it” word of the 90’s has been maligned, misused and misunderstood.  It so often conjures up images of hungry salespeople circulating a crowded room all there for the express purpose of culling the coveted “lead.” While most people who agree with this definition of the word would think they are actually “networking”, in actuality, they are not working. 

True networking has its foundations in relationship building, and there is nobody better equipped to talk about this subject other than my friend Andrea Nierenberg. I first met Andrea at a presentation she gave and I remember my amusement when she asked (in an attempt to coax participation) the silent room of financial planners if this was, and I quote, “an English speaking group?”

In another vignette that she shared she remember meeting a colleague at an event and after a two minute conversation the colleague turned to Andrea and said, “I’m sorry I really don’t have time to talk because I am here to do some networking.” Do I need to explain the ridiculousness of that statement?

Andrea shared advice that, as she says, “is common sense, but not common practice.” My take away from her presentation? In order to build a business, you have to build relationships–a proactive, consistent approach which constantly seeks to provide value not only to your clients but also to colleagues, friends, relatives and yes, sometimes, even to strangers.  

I’ve been exposed to many “sales” presentations in my brief career as a financial planner. Too many I think.  And for all of the slicky packaged books, CDs and DVDs that exist, many either miss the basic rules or poo poo them as pollyanna.   You know the rules. Here are a few:  Send a thank you note each time. Remember your clients’ birthdays. Share valuable articles with your clients. Make introductions where you see there would be value shared between the parties.  Seek to share all you can, not because it might result in a sale, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Click on Andrea in my blogroll to get a taste of what it means to be a proactive networker and how the focus has to be on others. If you follow Andrea’s rules, you’ll soon discover the true meaning of the work “Networking.”

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Philly Burbs 2

FelixMy first piece for www.phillyburbs.com is officially out! Fall Soups 101 chronicles a recent visit by Randall’s family to our home in Erwinna and how a sojourn for burgers and corn turned into my corn chowder.  I’ll be posting monthly, with a short description of the inspiration for the recipe, a photo, the recipe and of course some tips!  Read Fall Soups 101 at http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/105-10152007-1423981.html

“You don’t like my potato salad….?”

That line was uttered by my mother and accompanied by her slowly making the sign of the cross, in a most dramatic fashion, as she often did when she heard something  she thought utterly preposterous.  I replied, “I didn’t say I didn’t like your potato salad, ma, rather I said I didn’t like any potato salad.” 

“But, the world goes crrrrazzzzy for my potato salad” (Insert thick Greek accent with appropriate r and z rollings of the tongue). It’s a vignette that Rand and I have played out countless times, and it never ceases to make us chuckle.

Actually, her potato salad is quite good.  I just can’t get past using  mayonnaise by itself as a dressing for any type of salad. Mayonnaise based salads make me choke with that cloying taste which never seems to clear your tongue. Whether it’s chicken salad or lobster salad or potato salad, store bought mayo is too thick, too rich and too much.

Better I think to combine equal parts sour cream and mayonnaise with a little buttermilk for texture.  Season liberally with salt and pepper and this “souraise” will coat any salad with a true dressing, sure to leave the tongue with a pleasant tang. I love it. 

I dreamed a dream kitchen

At night, when I turn off the lights and head upstairs, I take a last glance at the kitchen that I fantasized about for 18 months while this home was being designed and built.  At 440 square feet, it is my temple to gastronomy.  A six foot by 11 foot island topped by gleaming black walnut the color of dark caramel anchors the space.  The stainless applicances include two Thermidor Microwave, warming drawer/convection oven units, two ranges, one electric and one Viking four burner with a griddle, two sinks, one Kohler cook sink and two dishwashers.  The whole magilla is topped off by a Mugnaini Wood fired pizza oven in which the most delicious, most delectable pizzas are baked inside of three minutes. When am I happiest? When it’s full of people, family and friends, and the pizza is baking and the laughs are abundant. It would mean nothing without that.   

Pizza Passion

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It all started with lunch. Ten or so years ago. Picture it, Dupont Circle, Washington DC….Pizzeria Paradiso.  A wood fired pizza oven blazed in the background while we awaited its tasty contents.  I was mesmerized. Upon our return to NYC, I obsessed over Google research about wood fired ovens for home use.  It turns out that there is a fairly large community out there in cyberspace who share stories and recipes all centering around their wood fired ovens! Who knew.

At Pizzeria Paradiso,  I decided at that moment, that one day, I too would have a wood fired oven in a kitchen. I didn’t know where the kitchen would be located, but I knew, as I know my own skin, that wood fired cooking would be the star attraction. 

And it is. Fast forward ten years, to Erwinna PA, and my Mugnaini pizza oven turns out the most delicious pizzas this side of Naples.  A bit of flour, a bit of obsession and the belief that throwing something out into the universe is a powerful exercize.

Mugnaini Imports specializes in the importing of Valoriani ovens from Italy. The ovens are made of refractory clay and are shipped from a distribution center in California.  The oven itself comes disassembled, and with the assistance of a stone mason, can be built free standing outside or as an addition to your current kitchen. 

www.mugnaini.com/ovens/ovensMAIN.html for a collection of ovens including ours in Erwinna, PA.

Fueled by hardwood, the oven reaches optimum temperature in about two hours, after which it will bake pie after pie in about three minutes.  This is the uber kitchen appliance.  I am so grateful to have one and it just thrills me to fill the house with people and let them share in the experience. It’s cooking the way it used to be, and the smell of embers and ash all add to the feel of it.  It’s just indescribable.  

Butternut and Peanut and Coconut

I am toying with the idea of turning the curried butternut squash soup I made yesterday into a Thai peanut soup. The soup starts with roasted butternut squash and is enriched with cocunut milk and curry powder–classic Thai flavors.  But on tasting it, it’s missing something and yesterday while in the car I realized what it was–Peanut butter.  Thai peanut sauce has always been one of my favorite flavors, so why not turn it into a soup.  And with the delicate flavor of the roasted pumpkin-like squash…it’s destined to be oh so subtle.  I’ll post with the results.  This soup is going to be the opening act of my Thanksgiving day dinner so there’s plenty of time to perfect.  Film at 11!