Take Random Meetings

Gary Vaynerchuk has often discussed “Why Taking Random Meetings Matters So Much.”  Two years ago, I had no idea who Gary was.  Luckily, I understood networking and that helped me completely change the trajectory of my career from good to great.  Like many others, I have friends, family, and weird Facebook acquaintances unhappy with their current professional situation.  I can’t always help them, but here are a few tips that have worked for me and I know with some patience will help you.

John Zanzarella

1)   Take Random Meetings:

Two years ago Len Ciffone, a co-worker and friend of mine, reached out to me about his grammar school friend who had started his own social media agency.  I was a manager in the marketing department at a large law firm with some ties to the firm’s (limited) social media presence.  He sent me some background info and YouTube links which I bookmarked but never viewed.  I set up the lunch for the Tuesday after Memorial Day.  Funny thing happened that Memorial Day – my girlfriend of three years and I broke up.  That Tuesday, I didn’t want to crawl in a hole and never come out, but I also didn’t want to get lunch and talk tweets.  Regardless, I did it, because you just never know – and because I was hungry.

* Take meetings in general.  Random meetings don’t have to be with strangers. I have great friends that I rarely talk business with.  Include them as well; who better to try to help than your friends?

2)   Be a human:

I met Chris Dessi for lunch in Stamford. He came in a few minutes after me and immediately complimented my watch.  Twist the knife, I thought as I responded, “Thanks, my girlfriend, err, ex girlfriend got it for me.  We broke up two days ago.”  For the next 57 minutes, we talked about everything but business. Chris shared some of his life experiences, some advice, some positive thoughts, and a slight bit of jealousy at my new single life.  There was no hard sell, really no sell at all.  Chris was building a relationship.

* A friend of mine talks about writing a book called “Be Normal”.  I told him I would buy a couple hundred copies just to give it to people. I am not saying not to sell, or not to talk business. Just make sure you read the room. You will know quickly whether there is a relationship to be built or just a contact to have.

3)   Don’t just follow up – Give, Give, Give

I was pumped about my meeting.  Chris has this crazy energy that I don’t need to explain because if you know him, you get it.  I followed up with Chris but I didn’t just go through the motions.  I wanted to help.  No strings attached.  I purchased three tickets to his next speaking engagement and brought the Director of Marketing and another manager.  Then I helped facilitate an in-person meeting with our COO, CIO, Director of Marketing, and the Managing Partner of the firm. Chris was making some ground developing our firm’s business.  I invited him to one of our client events in Pinehurst, NC.  I thought it would be a good chance for him to network, that one day he may be a client and, more importantly, that he could reconnect with his friend Len who lived in Charlotte.

* When you take meetings, listen.  Pay attention to what people really want and then be creative in helping them get there.  The second you stop worrying about what you will get in return and really focus your attention on helping others, you will get more in return than you would have ever asked for.

4)   You don’t know what you don’t know 

I didn’t know Chris had aspirations to produce events, or particularly that he owned the URL http://www.westchesterdigitalsummit.comI didn’t know that he was paying attention to how I ran the event he attended in Pinehurst.  I didn’t expect him to call me in mid-November to ask me to help produce the inaugural event.  I didn’t know what I was thinking when I immediately agreed.  On the day of the event, when Chris told me I would be his CMO one day, I didn’t realize he was serious.

* In an hour-long meeting, you will learn some things about who you are meeting with. It’s a small piece to a huge puzzle. Focus on your own consistency. Hold yourself to a high standard, provide value, and at the right time, the right opportunity may present itself.  I like to follow the saying, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

Two years later, almost to the day, we have produced two digital summits and have plans to expand this year.  I am the CMO of Silverback Social, and everyday I am excited to meet new and incredible people because, frankly, that’s how I got here.  My story is unique, but it’s the law of numbers. Start simple – one or two people a week and see what happens.  Everyone is busy, so it’s your responsibility to make time whether its breakfast, lunch, drinks, or dinner.  It might take two months, two years, or two decades, but it’s always worth it.










I’m a Loser.

I’m a loser.  Really, I am. I’ve had my ass kicked so many times I’ve stopped counting.  I’ve been fired more times than I care to remember.  Three times in less than two years in fact.  I have scars. Deep ugly jagged cuts that at times have left me bleeding on the ground.  That’s precisely why I win in business.  It’s also exactly why my company performs 10X better than our competition.  Because I’ve had my ass kicked I do things differently.  Let me explain:

The last time I was let go I was so stunned I couldn’t respond.


Shock: I just sat there. Stone faced. Mind racing, heart pounding. I tried to speak, but nothing came out.  The CEO sat across from me realized I was in shock, stood up shook my hand, and escorted me out.

Reality: I went back to my desk where my colleagues sat completely oblivious.  They joked, and worked and began to notice me packing up my things

Colleague “Spring cleaning Chris”?

Me “No, I just got fired.”

Anger: My direct manager came up to me and gestured for me to leave.  Through gritted teeth I said,

“I’m getting my things together.”

A moment flashed in my mind of me throwing a vicious, violent punch.

More shock: I packed up my things walked outside and wandered about 30 blocks holding a box containing all of my belongings.  A keyboard, a mouse, notebooks, files, even a bobblehead doll I had just received for being at the company for a year.  I was stunned, and spun around.  I finally got too fatigued to walk any longer so I sat down. I started to send emails.

“Dear, So and so, as of this afternoon I’m no longer with xxx. Please email me at [email protected]

..on and on.

Betrayal: The morning I was terminated the CEO had signed an NDA to a $350,000 deal of mine that would close in the ensuing days after my departure.  The commission went to my direct manager who had only been at the company for a few short weeks.

The Final F*ck You

Immediately after being terminated I did the only thing I knew to do. I went on interviews. I needed to get something going and something going fast.  I had taken a pay cut to work at this company and I needed to keep my financial life straight. No time to select where I would be. I had to take every single interview that came my way.  My wife was pregnant with our second child and I was panicked.  I was invited to interview with a competitor. I had to take the meeting.  Moments after leaving the interview (I was still in the elevator) I received an email from the CEO of the company that had just fired me:

“Chris, it’s come to my attention that you were interviewing at XXX company.  You are arguably in violation of your non compete so you will not be eligible for your severance pay.”

Months later I would learn that there was a salesman that was still employed at the competitor, but who had signed on with my former company.  He notified the CEO that he had just met me.

I got off the elevator blindly meandered into the lobby. Stunned again.  The proverbial kick to the nuts after I had already been knocked on the ground.  I heard my heart pounding in my head, the blood swooshing in my ears.  Nothing. That was it.  Not even a severance. I could have fought it but I would have lost.  And I had no money to defend myself.  And the CEO had me by the short hairs. I had violent daydreams filled with revenge fantasies.   I’ve since let it go because I know that contempt kills.

The Lesson(s):

I’m grateful for the experience. It taught me more about myself than any other experience save my father’s diagnosis with ALS.  Powerful. It’s now years later and I thank God I had this experience because I survived. I learned from it and I kept on going. I didn’t die, nothing blew up, and I survived well.  In my mind it was the worst case scenario and I lived through the other side.   I know that no outside force can make me do anything I don’t want to. I am the master of my own fate.  This experience propelled me into entrepreneurial endeavors because I swore I would never…ever work for anyone ever again. I would never give anyone control over my destiny.  Previously I would look to the company I worked at or my business partner for guidance and money making opportunities.  Now I focus on my strengths and make things happen on my own.  I am beholden to nobody.  I’m also tremendously grateful for what I have, and I give thanks to the people that surround me.  I’ve seen what others do in Machiavellian manner. That’s not me. I shower my employees with praise.  In the past I didn’t do this. Then I got my assed kicked and swore I would never treat my employees the way I was treated.  Grateful. Experiencing that and knowing you can survive is what helps you shed fear, and fear will kill you.

Because I’m a loser, and because I’ve had my ass kicked and because I have scar tissue, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I also focus on improving myself daily so that I never have to be reliant on anyone else for my own success.  At that job I looked  to others for more money and more responsibility instead of just closing more business and showing him by my actions that I should be promoted. I can see this now, but I was blind to my own blindness then. I know I can survive anything you throw at me.

I’m fearless.

We don’t waste time seeing what the competition does, we plow our own path.  I know myself better than I ever have. I know what my strengths are and how I can profit from them in a start-up environment as a true entrepreneur.  I aggressively focus on my biggest ideas because anything less would be falling short of the standards I set for myself.   Silverback provides big solutions for big companies doing big things.  I don’t panic. I don’t freak out.  If I never got my ass kicked I would have still been a “sales manager”…not a Founder and CEO.

So if you’ve just gotten your ass kicked. Get up, wipe the blood off your face and thank God for this lesson.  Be grateful for your scar tissue, learn from it, and take that first step forward.  I know I did.  My head is bloodied, but unbowed. 

So let’s hear it – are you a loser too? Have you had your ass kicked before? Has it helped, or hurt you?  Share below.