President Fore U Enterprises
Connie Deckert is a serial entrepreneur and one of Canada’s few full- time members of the LPGA Teaching & Club Professionals (T&CP). Her current focus, as President of Fore U Enterprises, is to teach more people how to play better golf to better build their businesses.
I first met Connie at a networking event some years back. I then kept on running into her at either other networking events or women’s events. It quickly became clear to me that no matter where we met the people she introduced me where from the widest variety of sectors imaginable. There were financial planners, artists, lawyers, teachers, IT people, restaurant owners, insurance brokers and professional photographers. The list was always changing and it seemed endless. So I had to ask her about her extraordinary network and what better way to ask than to interview her and post it.
Heike Mertins: Connie, over the years I have noticed that you know a most remarkable group of people. How long have you been building your network?
Connie Deckert: I’ve been building my network for close to 40 years now.
Heike Mertins:That’s a long time. How many different industry sectors do you think your network spans?
Connie Deckert: I have no idea: lots. Let’s list the groups I’m part of or have been part of and see if that helps. There is the EWGA (local and national), Zonta (local, national and international), K-W Women’s Business Association, and CAWEE (Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs). There is also my Leadership Waterloo network and the people I’ve met over the years through volunteering including those from the YWCA board and now the new people I’m meeting as part of the K-W Symphony Board and of course those I met through the golf club I belong to.
Heike Mertins:That’s a quite a number of groups. Out of all these connections would you say you are more tied into people from one sector than another?
Connie Deckert: No. It’s not really sector specific. Maybe the most common thread is golf. I know a lot of people in the golf business and I know a lot of people because of golf. Sport, women’s issue and media are the three most common themes that connect us.
Heike Mertins: How many hours in a month do you think you spend building and maintaining your network?
Connie Deckert: I don’t consciously do “networking”. It just kind of happens. For example last night I went to the Women’s Crisis Centre’s Awareness of Violence Against Women event. I went because I was curious. The person I went with is on the board for the centre and so we ended up sitting at one of board tables. There was a woman there, Kate, who is a client and who I’d met before through a different event. Turns out she’s on the board too. So now we have this new shared level of connection. I didn’t say anything about golf, but this other woman at the table recognized me and she told me she had wanted to take a lesson with me this year, but hadn’t managed to do so yet. Kate tells her about how working with me has really improved her game. So by going to this event, I was curious about, I strengthened my network and added to it.
Heike Mertins: Everyone talks about how important networking is. Why is your network so important to you?
Connie Deckert: Because of the talent around me I can be better. I have expertise around me to call on to strengthen me and hopefully it also strengthens them.
Heike Mertins:Could you give me an example of when your network has helped you professionally?
Connie Deckert: I belong to the EWGA (Executive Women’s Golf Association) and I volunteer locally and nationally with them. Joan Snyder was the President of the chapter association. I heard through the grapevine that there was a particular golf course that was providing complimentary green fees to pros who were taking students there. I thought this is a great opportunity for me and so I wanted to approach the woman who runs the club. Because she doesn’t know me personally I was able to use Joan’s name to create a common bond. It gave me credibility and the opportunity to take students to this club: a win-win all the way around.
Heike Mertins: I wrote a blog a while back on strategic networking. Do you think there are advantages to strategically networking over simply showing up?
Connie Deckert: I read the blog. I think it was very astute that you talked about strategy. The presentation I’ve developed on Using Golf as a Business Tool asks the same question. Absolutely, strategy is important when you’re planning to do something, networking, golf, volunteering you need to ask yourself what do you want to accomplish? I especially liked the point at the end about getting involved with things that interest you. By volunteering, whether it’s at the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Zonta, an industry association or somewhere else you’ll learn new skills and you’ll meet new people. Figure out if these are the people you want to know, but, you’ll never know unless you get out there and do it.
Heike Mertins: If you had three pieces of advice to give someone looking to build their network what would they be?
Connie Deckert: 1. Do what interests you. 2. Listen more than you talk. You need to listen to someone to see how and if they fit with your business. Ask questions. You have two ears and one mouth. There is a reason. 3. Have your cards ready. I can have mine out in seconds.
Heike Mertins: I’m surprised you didn’t say learn to play golf or work on your golf game?
Connie Deckert: Well, to me volunteering is the first thing you want to do and that fits with doing what interests you. Playing a sport helps. And golf is the ultimate networking sport because of the time it gives you with others. Next to cricket, which I understand can last for days, golf is the longest playing sport going. To build relationships you need to have time with people and yes, you’re right golf gives you this. But golf is still a tool, one of many. There are lots of ways to build a network. You need to think of building your network as if you’re building a web and not a box.
Heike Mertins: Last question. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Tipping Point he talks about connectors, mavens and salesmen. If you were to classify yourself as one of these how would you classify yourself?
Connie Deckert: That’s easy. I am definitely a connector. I know lots of people and I know all kinds of people. I like to connect new people all the time.
Heike Mertins: Having known you now for several years I know that to be true. Thank you for your insights on building networks. Your approach is a far cry from attending only “networking” events and one I hope anyone interested in building a business will consider.
To learn more about Connie Deckert and her approach on using golf as a business tool visit Fore U Enterprises