Business Networking Strategist, Andy Lopata
A professional relations and networking specialist for over 20 years, we speak with Andy Lopata, who has been called by the Financial Times “one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists”.
What are you doing right now?
I am an author, podcast host, speaker, and professional relations mentor. It’s a mouthful, isn’t it ?!
In short, my focus is on how people in business can build, maintain and benefit from professional relationships, whether for their career or as part of their role. In my book “Connected Leadership” and “The Connected Leadership Podcast”, I look at how these relationships underpin leadership success; while I work with a number of clients, whether doing presentations or as a mentor, on developing deep relationships and strong influence with key stakeholders.
My most recent book, ‘You just have to ask‘focused on the role of these relationships in supporting us through difficult times, encouraging readers to surround themselves with people with whom they can be more open and vulnerable.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
It has been a long journey; I joined my father and his business partner for the first time in 1999. In doing this, I recognized that we were creating the opportunity for our members to network and refer to each other, without showing them how to work. ‘take it. So I developed a training program that ultimately focused primarily on networking strategy rather than the skills that most companies have typically focused their networking training on.
After selling this company in 2007 and starting to work with multinational companies, it was clear that the word “networking” immediately led to negative preconceptions and narrow thinking. So I redefined my focus on “ working relationships ” because it resonates with a much larger group of people and allows me to focus on more than just swapping elevator slots and business cards for money. mulled wine and cold canapes.
What defines the way you do business?
The word that comes up time and time again is “authentic”. Like me or hate myself, I can’t wear a mask. I hope I am genuine in the way I engage with people and that I am honest in my interactions. I believe that I should be able to sleep comfortably after a day’s work, without worrying about how I treated someone or not living up to the standards I set for myself.
It doesn’t always work in my favor, but it does mean that my clients know what to expect from me and it allows me to build much more honest, transparent and authentic relationships with them.
Who do you admire?
When I was leading the corporate network, I remember how our members would organize meetings differently and behave their best when I visited their group. Because I was the managing director of a company with groups across the UK and overseas, some members put me on a pedestal. I found that strange.
There were people who in many cases had started their own businesses and employed a lot of staff, putting me on a pedestal, who had joined his father’s business.
I admire everyone who has taken the plunge and built a business from scratch. It takes courage and dedication to start a business and keep it running, especially over the past two decades.
I also admire people who can be open, honest and vulnerable. Asking for help is one of the most important tools we have for overcoming challenges and moving forward, but so many people struggle with it, worried about their appearance.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Not at a “macro” level – every step I took got me to where I am now. And I wouldn’t change that for the world. But I have certainly learned a lot of lessons along the way and it would be foolish not to implement those lessons, given the chance.
Fundamental change is the platform on which every business (the network, then the talk and mentor business) is based. “Start with the end in mind” is a phrase that comes to mind; if i were to start a new business today i would start by putting the infrastructure in place. What do I want the business to mature into and what needs to be in place early on to help support this growth?
It is much more difficult to build this infrastructure when you are already tied to the day-to-day management of the business.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
My key tip would be the lesson I just shared – know what you would like your business to look like when you want to sell it – whether you see it or not in the end. Get the basics in place as soon as possible.
Beyond that, ask for help. Build and maintain a diverse and deep network of relationships with people who are able to help you and want to help you. Then be prepared to take advantage of this network, allow them to help you by clearly stating the support you are looking for and asking for it.