When I grew up, Gaithersburg was the last outpost before entering the Maryland farm belt; and boasted the county fair as well as a State Roads Equipment Depot. It was a close community where people knew each other (if I got into minor mischief, my mother knew about it and would be waiting when I got home to interrogate me about the particulars).
Although terms like 'connector' and 'matchmaker' (business, not love) were not used then, the storekeeper at Southern States (similar to a general store) or the barber could tell you who to see to get various projects done – or who may have a need for such projects. The response would be along the lines “if I needed that done, I'd go see Jack, and if he's busy then I'd ask Dick.”
It wasn't from a directory or the yellow pages (this was long before Angie's List and on-line vender sites) – the referral was from personal knowledge and conveyed a recommendation by the individual. As the community and business environment has changed over time, we have almost lost those knowledgeable and trusted personal referrals / recommendations. Almost.
Dick and I met just such an individual this week - Jacob Shoval. He knows the Rockville and Montgomery County, MD communities intimately – we think of him as the unofficial mayor of Rockville – as well as what's happening in the close-in region of MD-DC-VA.
During our meeting with Jacob, he offered a half dozen referrals of individuals wrestling with business issues, discussed new innovative ways to use social media and the internet to inform and educate, and spoke about the emergence of local professional development presentations taking place in national technology retail stores. Wow – it's like he builds a hillside while we watch, and now invites us to hop on the skateboard to enjoy it!
He is a matchmaker reminiscent of the old storekeeper tradition – all the more impressive because of its uniqueness today.
An interesting thing about connectors – they invest time to meet and get to know others, they give their knowledge freely, and they are superstars in their 'day job' – they are successful personally, but are a valuable resource contributing to the success of the community as well. A connector personifies Zig Zigular's famous quote: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Do you know any connectors in your community or agency? If not, how would you find this precious resource?
It's my impression there are a lot fewer of these "matchmakers," due to the internet. Recommendations are a way to get some value out of research that didn't particularly work for my project at the time, but introduced me to someone I admire. Passing that along rewards me, the person I admire, and the person who needs the help.
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