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Continued Value Depends on Your Ability to 'Network'

Eric Frederick |

I’ve been seeing a number of cell phone ads recently in which the company brags about the value of its network. One phone is better than another because of the network, one ad claims.
“Network” is a relatively new term, especially for someone like me who was born in 1950. Old-timers didn’t call it a network. They simply said it was “education through association.”
A former business partner, Bill Webb, often said he wasn’t smart enough to know all the answers but he had a “very intelligent phone book.” I personally witnessed the power of his phone book (network) as we struggled to improve the operations of our clients. It was a great feeling knowing we had that resource to call upon in a time of need.
In the good ol’ days, managers used to take a day off and travel to a local meeting to rub shoulders with their fellow managers, to discuss problems, seek advice and partake in an educational meeting. There was as much value in the pre- and post-meeting discussions as there was in the formal educational program.
Perhaps the greatest value was in simply knowing that you were not alone and that you faced the same problems that other managers were facing. This resource was personal and came with eye-to-eye contact. You could assess the value of the information based on body language, inflection and tone of voice.
Today, it seems to be harder to get away to attend meetings. Many of the local meetings have simply faded away because of a lack of attendance. Managers today are far more computer-literate than we were back in the early 1970s. Listservs, e-mail, audio conferences and Internet searches have replaced the traditional local meetings. Managers want answers immediately. What’s missing is the human touch and mutual support of the past.
This is a “Clean Show year” and the newest and best ideas will be on display in Las Vegas on June 11-14.
The sponsoring organizations will provide a number of formal educational opportunities for show registrants. Each topic will bring together managers from various parts of the world who share a common interest or need.
Reach out and meet the person sitting next to you. Exchange contact information with them. It’s nice to have a face to put with that e-mail name. Develop a network of contacts that can be a support group and a sounding board for your ideas.
Your life as a manager can best be described as a journey down a well-traveled highway. During your career, you’ll meet people heading the same direction as you and others who are coming back from where you’re going. The one sure thing is that you aren’t alone.
When my family was young, we used to use KOA Campgrounds a lot as we traveled across the country. We’d walk through the campgrounds at night and talk to various people about what was ahead of us. Bumper stickers let us know where these fellow travelers had been. We avoided many mistakes and worthless tourist traps by networking with our fellow campers. Our common bond was the love of the road and the camping experience.
Our continued value as managers to our companies and our employees will depend heavily on the networks we develop. The value is not in coming up with new, original ideas to solve a problem but in being able to apply other people’s ideas in our facility.
Your network may start with attending an educational meeting at Clean, or becoming a member of an association that provides networking opportunities. You may develop a small network or a large network. The important thing is that we all need to have one.

About the author

Eric Frederick

Carilion Laundry Service

Director of Laundry Services

Eric Frederick is director of laundry services for Carilion Laundry Service, Roanoke, Va., and past president of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management (NAILM), now called the Association for Linen Management (ALM). He’s a two-time association manager of the year. You can reach him by e-mail at efrederick@carilion.com.

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