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Networking Led Me Down an Unexpected Path

Networking Led Me Down an Unexpected Path Blog SSG

Social Savvy Geek Started Out Totally Backwards

My company, Social Savvy Geek, started out a little bit backwards. I didn't dream of owning my own company as a child. I didn't major in Business or Marketing in college. I worked jobs as an employee for decades with zero thought of starting out on my own. I didn't hate my jobs but was often bored and frustrated once I had learned all there was to learn and fixed everything that I was allowed to improve. My last 'job" was as a financial advisor and it was there that I learned about business networking, personal branding, and marketing. I made personal connections through women's organizations and that has made all the difference.

I Completely Refused to Follow Instructions (and That Definitely Benefitted Me)

In 2008, I was instructed by my manager to go to networking events and collect as many cards as I could and to bring them back to the office and start dialing those contacts to set appointments. I knew in my heart that was a very bad way of going about things, so I didn't follow his instructions. Instead, I went to networking events and spoke with a few people. I asked them why they were there and what they needed... and then I helped them get it by making introductions to appropriate people. I did the same things online that I did in person by reaching out through LinkedIn and other social networks. I got more referrals and clients from outside my personal circle than anyone else in my office. People started paying attention.

Whether You Want It or Not Change is the Only Constant

Suddenly, I found myself teaching other people how to use social media to bring in business. I was speaking in front of groups and helping individuals (and I couldn't take a penny for it or risk SEC penalties because of my profession.) I was voted in as VP of Marketing and Public Relations in my local chapter of the American Business Women's Association (ABWA.) I was happy... and then in 2009, I lost my job when the market crashed. I had discovered that my passion was not in finance but in marketing, networking, and recruiting. I then knew I wanted to work online using social media to grow a business. I looked for full-time work for months but almost no one was hiring and the few positions available required a degree and years of experience in the field. People started paying me to speak about social media marketing and a few hired me to train them and to perform work on their behalf. This is when the ladies in my life stepped in and told me to stop looking for a job and do what I do for myself.

My Connections Turned Into Mentors and Cheerleaders

I followed their advice and it was a life-changing decision. What I didn't realize at the time, was the full value of having those women in my life. I only knew that I needed them for moral support, encouragement, and practical advice on how to set up and manage my own business. I expanded my network and joined more groups, including Business Networking International (BNI) and National Association of Professional Women (NAPW,) I accepted leadership roles, and my circle grew. A few of the people I met through this networking became trusted partners; people with complimentary or even overlapping business services. It took quite some time to learn which relationships were two-way and which were all talk or simply there to take but never give. In 2013, personal circumstances prompted me to move to Denver, Colorado. I thought that it would be an easy transition since my work is primarily online; I was wrong.

You Don't Truly Appreciate What You Had Until It's Gone

It turns out that power partners and trusted referrals drive a good bit of my business and I realized the full value of my network in Richmond after I moved. Yes, I absolutely get client inquires through my website and take on clients from across the United States. I do work with people whom I've only met by phone and video quite often. However, in Richmond and in Denver (and I suspect in many other areas,) there are still many people who prefer a local provider and face to face interaction. I regularly travel back to Richmond and keep up my connections there, but it’s not quite the same from a distance. The real surprise was how long it has taken me to settle in and find my people in Denver! I thought that since my business is established and I know what I'm doing as far as systems, processes, etc that I would hit the Denver market running. In reality, it has taken 2 years of networking both online and in person to establish the connections needed to get on the speaker circuit and to be a known face at events around the city.

Appreciation and Gratitude: I am Determined Not to Repeat the Mistakes of my Past

I am deeply thankful for the real connections I have made. I have found power partners and support through networking. I am truly excited about the things to come. The foundation is set and although it was much more work than anticipated to get on the roster… game on, Denver, game on!

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Laura Pence Atencio

As Founder and CEO of Social Savvy Geek, LLC., Laura Pence Atencio is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and business owners meet and exceed their goals. She is committed to providing the most engaging and effective strategies in online marketing by combining traditional business networking and marketing fundamentals and best practices with current and engaging online marketing methods and tactics. Laura has worked with some of the top names in Internet Marketing and has consulted with entrepreneurs, businesses, and nonprofits in the US and abroad. She is the author of the popular article, 10 Tips to Build Your Twitter List Now, which has been published both online and in print in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. A lifetime student herself, Laura has achieved certification as a Computer Administrative Specialist at Beta Tech and has studied Art Education, History, Art History, and Criminal Justice at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is fascinated by learning, sharing and growing, not just in business, but in life. She participates in US Masters Swimming and has ranked in the top 25 nationally in her age group in both the 50 and 100-yard backstroke. She served in the VA Army National Guard as a Combat Engineer in the 229th Engineer Battalion. She never meets strangers, only friends not yet made– an attitude that serves her extremely well in the networking world, both online and off. She currently lives in Denver, CO with her husband, 3-year-old daughter, and German Shephard.