Day 25 – Follow Up With A Professional Contact


In one of our first post in this series, we talked about the importance ofdeveloping a professional network full of remarkable people. It’s been 20 days since then, which makes this a great time to follow up with contacts you’ve met recently — or even reconnect with ones you made years ago.

Professional relationships can be harder to keep alive than personal relationships — you may not see these people for weeks or months at a time, so staying relevant is a challenge. On the other hand, since your relationship is strictly a professional one, you aren’t saddled with the emotional pressure that comes with personal relationships, so it’s easier to be yourself.

Today, I want you to reach out to a professional contact and reconnect with them.

Ways to reconnect

One of the easiest ways to reconnect with a personal contact is to send a simple email. Mention that you were thinking about them, ask a question about a project they were working on, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help them with their current projects. If you want to open up to a broader conversation, you might end your email with a request for a Skype or Google Hangouts session or phone call.

A phone call, or even a handwritten note can serve the same purpose. Some entrepreneurs I know of send out birthday or Christmas cards to their professional contacts. The trick to this sort of message is to make sure it’s genuine and heartfelt — you want to send this person a note that is a genuine communication from you, not some formulaic spam that you blast out to all of your contacts.

Although it limits you to local contacts, asking someone to meet up for coffee or lunch is a great way to build a relationship. Depending on the contact, this can either be something where you each pay your own way, or you can offer to pick up the tab yourself, if you have the room in your budget.

If you’re like me and have a lot more online contacts than local contacts, you can couple these in-person meetings with travel. If you’re heading somewhere that passes through an area close to where one of your contacts lives, give them an early heads-up and see if you can set up a meeting.

I did this a while back — on a trip back from Illinois, I stopped in Nashville, TN to have lunch with a writer I’d met online. I was passing through Nashville anyway on my way home, so the trip only took me a few miles out of my way, and it was an opportunity to develop an online relationship into something more substantial. I was later able to develop that relationship into an editing gig for a poetry book.

Plan follow-ups in advance

Since professional contacts tend to people you interact with only infrequently, it’s easy to forget about them. A forgotten relationship is one that doesn’t bring any value to you or to your associate. Instead, take a proactive approach to follow-ups.

Recently, I’ve been taking steps to actively cultivate my professional network. When I meet someone, I add their contact details and some notes about where and how we met to Evernote, and any other details I know about them. If I have one available, I add their picture, too, so I can put a face to the name. I glance through these contacts about once a week or so.

After I have an interaction with one of these people, I set a reminder to myself to follow up with them in two or three weeks. If I haven’t from them since our last meeting, those reminders are a way to encourage myself to reach out and make contact again. Then I make some new notes, and rinse and repeat. This is especially helpful for contacts that I may not see again for months — when we reconnect again, I can glance over my notes and refresh myself with everything I know about this person.

Don’t try to get something out of every meeting

Try not to come into these meetings with an ulterior motive or agenda. No one wants to have coffee with a friend who always asks for a favor every time they get together. Instead, focus on your contact — what are they working on? What are they trying to achieve? Be a good listener, and engage yourself with theiraspirations.

People are always more interested in those who are interested in them.

Some contacts are more valuable than others

Obviously, some contacts are going to be more integral to your goals than others. If you’re trying to land a job with a prestigious firm, then a contact who actively works with that firm is going to be far more valuable than someone you met at a conference six months ago.

If one of your contacts is more valuable in this way, prioritize them in your follow-ups. Make extra effort to set up meetings with them (without being pushy about it), and ask them to introduce you to other people they think you should meet. At the same time, don’t neglect the rest of your network just to focus on one person — you may be missing valuable opportunities.

Tomorrow: Forgive Yourself For Financial Mistakes

Over the next two days, we’ll be covering two of the most important aspects of a strong financial life: forgiving your mistakes, and celebrating your victories. Everyone screws up now and then. It’s important to not let those mistakes discourage you. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about forgiving yourself.

Is there someone you need to follow-up with soon?

How actively do you try to develop your professional network? Do you have any tips or tricks to share about following up with contacts? Tell us in the comments!

Posted in 31 Days To Your Financial Future

Day 24 – Talk To Someone At Your Bank or Credit Union


In Saturday’s post about investing, I talked about the importance of properly checking out the brokers and advisers handling your investments. Today, I want to cover something similar — getting to know the people who work at the local branch of the bank or credit union you use.

These days, you don’t really have to step foot into a bank. You can check your accounts online, you can have your paycheck direct-deposited, you can apply for loans online, you can get your statements emailed to you, and you can even deposit a check by taking a photo of it with your smart phone.

Those features are great and have removed some annoying or time-consuming barriers to accessing and managing your money, but an unfortunate side-effect of this is that we’ve fallen out of touch with the people who are handling our money every single day.

As a child, I remember tagging along with my father to our credit union. My father came in every week to do some small piece of financial business, whether it be making a loan payment or withdrawing cash, and every clerk there knew him by name and face. When my father needed to do some business at the bank, he already knew who he needed to talk to — there was none of that uncertainty that comes with talking to a total stranger about an important or sensitive topic.

Today’s task is a simple one. Go into the local branch of your bank or credit union, and make a transaction or ask a question.

Convenience isn’t everything

My credit union has an ATM by the front door. If I need to withdraw some cash quickly, it’s easy to pull up, get my funds, and go. That’s really convenient if I’m in a hurry or if I’m trying to do something during the lunch rush or Friday afternoon. But convenience can easily step over into avoidance — it’s easy to stick to impersonal electronic methods because they keep us from waiting and they keep us from having to face people.

But it takes only a few minutes more to go inside and make my withdrawal in person. Every time I do, it’s an opportunity to build a little familiarity and rapport with the people that work there. It’s an opportunity to make myself recognizable.

Never underestimate the value of a history of patronage. A customer who comes into the bank every week or two to do some business is always going to be treated with more warmth and familiarity than someone who has an account, but has never actually stepped through the doors.

The staff at your bank or credit union are a source of information

If you bank with a big national chain like Regions or Bank of America and you need to ask a question, you could always brave their online or phone support. You’ll want to plan on getting forwarded to an outsourced call center in Bangladesh or China, juggling intentionally complicated automated phone systems and language barriers, and if you’re lucky, you might get your answer…eventually.

If you bank with a smaller community bank or a credit union, you might have a better experience, but you’ll likely still be faced with technical barriers to getting your question answered.

Or you could walk into the local branch, talk to someone who lives and works in your community, who is familiar with your accounts, and who speaks the same language you do.

I’ve never had a bad experience with the staff at the local branch of my credit union. Occasionally, a new employee might be rude or incompetent, but they either quickly shape up, or they don’t last long — customers tend to complain if the person handling their money is bad at their job.

On the off-chance a transaction is handled poorly, handling it in person helps me know who I spoke to and when, so I can correctly report it to their supervisor and get the issue resolved quickly.

If I have a question about a loan or something strange with my account, I know the tellers, loan officers, or customer accounts representative at my credit union can probably answer my question. If I have a particularly big issue to deal with, I know I can probably even make an appointment with the manager of that location, or even a higher-up officer of the bank.


A second pair of eyes helps you catch problems quickly

Several years ago, I went into my bank to deposit my paycheck for that month. The particular bank I was using had online banking, but I didn’t have Internet access at my apartment, so I only checked it periodically. When the teller pulled up my account, she noticed that a recent largish transaction had been charged to my account twice. It wasn’t enough to overdraw my account, but I obviously didn’t want to pay double for the item I’d bought.

She advised me on how to proceed to get the charge reversed (which was promptly taken care of a few days later), but if she hadn’t caught the error and brought it to my attention, it might have gone a week or more before I could have addressed it.

Relationship building doesn’t have to take a lot of time

I’m not saying you should completely give up online banking and other impersonal methods of conducting business with your bank. I use my credit union’s online banking religiously, and I frequently use the ATM instead of going into the bank if I need to withdraw cash.

If you don’t have the time, you don’t have to go into the bank every single week. Maybe you only go inside every two weeks or even once a month. That’s enough to get your face recognized.

Most days aren’t so urgent and rushed that I can’t spare 5-6 minutes to handle a transaction in person. Those minutes buy me familiarity and history, and those two elements are worth the extra time and hassle of handling my banking in person. More than that, it’s a casual reminder to myself that I can afford to slow down a little bit and take life at a slightly slower pace. Rushing everywhere and trying to do everything as fast as possible often leaves you missing out on some great experiences.

Tomorrow: Follow Up With A Professional Contact

Tomorrow we’re heading into the final week of 31 Days To Your Financial Future!We’ll be talking about keeping professional relationships alive by making follow-up connections.

Do you do your banking in person?

Do you like to do your banking in front of an actual person, or do you avoid it like the plague? Why? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

Posted in 31 Days To Your Financial Future

Day 23 – Take A Step Towards A Long-Term Goal


Today’s post was supposed to be about establishing (or re-establishing) a rapport with the people who work at your bank or credit union — but my lovely wife reminded me that today is Sunday, and few banks and credit unions are open. So! We’ll shuffle things around a bit and do that one tomorrow.

Today’s (new) task for 31 Days To Your Financial Future is to take a step towards achieving one of your long term goals. We all have those “someday” goals.

“Someday” I want to own a house. “Someday” I want to spend two weeks in Paris. “Someday” I want to go back to school and earn my Master’s Degree. We think fondly of having these things, but we keep them caged up in vague, nondescript ideas and don’t create any actual plans to make them a reality.

I don’t know who originally said it, but there’s a great quote floating around:

There are seven days in a week and “someday” is not one of them.

Obviously, most of us can’t just go walk into a real estate office today and buy a house. What we can do, though, is take one small step towards achieving that big dream.

Let’s get started.

We stall because we’re scared

Why do we hesitate to chase the things that we really want to accomplish? Usually it’s because our goal is so big and so scary and seems so out of reach that finding a way to make it happen seems impossible. The overwhelming scope of a big goal makes it difficult to approach.

The first step to overcoming that hesitation is to take a big goal and separate it into smaller projects. If you want to take a trip to Paris, you need to spend a few days researching the costs and nailing down a number. That’s one small project. You need to figure out how you can take two weeks off work, which might take some negotiating with your employer or careful management of your vacation days. That’s another small project. You need to save up the funds to pay for the trip. That’s another project.

Chain enough of these projects together and you can achieve anything.

Just get started

Even if achieving the goal is far in the future, there’s always something you can do now. It may take you years to save up the down payment for the house you want. But right now, you can reshuffle your budget to start saving part of that down payment every month. You can read up on different types of mortgages, so that you can make informed decisions when the time comes. You can work to improve your credit score.

You may not be able to make a whole lot of progress in a single day or week.That’s okay. The point here isn’t to achieve your dream at a breakneck pace — it’s simply to break the habit of shuffling your dreams off to some nebulous future and to start facing them right here, right now.

Achievement is a function of momentum

In my experience, the more you do, the more you want to do. The more debt my wife and I pay off, the more I want to do to accelerate that process. The more we’re able to grow our income, the more I want to do to grow it further.

By committing yourself to the small projects that make up your big goals, you build a steady momentum of progress. Every thing you can cross out as “done” takes you one step closer to turning “I want it” into “I have it!”

Record your progress

If you find it helpful, keep a record or timeline of everything you’ve done, and refer to it as a way of gauging your progress. It’s a way to see what you’ve already accomplished and what still needs to be done. Keep your record however you like — a simple list in a notebook, a blog, or even video entries.

If your project has gone too long without progress, what’s causing the stall? What can you do to get things moving again?

Tomorrow: Talk To Someone At Your Bank Or Credit Union

Tomorrow we’ll cover what was supposed to be today’s topic — getting to know the people who work at the local branch of your bank or credit union, why you should.

What are you doing today to achieve your dreams of tomorrow?

Can you break up one of your big goals into a number of smaller projects? What are you doing now to get where you want to be? Tell us in the comments!

Click here to read Day 24!

Posted in 31 Days To Your Financial Future