Many lawyers network in order to meet people who will bring them business. Attorney Joseph Campolo approaches his networking activities with a twist. Rather than trying to drum up business from the people he meets, he looks to introduce those people to others who can help them succeed.

In other words, he sets out to be a connector.

“People don’t care about what you need; they care about what they need,” Campolo said. “The way I network is not to try to get business from people. I try to see how I can help them – by making relevant introductions that will help them succeed.”

This helps him build relationships, which eventually lead to new business.

“People will want to do business with you or refer people to you if they like you and you bring them value,” he said. “Networking isn’t about managing transactions. New business is not going to come in five minutes over a bagel at a networking event.”

How to be a connector was the focus of a presentation entitled “Never Eat Alone: Put Your Network to Work in 2017” that Campolo made before 200-plus business people at a Hauppauge breakfast in January. (A similar breakfast was planned for this week in Southampton.) The connector concept is based on a book that Campolo read about 10 years ago, right before he co-founded Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, a law firm based in Ronkonkoma with a second office in Bridgehampton. Prior to starting the firm, he had been the president of a technology company.

“Trying to broaden my focus from the very niche tech space I had just left, I knew I needed to build a network,” Campolo said, noting he adopted some of the concepts from the book Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi as a framework to build his network.

Because of his experience in the tech sector, he had plenty of connections in the venture capital arena and was able to introduce investors to entrepreneurs and others who were seeking funding.

“I said, ‘Let me start being a connector and see how I could bring value,’ and that’s when the fuse lit – that’s how our firm has grown,” said Campolo, whose firm now has more than 30 attorneys.

When Campolo identifies someone who may be a mutual connector with him – such as the managing partner of an accounting firm – he might suggest they have a drink to talk about how they can connect each other to others who can help their business.

“It takes the pressure off the relationship,” he said. “Someone might be a nice person and a great connector, but if they’re constantly trying to sell you something, you’re going to avoid them.”

In considering which relationships have value, don’t keep score, Campolo suggested.

“You might think, ‘Geez, I sent this person a lot of work and they didn’t send a thing back,’” he said. But that doesn’t mean you should walk away from the relationship.

“You should be thinking, ‘Am I developing this relationship correctly, so that this person feels confident giving me work?’” he said. “If it’s a good relationship, you should be able to have an honest discussion. Ask if there’s something that is making them nervous about sending business to you so you can address it with them.”

However, if you don’t feel a connection in a relationship – and you don’t feel the opportunity is there for mutual benefit – then you can move on, and move on quickly. “But the key is, don’t move on just because you didn’t get something from them when you gave them something,” Campolo said.

Campolo said he likes to develop his relationships over food.

“I grew up in an Italian family and everything was about eating,” he said. “You can get to know someone in a more comfortable setting when you share a meal with them.”

The firm plans group lunches and dinner parties with multiple clients who complement each other, as well as meet-and-greets between its internal team and members of other firms, so “people can pair off with those who make the most sense for their individual networks.”

The firm also holds business breakfasts like the “Never Eat Alone” event to connect people with each other.

While many attorneys give lectures as part of their networking arsenal, they tend to focus on legal topics in their presentations. By giving a seminar on hot topics in employment law or changes to patent laws, for instance, attorneys can bring value to attendees while demonstrating their expertise in a particular area of the law.

Campolo, however, tends to focus on marketing topics in his talks.

“I consider myself to be not just a lawyer but a business owner in the business of selling legal services,” he said. “From that perspective, a large part of my day is spent working with our marketing and business development folks on marketing our practice to the Long Island business community, which I think appreciates business owners who can go out and give them practical advice about what does or doesn’t work.”

Campolo and his partners also give seminars on specific legal topics, but those on broader business themes draw considerably larger audiences.

The breakfasts, which are free for attendees who register in advance, started with 10 to 12 people and grew based on the connector concept – people were invited to bring a friend – to a steady attendance of 150 to 250 people for those with broad business topics.

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