F.O.R.M. Your Way to a High Value Network
A Simple Framework for Connecting with People
Meeting new people can sometimes feel awkward. I have stumbled over my words and outright fallen flat on my face on many occasions, especially early on in my career.
If after reading this article you conclude that you found it helpful, please feel free to share it with your network. Perhaps we can all learn from each other. Thanks!
I had zero technical expertise, so we decided that I would be in charge of finance and business development.
Looking back, I’m not sure why—I had no experience in those either. Now that I think about it, I’m not really sure why Steve and Ron agreed to partner with me!
After we had finished the initial business setup, my two partners looked at me and said, “OK, Spurv, go out and get us some customers.”
I had no idea what to do. How do you get customers for something you don’t even understand? How do you get customers when the only members of your network are your childhood friends, university classmates, and family?
The first thing I did was pay a couple hundred dollars for a membership in the St. John’s Board of Trade. In lunch meetings with other members, however, I fell down and picked myself up many times. I would meet someone and, within twenty seconds, ask if he or she had a website. After each lunch meeting, I would follow up by dropping in at my new connection’s place of business. When I drove up to the building, there was an Open sign in the window. But by the time I got out of my 1986 Honda Civic, which had left a trail of rust behind it, the sign said Closed. At 2:30 in the afternoon!
I had no clue how to generate conversation.
Eventually, I stumbled upon a framework called FORM, which gave me some guidance. Along with the framework, came the mind-set that I needed to listen better and talk less. I had nothing to lose, so I tried it out. Briefly, the FORM framework consists of the following:
F - Family
Learn about your acquaintance’s family, spouse, and children. Learn about where he or she lives. In big cities this is easy to do, because the long commute is always a good topic of conversation.
O - Occupation
Learn about your acquaintance’s occupation. It’s easy to ask these types of questions: What do you do? How did you get into your occupation? What school did you go to?
R - Recreation
What do you do in your spare time?
M - Motivation
How long have you been a member of the Board of Trade? Do you find it has a positive effect on your business?
With this framework in hand, I started going to lunches and dinners with only one agenda—meet people and get to know them. By focusing the conversation on building a relationship rather than selling my service, I was able to make some lasting connections.
I did notice one additional thing while using the FORM framework: when I asked people about themselves in a genuine way, they in turn asked me about my own family, occupation, recreation, and motivation. That result was all I needed in order to see the benefit of FORM.
I can hear you now: "Spurvey, I can’t see myself asking someone a pile of questions like that!"
From my experience, after you break the ice, things move into a natural conversation and you don’t feel like a game show host.
So, if you find yourself with sweaty palms when you walk into a networking function that your company made you attend and where you will encounter people you don’t know, try FORMing them and see what happens. I can’t guarantee you won’t have sweaty palms (I still do!), but I think you will find yourself making stronger, more meaningful connections.
Do you have any suggestions that can help others break the ice and get into a genuine value-based relationship with others? I welcome your contribution in the comments below.