I attended a local networking event this week, with the usual mix of local businesses, entrepreneurs and consultants. I love these meetings, purely because of the mix of people and their stories. However, whilst making small talk and introductions with a few of the other networkers, I noticed an elderly gentleman stood on the fringes of the conversation on his own. He was very well dressed, very upright, almost military and held himself like a classic gentleman.
I'm always curious about peoples' stories and I was willing to bet that he had a great story and some history to share. So I left the main buzz of the meeting, wandered over, extended a hand and introduced myself. He shot me a warm smile, shook my hand and invited me to sit. We chatted briefly about ourselves before he asked me what I did for a living. As I told him, his smile grew and he chuckled, shaking his head. I have to admit to being a little puzzled.
He read the puzzlement on my face and basically told me that his business couldn't possibly benefit from social media or having an extended presence on the internet. They'd had a consultant visit before who talked in numbers, conversions and sales funnels, which he wasn't the slightest bit interested in. He explained that he had a website that showed his services and products and that was all he needed, the quality spoke for itself. A bold statement perhaps, but great that he had such confidence in his products. Rather than argue the benefits of social media with him, I asked him instead to tell me how he started his business. How he got from there to where he is today.
There was a gleam in his eye as he recounted the history of his business. A family enterprise started by his great-grandfather as a tailor several generations ago that grew into several shops in the same region. He explained how the business had survived both world wars, economic downturns, family hardships and personal tragedies. He took great pleasure in telling me how, although there is only one shop today, they still keep to the same values his great-grandfather instilled in the business all that time ago. He told me how his son and daughter run the business day-to-day, although he still keeps his hand in on the tailoring front. He went on to say that they send him to these events to meet other business people, but he doesn't really enjoy it.
I chuckled to myself and suggested that he seemed to be enjoying telling me his story. He smiled and agreed, telling me that he loves recounting the story of his family and business, but very few people have the time to listen. I asked him what he'd think if I told him I knew where there were an awful lot of people who'd want to hear his story. What he'd think if I told him that these people would want to tell other people about his story, his business and his products. He conceded that he'd like that, as long as it didn't mean that he'd have to visit any more of these 'coffee mornings', as he put it.
So I told him a little of my story, how I use social media and how I believe that it's all about the conversation and telling your story. His eyes lit up. He'd never considered using the internet to tell his story, but now he can see past the sales talk, the conversions and the funnels to the authentic experience sharing ability of social media. He's decided to talk to his children about the idea and is now looking forward to seeing me again at next week's 'coffee morning'. He's also asked me not to tell you who he is or who is company are; he wants to tell his own story, in his words, when he's ready.
I can't wait to see what he does next.