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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jim Hodges on Networking

I first met Jim Hodges at the event described. I’m big, but my wife says Jim makes me look puny. I have never seen a man have so much fun charging through life. He has shown me the humor in a couple of triumphs and even a few semi-triumphs. Any opportunity with Jim is an adventure. Here is his first blog:
Ethan and Jim Hodges

Let me tell you my story. When I was transitioning out of the Marine Corps in 1992--after about 10 worthless interviews--through NETWORKING I found a sales trainer with an incredibly large, professional network. I attended his month-long course. He suggested I attend a sales association's meeting which comprised saleswomen. He told me there were plenty of networking opportunities. So late on a hot afternoon, I drove to a Washington hotel; signed in [paid $10]; and mingled. I was approached by one of the members. She said that they needed more men in their group and asked if I would join. Like Ethan--my 3-year-old grandson--I answered: "Sure my can!" It was only $90. A guest speaker provided some interesting ideas about sales; then the evening concluded.

Afterwards as we were making small talk, a well-dressed businessman approached me. I recognized him by his nametag. He said, "Well, Marine, you have passed all the tests. You showed up; socialized; joined; stayed for the program. So I will give you one contact." He wrote a name and number on the back of one of his cards. He said, "Call Ron tomorrow and ask: 'How hard would I have to work in order for you to buy me a cup of coffee'?"

The next morning from my new office at my old section in the crossroads of the corps [Quantico] which means in the ancient, Native American dialect: “where fat colonels go to die,” I had moved out of my executive office into the "bullpen," I called Ron. “This is Ron," came the voice. I was startled. No secretary or admin chief or AA, just the CEO answering his own phone. I stumbled through the line Dick [my contact] had given me. 

Ron answered, "That sounds like Dick. What can I do for you?"

I am completing my military career and am in the job hunt mode,” I answered. “Last night I was at a women’s sales association meeting. Dick suggested I call you. About 300 women were there and a handful of males.”

Ron: “How kinky! Why don't you come in tomorrow about this time and we can talk."

I had no idea what Ron's company did! I arrived the next day, in a hot, wool, expensive BLUE suit [in reality I was way overdressed]. The meeting was not going well until he asked where I was from. Being a smart-ass, I was going to respond: "Po' Hang or Da Nang or “Mulesbreath, Kansas," but common sense won out and I told him "Bloomington, Illinois." His eyes glazed over as he reminisced about chasing college girls in Bloomington when he attended Eureka College. I commented that's where President Reagan went. Ron seemed offended, and countered with, “I went there LONG AFTER the Gipper!”

A few days later I met Mrs. Ron [I called her June, Cleaver, in my mind] and their son Beaver. Beaver was fresh out as an Army captain helo pilot. When we met for lunch, Ron told me to wear golf attire since he knew I had at least one suit.

The restaurant had “Godfather” written all over it. The husky-voiced owner told me Jack Nicholson hangs out there when he’s in town.

Anyway, son Michael [Beaver] kept referring to me as "colonel" or "sir." Each time I would correct him. He later told me his military bearing was a test to see if I could handle being called "Jim” by underlings.

Then magic happened. In an effort to make small talk at the Cleaver's table, I asked about a basketball player I had seen play from their hometown--Waukegan, Illinois.

Ron dropped his fork; June and Beaver disappeared. I thought I had made the mother of all social fox paws. Ron blurted, "How did you know he is my best friend? We share box seat tickets at Bears' home games!"

"Touchdown, thank you Jesus!" I thought. I went from Pfc. Yum-Yum to Ron's heir apparent. A few days later I received a formal letter of offer and started selling for Ron a few weeks after that. I was on my way.

We provided communication services for associations' annual meetings: AV, automated reservation services, cell telephone rentals [1992], IMAG [image magnification], SI [simultaneous interpretation], etc. During my 18 months in the conventions' services industry, I sold and managed 16 major "shows."

From further networking a colonel-Tom Parker type[a retired Marine colonel] adopted me and we started a technical, staffing agency. After I found exiting mil types to be undertrained, inflexible, and mostly naïve, I expanded our candidate pool to include all comers. Then, we took off and rode the “IT” boom. I bought out Colonel Tom in 2000 and have been recruiting ever since.

Jim O'Fallon interviewed a retired colonel in 2005. The colonel told Jim that he knew the best headhunter in the DC area. So Jim called me and I was hooked up with Portal Dynamics [an anchor client for five years].

And that’s how I figured out Networking is the only way to get ahead.

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