5 Signs of a Networking Slug—And What to do Instead

They’re pushy and disrespectful of your time, just to name a couple signs of Networking Slugs. Make sure nobody can accuse you of Networking Slug behavior with these alternative approaches.

I hate Networking Slugs—I really do. And so should you. They typically create negative first impressions at networking events by doing lots of dumb things. They probably didn’t plan to behave like Slugs and what they do is often out of mindless habit or lack of focus. But, the results are just as lame—and just as annoying.

Most Slugs are real amateur networkers, but not all. I’ve encountered some veteran schmoozers who elevate Slug Behavior to the level of an art form. So have you. When you see them coming, you turn and run. Or, at least, start talking to someone else.

•          RELATED: Phil also hates elevator speeches, and here’s why you should too.

To help ensure no one ever accuses you of being a Networking Slug, here are five signs of Networking Slug Behavior and the Non-Slug Alternatives they—and you—should consider instead. No need to thank me–it’s my job!

Networking Slug sign No. 1: They give you their business cards up front. And of course, most of the cards wind up in the trash can on the way out of the venue. I’ve even seen Slugs going around the room passing out cards to everyone, as if they were candy we’d all enjoy. Lame. Very lame. And I’ve been known to put on my curmudgeon hat on occasion and comment ‘I don’t recall asking for your card’ just to mess with them.

Non-Slug alternative No. 1: Wait for people to ask for your card. Or, ask them if you can give them one. Wait until the end of a short conversation to initiate a possible follow-up. And ask for theirs first—that usually prompts the return request. 

Networking Slug sign No. 2: They don’t respect your time. Slugs talk too much, too long, mostly about themselves and launch right into their sales pitch monologue when they call you. It’s all about them and what they’re selling, because they don’t realize—or care—that networking and selling don’t mix.

Non-Slug alternative No. 2: Don’t dominate the conversation or talk too long. Tell less and ask more. Talk less and listen more. The conversation should be more about them than you. And never mix networking with selling. When you do follow up with a call, always ask within the first few seconds, “Is this a good time for a brief follow-up chat on…?” 

Networking Slug sign No. 3: They don’t interact with class and style. If they suggest a coffee meeting, they show up late, expect you to pick up the check and can’t be bothered to confirm plans. And, again, they talk too much—about themselves.

Non-Slug alternative No. 3: Send a confirming email or text the day before. Show up on time, if not early. If you initiate the meeting, always pick up the tab. Keep it short and simple, and focus on how you might be able to help each other.

•          RELATED: Stop loathing networking and start love kibitzing.

Networking Slug sign No. 4: They ask for something before they give. You’ll encounter two basic kinds of people at networking events—givers and takers. Slugs are takers—always thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’ And if you do help them, instead of a note of thanks, you usually get another request for your help. They rarely offer to return the courtesy.

Non-Slug alternative No. 4: Ask what you can do for them before asking them for anything. And when you do need to ask first, make sure you have earned the courtesy. Believe that ‘givers gain’ and ‘what goes around comes around,’ and prove it by your courteous and consistent behavior.

Networking Slug sign No. 5: They send you stuff you didn’t ask for. When following up, Slugs kill a lot of trees by sending you unwanted material that goes directly into your recycling bin. At an event, they shove brochures, resumes—even swag—in your hands without asking if you want any of it. Like they’re doing you a favor.

Non-Slug alternative No. 5: Ask what is wanted or needed up front. Then, only send or give them what they asked for. Ask when they want it and respond accordingly. If they say they don’t want anything, honor that by not sending anything. Simple as that.

•          RELATED: Read more on effective communication by Phil Stella.

So, if you now realize that you hate Networking Slugs as much as I do, make sure no one can ever use that term to describe you. It’s all about networking with simple courtesy, class and style. No one will hate that!

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,

440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. 

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  • Next up: 5 Steps to Create an Agile Business

    5 Steps to Create an Agile Business

    The world moves fast and if your company’s going to keep up, it needs to be agile. Here’s how to get comfortable with change and keep your business relevant as the business world evolves.

    The world is changing and fast! Are you ready? Is your business ready? Are you and your leadership team prepared to tackle new workplace challenges and adapt to new norms? Do your managers have the capabilities and mindset to transform and inspire a whole new generation of employees? Does your workforce have the skill and the will to meet innovation demands, productivity requirements, company goals and customer expectations? 

    These are important questions to be asking yourself as a business owner seeking to thrive in today’s complex and ever-changing world of work. 

    As an organizational consultant and business/leadership coach, I have observed that when business owners prioritize building strong cultures and take time to identify clear strategic direction, they are invariably ahead of the curve. I have found, however, that the most critical attribute to success in recent years is an organization’s ability to adapt and change and to take on a mindset of agility—always willing to capitalize on new opportunities (even if that means veering from traditional paths) and are able to shift directions seamlessly and efficiently (with the support of their staff and their management teams leading the way). 

    Keen awareness of market forces and the foresight to see what is coming around the corner in terms of new opportunities will ultimately lead to a greater competitive advantage. And it starts with stopping organizational inertia dead in its tracks and having the courage to put down the “old ways” of doing things and the “traditional hierarchies” of yesteryear and instead build a more collaborate, responsive and flexible work environment—one now known as an agile organization.

    Perhaps you’ve been selling computer software based on “product features” that were once appealing to customers and the only reason they bought from your company. Now you see that the features are secondary to the need to cultivate trusting and long-lasting customer relationships and a “solutions-orientation” that has become more desirable to customers. In other words, you sense that your target market is now more interested in comprehensive solutions from sales reps they trust and respect rather than merely purchasing software with specific product features. Time to shift gears! You may need to hire sales reps who have these desirable qualities (and an expertise in solutions-selling) and develop incentive and performance programs that reward establishing solid, enduring customer relationships.

    A mindset of agility and taking steps (even small steps can have a significant impact) to create a more agile organization will be the keys to success in 2019 and beyond! Begin by thinking about your business and organizational culture. 

    Start here by asking:

    • How would you describe your workplace culture?
    • How about your vision, mission and values? 
    • Do they effectively lend themselves to inspiring a more flexible, creative and highly engaged and empowered workforce? 
    • Are all your other workplace policies and practices aligned with this type of philosophy?


    • Are decisions made at the lowest levels possible (empowered) or all at the top?

    Bottom line—we know now that a company’s ability to adapt, move quickly, and rapidly seize opportunities will be vital differentiators and the secret to future success.

    So where do we start?  With a focus on agility!

    5 things agile organizations do well:

    No. 1: Get comfortable with change:  Agile organizations are comfortable with change and do what they need to do to address these new challenges.

    No. 2: Be clear and simple: Any process, procedure or policy that is overly cumbersome must get kicked to the curb and replaced with a simpler approach, and one that perpetuates and supports faster decision-making and more responsive actions

    No. 3: Balance stability with agility: First, the perfect blend of standardized and structured rules and processes combined with individual freedoms and flexibility needed to seize market opportunities and respond swiftly to customer demands.  Second, a workforce and leadership team functioning in perfect harmony and high collaboration, high trust work environments. 

    No. 4: Trust and empower employees: Trusting and empowering employees, divisions and teams to shift their focus and develop new products, services and methodologies is imperative. Employees must also be entrusted to make decisions at the lowest levels. 

    No. 5: Collaboration and teamwork: Siloes and barriers to teamwork are broken down and leaders lead the way to facilitating healthy dialogue and reward those who collaborate well. Agility-focused leaders know that having more “brains in the game” will lead to better ideas and innovative developments.

    Successful businesses today are making strides to create a culture that promotes agility, flexibility and adaptability. Everything from their policies, systems and core values encourage this type of workplace. Leaders of agile workplaces respect traditions and a certain level of structure; however, they are not so wedded to a strategy or process to a point of being unmovable.  Agile leaders inspire their employees to not get “stuck” and to also be looking for new ways of thinking and doing. 

    As an organizational consultant, I have had the opportunity to meet with many clients and discuss “what’s working and not working” and how do we keep up the pace with market demands and create an organizational climate where employees feel engaged and valued (because we know when this happens, productivity and profits go up!)

    An outside consultant can be a good way to start this process, providing insights on current workplace best practices and how to implement these practices to better engage employees and satisfy customers.  Retaining a third-party workplace expert can be the perfect way to start building agility within your workplace!

    Interested in learning more? 

    Plan to attend our Workplace Coffee Talk on Creating a More Agile Organization.  As a COSE member get $20 off when you use the code COSE20.

    Video overview Here

    Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so!  View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.  

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  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

    Download the presentation as a PDF here.

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  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

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  • Next up: 9 Smart Money Ideas to Get Your Business Off to a Great Start in 2018

    9 Smart Money Ideas to Get Your Business Off to a Great Start in 2018

    From consolidating debt to putting a succession plan in place, here are nine ways you can ensure your business is well-positioned for 2018.

    Smart companies realize three things:

    No. 1: The importance of making their balance sheets healthy.

    No. 2: How to access the extremely low cost of available capital.

    No. 3: Recognizing the demand in our economy is rising at a healthy 3% growth. 

    All three of these realizations will help your company to maintain or expand market share.  

    Now is a good time to review, correct and forecast your financial strategies to better leverage your firm for growth. This year-end review and forecast is important, due in part, to the changes underway on Capitol Hill and new federal policies on finance and regulations. The federal changes will have impact on most all businesses, no matter the size.

    Here are nine ideas that could help your 2018 get off to a roaring start.

    Idea No. 1: Taxes. The Big Elephant in the room. Contact your accounting firm to ensure you are taking full advantage of all your options to reduce taxes based on the new federal tax laws currently underway in Congress.  This also applies to your personal taxes.

    Idea No. 2: Investments. For most, this has been a robust year in the investment arena.  Review with your investment advisor your yearend picture to determine if there is a need to make any changes to better reflect your risk in the market on both the company and personal investment side. The deadline for your investment changes is Dec. 31.

    Idea No. 3: Insurance. Look over all company and personal insurance policies to ensure your assets are fully covered. These policies could include:

    • general liability insurance
    • professional liability insurance
    • business owner’s policy
    • directors and officers insurance
    • data breach
    •  property insurance
    • commercial auto insurance
    • worker’s compensation
    • homeowner’s insurance
    • renter’s insurance
    • life insurance
    • personal automobile insurance.

    Idea No. 4: Debt consolidation. Interest rates have been at historically low rates. Look at all outstanding loans, consider consolidating outstanding notes for a better rate. Credit cards continue to offer great rates for as low as 0% until 2019 when you consolidate debt from other credit card companies. Make sure you understand the fine print. Analysts forecast the Fed rate will increase before year end, and again slightly in the new year, however, will remain low in 2018, following retiring Janet Yellen’s past performance.

    Idea No. 5: New capital acquisition. Growing companies require more working capital for operations, inventory and equipment.  It takes money to make money. While conventional banks have kept interest rates attractively low, overall 12-month business loan growth is at the lowest since 2013. But they are still lending. Consider reviewing alternative financial options including interviewing potential private equity or venture capital partners, joint ventures/alliances with compatible companies that compliments your business strategy, large corporate sponsorship or grant funding,  public/private government sponsored funding. The beauty of preparing your 2018 business plan and forecast, is that you will be able to strategically see where and when you need funding. When you do sit down to negotiate new financing, most capital sources will ask to review many of the items listed here. Know where your realistic capital options are, including the requirements to secure the capital, before you need it.

    Idea No. 6: Leases. Capital spending on equipment leasing in the first three quarters of this year has risen at 7.3% annual rate, fastest in the past three years. Instead of outright purchasing equipment—whether a $5,000 video-conference system or a $500,000 injection molding machine—seriously consider leasing rather than tying up this capital that could be better used elsewhere. Additional leasing benefits include $1 buyouts at the end of the lease and the ability to upgrade equipment during the term of the lease to take advantage of newer technology platforms.  The trend today is for  larger equipment to have  built-in computer and artificial intelligence.

    Idea No. 7: Owner draws and distributions. Review with your CPA how your firm is paying out draws and/or distributions and how this impacts your overall tax picture.  The difference between a draw and a distribution is significant for tax reporting purposes. A sole proprietor or single-member LLC can draw money out of the business—this is called a draw. It is an accounting transaction, and it doesn't show up on the owner's tax return. A distribution or distributive share, on the other hand, must be recorded (using Schedule K-1) and it shows up on the owner's tax return. Further, depending on your tax bracket and forecasted 2018 compensation, determine if it would be better to take money out in 2017 or 2018. 

    Idea No. 8: Succession plan. Discuss and review any needed business succession planning updates. During the year were there retirement events, disability or death of an owner or other foreseeable events affecting the company? Review age of the owner(s) and family stage, business stage, size of the business, direction of the business and future leadership. Ensure that succession viability, retirement exit strategy, transition strategy in place.  In the event of death or disability of an owner, take into consideration tax planning, family law considerations, shareholder’s agreements and determining the selection a successor and future management to liquidation of assets or sale of business.

    Idea No. 9: Estate plan. Review and update your will to reflect current situation. Consider a trust if you have property and you don’t wish to have your survivors to go through the sometimes long and arduous task of going thru probate court.  Review and update health care directives, financial powers of attorney, beneficiary forms, protect your children’s property, estate taxes, funeral arrangements and expenses. Store your documents with your attorney-in-fact and/or your executor, the person you choose in your will to administer your property after you die. You will sleep better knowing your wishes are in place.

    Marsha L. Powers, a finance and strategic development professional, author, entrepreneur and investor is the founder of Powers Advisors and Shale Capital Resources. She has been a contributing writer on Finance for Crain’s Cleveland Business for nine years. Her management consulting areas of expertise includes finance – ranging from senior debt, government finance programs to private equity, market strategy, operations, marketing communications and economic development.  She’s a recognized award-winning leader with proven strategic direction and leadership to over 1500 companies, from early stage to Fortune 50 companies. You can reach Marsha at (216)965-3633, marsha@powersadvisors.com and www.powersadvisors.com to learn more about how she can help your company succeed.

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  • Next up: A mental health check-in: Creating a strong workplace environment

    A mental health check-in: Creating a strong workplace environment

    An important step in strengthening your team and your business is to assess the mental health wellness in your workplace. Follow these tips for a safe and welcoming working environment.


    One of the biggest challenges my clients are facing right now is retaining and hiring employees. What they are also facing is burnout among those employees they have to help them meet the demand, which can result in more turnover. You have seen “help wanted” signs everywhere, pleas for people to be patient and courteous. It feels like we are asking more now of our team than we have ever asked. I know that as a business owner you don’t just care about the business—you care about the people who make it happen.

    According to a report conducted by Mental Health America (MHA), many employees across the globe are experiencing increased mental health challenges.

    Check out these three mental health workplace stats:

    9 in 10 employees report that their workplace stress affects their mental health
    3 in 5 employees are not receiving adequate support from supervisors to help manage stress 
    4 in 5 employees feel emotionally drained from their work—an early sign of burnout

    Here is a real shocker: Companies with 50 employees or fewer had the unhealthiest average supervisor support and mental health scores.

    My mentor John Maxwell said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It is in how you treat people and how they feel cared for that ultimately will make the difference in any organization.  

    Do you want to know how your employees are feeling right now? Simple...ask them! Ask the question, “How are you?” and when they say “Fine,” don’t stop there. Ask more open-ended questions. What is going well for you right now? What would you need to be able to do your job better? What is one thing you would do for the team right now if you were me?

    Your employees are an invaluable source of information and ideas, and they can help you when you really partner with them and ask. It sounds simple but this is not a common practice—unfortunately. If you are not comfortable doing this, ask someone externally to talk to your team and find out how they are doing; sometimes they share more and it allows them to share freely without judgement. I love doing this for teams and find that when you ask the right questions and listen—really listen to what is being said—the answer is consistent across the team and typically easy to implement. 

    If your team is burnt out, they need to be heard. The solution won’t always be the same for everyone but there is so much power in just being heard. It shows you care, you want to know what you can do and that they are important to you.


    One of the easiest ways to get feedback and find out how you can really help your team and grow your business is asking them to answer these three simple questions:  

    1. What should we start doing that will help you, the business and/or the customer?
    2. What should we stop doing that will help you, the business and/or the customer?
    3. What should we continue doing that will help you, the business and/or the customer?

    If you haven’t asked for this type of feedback before, you may hear crickets because they may not trust you enough to share this—or they need to think about the answer. One of the most important things you can do when you ask these questions is listen (or really, shut up and listen!) without interrupting or asking for more clarity (there is always time for that later). Listening without waiting for your turn to speak or judging or saying, “We tried that and it didn’t work.”

    Have you heard the phrase, “Put on your own oxygen mask first?” Start with your leadership team. What are they thinking and feeling? If they are burned out as well, they can’t support the team. How are you developing them, preparing them to really lead in a way that empowers the team and helping to support their employees and address challenges early? I will write more about that in the future!

    Finally, here are some things you can do right now to provide a safe and welcoming environment for employees: 

    • Train supervisors to feel comfortable providing emotional support.
    • Encourage employees to talk to their supervisors about changing job stressors.
    • Encourage supervisors to check-in with employees regularly.
    • Provide proper recognition to employees for their efforts.

    Caring doesn’t cost you anything, but the payback is priceless!

    Jill Windelspecht is the founder of Talent Specialists Consulting. She can be reached via email at jillwindel@talentspecialists.com or LinkedIn

    Jill founded Talent Specialists Consulting so that she could invest in serving leaders so that great teams thrive. As a leadership coach she equips individuals with the tools to build their most effective, authentic leadership style. Jill’s amazing clients describe her as passionate, practical and committed to their success. Hundreds of leaders have used the mindset, skillset & actionset approach to build the careers and teams they deserve. Leaders using all their intelligence create a coaching culture in organizations that drives employee engagement, high performance, and better business results. Prior to founding Talent Specialists Consulting, Jill travelled the globe providing leadership developing programs for Eaton Corporation and led talent development and leadership training from the executive level to the shop floor. As a Certified Coach with an emphasis in emotional intelligence and neuroscience, Jill is sought after for executive coaching, workshops, organization consulting, and speaking. 

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