'The Gal With a Touch of Sin Walks In'

You surely got trouble if you aren’t networking.

February 13, 2012

“The Music Man” is a show I enjoy immensely, in part because of Marian the Librarian’s semi-scandalous reputation.

Marian’s dubious connections with community pillar Mr. Madison allow River City, Iowa, residents to receive the library building as a donation, but Marian gets all the books upon Madison’s demise.

Some townsfolk are convinced misunderstood Marian circulates trashy novels, further scandalizing her. Poor communications and misinterpretation of events create a degree of outrage and confusion for River City and our heroine.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.

When Professor Harold Hill, con man extraordinaire, appears on the scene, he busily exerts his own communication style and networking abilities with unexpected positive results.

Hill’s attempts for personal economic advancement inadvertently bring a community together with a common goal—the boy’s band. This is accomplished through team building and lots of communication.

Recall that the contentious school board members become a stellar barbershop quartet with collaboration, the sniping, gossiping ladies in town form an interpretive dance group with a cause, and the mayor’s daughter finally gets to date Bad Boy Tommy, who is not so bad after all.

Networking is a vital skill that must be practiced. Compare Marian’s situation to Harold’s. Who was the better networker? Marian had exemplary motives but couldn’t rally the troops, or even get beyond their misperceptions.

How are your networking skills? Are you comfortable meeting people and making those important connections? Do you have success stories where networking has made a difference?

Instead of “sadder but wiser,” be savvier and wiser with this week’s findings.

Serving small businesses

The State of American Small Business” reveals that small business is an important part of our economic recovery, and there are “…small businesses that would like to borrow but cannot meet credit requirements...”

Further, regulators need to allow funds to flow to businesses. “Some level of default is inevitable and reasonable. Our economy must be willing to take some risks and regulators should not stand in the way of sound business loans.”

According to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) “Small Business GDP: Update 2002-2010,” small businesses’ net job gains matched those of large businesses during the last half of 2010, and the gross job gains of small businesses outpaced those of large businesses by about three to one.

“While extremely important to the process of restructuring the economy,” SBA reports, “this entrepreneurial edge is also quite volatile, resulting in many businesses failing.”

Why not network with small business owners in your area to determine where they find themselves in these economic times? Are you contributing as much as you can to economic recovery with services you might provide to these potential members?

The Widow Paroo likely considered Winthrop and Marian’s financial futures when making decisions about her life insurance needs. Take a look at “Meeting Changing Customer Expectations in Life Insurance,” which observes, “Customers have higher expectations than ever before. Delivering a highly effective customer experience that meets these expectations will likely require insurers to leverage information management and analytics to better understand both customer requirements and internal costs.”

Perhaps also of concern to the widow, “Do Income Taxes Affect the Progressivity of Social Security” by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research. “Although the Disability Insurance component of Social Security is very progressive, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance component may be less progressive than intended.”

Workforce issues

Marian was stressed on the job at times, especially when Harold showed up with a marble bag. “Sick on the Job? Myths and Realities and Mental Health and Work” by OECD states, “Mental illness is responsible for a very significant loss of potential labor supply, high rates of unemployment, and a high incidence of sickness, absence, and reduced productivity at work.”

Engaged Workers Immune to Stress from Long Commutes” by Gallup also offers interesting reading.

Ultimately, Harold’s band was a big success, 76 trombones and all, in part due to “The Think System,” where musicality was found with positive thought.

The Cost of Bad Project Management” indicates “projects often fail because organizations put more emphasis on rational factors than on employees’ psychological engagement—and the cost to organizations is enormous.”

Have you networked with your staff to determine how they’re handling on-the-job stress? How can you engage employees and improve their moods, thus fostering success?

On a sentimental note befitting the season, Marian and Harold knew there were bells on the hill but they "never heard them ringing…till there was you.”

The National Retail Federation hears the ringing cash registers as “Americans to Pull Out All the Stops This Valentine’s Day.” This survey reveals that “the average person celebrating the holiday will shell out $126.03, up 8.5%” from last year.

Whether you’re a semi-scandalous librarian or travelling salesman, credit union CEO or loan officer, networking is critical for good business relations, strong member interaction, and community involvement—no matter what the definition of “community.” Connections make impressions and impact.

“You really ought to give Iowa a try!”

LORA KLOTH is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.