Meet and Connect

It’s not what you know but who you know, or so the saying goes. Lester Coney, executive vice president at Mesirow Financial, couldn’t agree more. Charged with forging strategic alliances and brokering multimillion-dollar partnerships for the Chicago-based conglomerate, Coney states, “Every business is relationship business, and your ability to cultivate relationships is essential to your success in any and all aspects of business.” In Never Eat Alone … And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time (Currency; $24.95), authors Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz outline a definitive guide to building an impressive network of friends, colleagues, and contacts. The hobnobbing primer touts the tenets of engaging in meaningful interactions over those of routinely recommended networking practices that include frenzied card swapping.

Coney points to the following insights for growing your social circle:

Never eat alone. Don’t limit your networking to business meetings. Capitalize on all opportunities to talk and/or meet with others. Initiate conversations over meals, in the elevator, during a taxi ride, or while picking up your dry cleaning.

Don’t wait to be invited. You shouldn’t rely on lucky encounters. Be proactive in building contacts by joining professional associations, volunteering for community service projects, and taking a seat on a nonprofit board.

Create a win-win relationship. Identify ways to make your relationships mutually beneficial. Offer your time, resources, and expertise to assist others in achieving their goals, before requesting any favors from them.

The Business of Nonprofit
“Escalating costs, diminishing resources, and increasing competition have posed many of the same business quandaries for nonprofits as for their private-sector counterparts,” says Harold E. Creacy, attorney and executive director of Ocean-Monmouth Legal Services Inc., a New Jersey-based organization that provides free legal representation for low-income residents in civil cases.

In an effort to heighten organizational performance, Creacy enrolled in an executive-level program at Columbia Business School’s Institute for Not-For-Profit Management in 2006. Creacy says the six-month course offered an in-depth look at best-in-class management paradigms for the social sector.

He later rolled out a strategic plan that included these class takeaways:
Know the mission. State the purpose and long-term direction of the organization. Be clear about what your organization does and does not do. Creacy communicates the company’s agenda with a formal, written mission statement. He also reinforces the mission at board and employee meetings and during interactions with donors.

Streamline operations. Focus on what gets the job done. Eliminate efforts that do not produce outcomes aligned with the organization’s mission. Creacy worked with his team to identify tasks that most helped the organization achieve its goals and then outlined policies, procedures, incentives, and rewards to support those tasks.

Measure progress. Evaluate how things are working. Creacy is developing a balanced scorecard to assess how well the organization meets its goals in strategic, financial, operational, and client satisfaction areas. He uses the information to make necessary adjustments in work plans.

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Volunteering Helps You, Too
According to the 2005 Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey, employed Americans overwhelmingly