263: Traveling the World and Gaining Entrepreneurial Knowledge - with Kirby Wilkerson
She is the founder of a PR and digital media firm The Impact Kind, based in Michigan whose clients had been featured in Business Insider, Parents Magazine, Thrive Global, and other mediums to increase lead sales and brand awareness. She's got some amazing tips and resources on her website at www.impactkind.com
Let's talk a little bit about what you did before starting your own firm, and how networking has impacted your life in corporate America.
I worked in sales at SME Society of Manufacturing Engineers, which focuses on conferences and events for the manufacturing community. But we were starting lots of new products and new industries like getting into aerospace and defense. So I was kind of the new product girl, I sold everything that was new there. Building relationships was a key component of how I got my job, and then how I made relationships in order to grow all the new products that we were creating. So it was lots and lots of fun and it was a great experience. Because I was really the only woman in that area, but it was awesome. So I made a lot of cool connections. That led to the next products that we were creating so we had speakers, and we had exhibitors based on meeting those initial contacts. So it was a great segue into what I do now.
How did living abroad ultimately inspire entrepreneurial growth?
I had a great opportunity to move to Shanghai, China. I was able to see so many different kinds of pop-ups and different ex-pats from different countries, start new businesses. For me, at the time, I was having my babies raising my family. But being surrounded by entrepreneurs that were really making it like, we have a friend who was a fellow coworker, at Ford Motor Company, an American company, so that's what took us out there. But he stopped working at Ford, he started Mobike and he's like a billionaire. He's got different slip stations all over the world now and he's still breaking into industries. It sounds simple, you have bikes that you can rent and it's kind of like the American version of the Zipcar. It's really just finding where can you solve a problem. He saw that lots of people can't really get on the metro, and there are lots and lots of them in China, and take your bike and everything else you need. So he created different stations where you can rent bikes and put them back. Just because we were surrounded by so many kinds of successful entrepreneurs and successful business owners that did leave corporate and decided to try something different, it gave me that inspiration that hey, you know, I can do that, too.
Can you share how making friends all over the world has helped you and really can help anyone that is interested in going into business?
I love to travel. So that's like my thing, right? My husband, he loves to travel to so our family, that's what we do. But when you travel, you get to learn that you have to trust people in like, very odd situations. Sometimes when you get off the plane you have to find the right taxi driver or you have the right person is going to take you to the hotel. Even in those small instances, you can learn so much about the culture, the area, and how to position yourself, because, in every business, you really want to focus on your audience. Who are you selling to? Who are you speaking to? I think when you learn a little bit more about where you are, like where you're going, when you're traveling, I think it's so important to learn a little bit about the culture from people that live there because you'll learn important things from locals. Then when you do that, you're going to be able to speak to other people that you meet around and not generalizing culture or a population, but just you'll have more of a background to really communicate more effectively with. So that's almost like creating any kind of avatar brand, you want to make sure that you are really speaking to your audience, or they would be more receptive to whatever you're selling. I think traveling is so incredibly inspiring, not just because you see new things, you learn new things because everyone has their own filter, right? So always going to this new place with, you know, their background, their experiences, but because it's near to them, they might notice things that if they live there for a long time, they wouldn't see them the same way. So it's always really interesting when you first go and you place and get to know the people. And then if you have like a language barrier it's funny to just look back and see like what you did to communicate well. Then when you get to learn more about the people, then you know, hey, I probably shouldn't use this as body language. I think that's really helpful when you're starting any business, is to make sure that you really learn a little bit more about the people that you're serving first, and then you start to build the message.
So can you share with our listeners, maybe one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you've had?
In high school, I was a swim teacher, and one day, one of my fellow swim coaches said, "Hey, that lady might ask you to babysit, but I live on her street, don't babysit no matter what." Maybe it was just because we were in the water and I didn't hear her, but I took the job because she did ask me. I eventually started babysitting for her a lot more often and the other coach was never a babysitter again. Then the neighbor next door actually started to use my services as well. Then I was in college, and one of the neighbors asked me, "Hey, would you like to come to a networking event?" I had never been to a networking event and I didn't really know what it was all about, but I knew I had to dress up. I didn't even know what he did, but I knew he worked at a pharmaceutical company that I eventually wanted to go to work for. So I went to the event, and he met me there and said, "Hey, okay, I need you to take your sunglasses off your head, put your full name on your name tag." I walked in, and I kid you not everyone looks like Barbie, and Ken, everyone was gorgeous. I had no idea what was really happening. I was still too young to apply for a real job there, but he invited me to go. When everyone sat down, he was the main speaker, I had no idea! But it was a great experience and I'm glad that I went because it showed me what kind of competition is out there. So when you're going to be looking for a job, you have to find a way to stand out. Even though all these people are so gorgeous you know, they have all the things that you want on the resume, you still have to find a way to stand out. I think that was the most awesome experience that I remembered going to and even when I got my first job out of college, I remember calling him to say, thank you so much for inviting me to that of that because it made such a difference in even the job that I had, they didn't have a position open but because they saw that I was a hard worker, I was interning there. So they didn't have a budget for a full-time worker and they moved money and created a job for me and it was not making pennies, like a lot of my friends at a college. So it was really great experience to go to because then I saw Hey, I'm not just another kid in college, you know, thinking I'm just gonna get out and be rich, right? There's lots of competition that's more qualified than me and so I always kept that experience in my mind thinking, you know, there's always going to be someone better. But if I stand out and I really work hard, it's fine to make a difference.
Regardless of the size of your network, or the community that you're building, it's extremely important to stay in front of those individuals. How do you best nurture your network?
Staying connected through social media, I think is really important. I know, I like to help my clients focus on social media in their businesses. But I think for me, definitely social media, keeping people current. I would like to say this too that I don't usually show my children on social, on my personal Facebook, but they are on there sometime and I do share what we're doing. That's so people still feel like they're getting a glimpse. I think it's still important to know that you can be social on social media without sharing your whole life story. I think that's really important, even for your personal accounts, that you have a goal and a purpose. It's still possible to be totally social without feeling like your privacy is being invaded. So I know, there are lots of people who are afraid to network, but you can network through social media without sharing everything, if you have a plan of Here are a few things that I might not share, but here are things that I'm willing to share and keep people interested in what I'm doing and, you know, commenting on what they're doing and being helpful when people ask for recommendations or for help if you're able to help in any way, definitely do it.
So let's talk about giving advice to anyone that's really looking to grow their network, what do you have to offer?
If they're trying to be active on social just focus on, three key things like industry myths that they can debunk. So if everyone's telling you to do this, this is what you have found to be the goal, the one thing that worked. Hot tips, so like anything that you see that your competitors are doing, they're making, and they're making mistakes, here's a tip for you to do it the right way. Or even really basic things that you may not even think like who could know this, right? Those are very easy to share and be helpful. So that's like the authenticity and the value the people are always talking about. People always, "Be authentic, provide value," but people don't know what kind of value to share. So I'd really stick with like Hot Tips, mistakes people are making that you can help them with, and industry myths debunked so like anything the big competitors are doing that you're they're not addressing, just talk to people and help them with that. If you focus on those, you'll get a nice following.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I would tell myself to just enjoy every moment. I really would say that, enjoy every moment, because really, every connection has led to something else. Even if it wasn't a position for me, it was a position for like a family member or a friend. So really, keeping those connections close is really important. I think I would put something that my dad told me, that I still think about all the time is, you know, find one nice thing about someone., and that's always a conversation starter. Even if you can't find anything nice on a surface just look harder, and you'll find one nice thing about someone and that totally changes the perspective. So the to my 20-year-old self, one thing it would be to always find one nice thing about someone and it'll go even further.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regard to growing and supporting your network?
I would say the same thing. We've been kind of mentioning this whole podcast, being helpful. The follow up is so key to not only starting relationships but building relationships and really branding who you are as a person. Regardless of what business you choose, I think following up with people is not only courteous but essential to let people know who you really are. When people refer you, others know to contact this person and they will get right back to you. So whether you accept or decline, whatever it may be, that's coming your way, if you respond, and it's something that you're known for, that's saying something great about you.
Connect with Kirby:
The Impact Kind Website: https://www.impactkind.com/