Author Archives: Talia Bargil

Enthusiasm: Take Some and Pass It On

While impatiently waiting for the bus on a cold and rainy New York City afternoon, I couldn’t help but interrupt my brain’s running ticker of thoughts (which included some not so nice choice words for Mother Nature) to take notice of a particularly entertaining gentleman nearby.

At first, his jibber jabber about the Playwright Celtic Pub’s $10 lunch menu was a bunch of white noise muffled by the blare of sirens, honking and chatter. But given that he was delivering his shpiel approximately three feet from the bus stop, I had no choice but to tune in. Dressed in a snazzy wool coat with an equally snazzy scarf and fedora, this gentleman, let’s call him George (which I think is actually his name, but I cannot confirm that), was more than happy to stand outside – in the less than desirable weather no less – informing each and every passerby of the Pub’s meal deals and drink specials. “It’s 5 p.m. somewhere – come in for a beer and stay all day!” he shouted with the excitement of a kid who had just lost his first tooth. “We have Jameson for the fellas, Cosmos for the ladies. Everybody’s happy!” he roused. I was waiting to hear, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” because I’d swear George was plucked straight out of the cast of the Broadway musical Newsies if it weren’t for his, well, seasoned maturity.

Miraculously, George’s strategy was working. I witnessed people of all sorts stopping in their tracks, chuckling at George’s zealous approach, and after a spirited exchange, head inside for a beer and a bite! I gave him the thumbs up for his fruitful efforts, and he shot me an I-can’t-believe-this-is-working-either grin before getting back to business (which literally included tap dancing on the sidewalk). My bus finally arrived, and thanks to George, I climbed on board with an extra skip in my step.

George, a complete stranger, was literally contagious (and I don’t mean with the flu). After just a few minutes in his presence, I caught his enthusiasm and it changed the course of my day. As the week went on, I recognized several more folks who shared his gusto. The taxi driver who tested his knock knock jokes out on me during our brief encounter and roared with laughter each time he delivered the punch line. The cosmetic clerk at Sephora who spoke about mascara like she was laying out my options for brain surgery. Most recently, while on a road trip to the North Fork Long Island wineries (side note: this place is seriously worth a visit), I was blown away by the zeal of the staff at each winery. Whether we were talking reds or restaurants, one was more enthusiastic than the next. The passion of the wine gurus truly made our entire experience (and the vino helped too).

Enthusiasm is everywhere if you pay attention – at the dry cleaners, in the coffee shop, heck, even on the subway. And when you are lucky enough to stumble upon it, soak it up and pay it forward. It’s a wonderful and fulfilling gift to share with strangers and friends alike. And it’s free! Not everybody is George or the taxi driver/aspiring comedian, but we can all kick up our gusto a notch – regardless of what it is we are doing – and find passion in the little things.

And fortunately for all of us, a little enthusiasm can go a long way.

Baby Knows Best

Funny how a waddling toddler in diapers can truly widen your perspective. Helpless, powerless, and for a while there, toothless, I’m convinced these mini-humans are on to something.

Hudson enjoying some much needed "me time"

It dawned on me a couple weeks ago when I was babysitting Hudson, a close friend’s son. With his blissful spirit, carefree curls and contagious giggle, this bundle of joy has brought so much light and laughter into my life since the day he was born about 21 months ago. (FYI: his parents are fully aware that I speak like he is my own child, no big deal). Thankfully we live nearby, so I am having a grand ole time watching him grow up.

That’s what makes this little “revelation” of mine surprising to me. Why did it take me this long to crack the code? Maybe I’m just regurgitating what plenty of mamas and papas already know, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got groundbreaking science to share here, people.

Think about it – Hudson’s got no fear. He lives in the moment. He’ll try anything once. He never gives up. This sounds like a guy who should be making keynote speeches, not splashing his hands in the toilet.

Here comes my point.

With a clean slate and no baggage, tiny tots are blessed with the coveted opportunity to live freely without inhibition and fear. I could name a zillion examples here, but watching Hudson balance one foot on a tricycle and the other on some sort of pirate ship device all in an effort to reach the remote control, well, clearly, toppling over is the least of his concerns. He had his eye on the prize, and is literally not afraid to fall on his face. Now if that’s not a life lesson, I don’t know what is!

Of course all babies are not created equally, and each has his/her own personality, but if every single one of them didn’t have the determination to master the art of walking, there’d eventually be a whole lot of grown men and women crawling around town. Yikes, that’s a disturbing visual. Whether it’s trying to put on their own socks or take their first step, they have a genuine ambition and resolve that we can all learn from.

And then there’s the “I don’t care what anybody thinks about me” mentality. They live out a concept that so many of us are struggling to adopt. Their version may mean shuffling shirtless anywhere and everywhere with blueberry mush dripping off their faces, but it’s the lack of “what will so and so think about me” approach that I find fascinating. It’s clearly liberating, so let’s give it a try (preferably while clothed and practicing acceptable hygiene).

It's my birthday and I'll rub cake all over my face if I want to

Another life lesson that Hudson recently reminded me about is to try anything once. I really have no excuse to wince at anything on a menu after watching this guy throw down octopus. For God’ sake, I’ve seen him take a bite out of a lemon! Why not? If you don’t try it, you’ll never know.

And don’t get me started on the nap. Ah, the nap. If I knew then what I know now, I would have spent a lot more time in my crib and a lot less time cutting the hair off my poor Barbie doll. Just thinking about it makes me want to relocate to Spain simply for the “siesta” (and the sangria certainly sweetens the pot). George Costanza tried to revive the afternoon nap, but he went about it all wrong and ruined it for the rest of us.

There you have it. Maybe it is that simple. Maybe the key to happiness is to follow the lead of the pint-sized rugrats every now and again. These little milkaholics are wiser than we think – they already possess the real baby formula. And they are living it up in Shangri La!

And maybe it’s time I take a cue from Hudson. Well, sans the whole diaper, drooling, crying rigmarole. Oh, and I think I’ll ditch the onesie too.

At least for now.

Tales From Gator Nation

In the spirit of March Madness, I thought I’d share an anecdote that dates back to my college days at the world’s greatest sports school. Obviously I am talking about the University of Florida.

Since everyone has got an opinion/prediction on March hoops and a bracket (or 10) to show for it, I’ve decided to forgo the small talk and focus on the man who essentially jumpstarted my career in the sports industry: Mr. Billy Donovan. Yes, that’s the same Billy D. who coaches the Gators basketball squad. See, it all comes full circle.

So as the endearing Rose Nyland of the 1980s smash hit Golden Girls would say, ‘this reminds of something that happened back in St. Olaf Gainesville.’ Back in my junior year of college, I was the lifestyles editor of the now-defunct “Gator Times” newspaper. Even though I was a total Miami Heat nut – and had the shiny polyester snap button jacket to prove it – I left the sports section editing to my colleague Garin (who now happens to be a PR guy over at the Cleveland Cavs). But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t trying to finagle a way to write a “lifestyles” story with that sports twist the whole darn time!

Then my moment arrived. I may have been wearing pajamas at the time (literally), but my moment had arrived. I had just gotten back to Gainesville after making the five-hour trek from South Florida. When I arrived “home,” which consisted of 50 girls living in a sorority house with like 3 showers, I was surprised to find Billy Donovan (and a whole bunch of sorority chicks) hosting his weekly radio show live right from the house’s living room (which we called the “great room” for some reason I’ll never understand). Apparently, I did not get the memo that this was the result of my sorority winning some sports competition of which I was unaware.

I came in the house, took one look at what was going down and the good ole light bulb went off. This was my time to shine. I ran upstairs to grab my notebook, and came back to the living room all fired up to write about this hard-hitting news. I could see the gripping headline in my head: “Head Coach Billy Donovan Hosts Radio Show Live From Sorority House.” It was going to be epic! I took notes feverishly and when the show ended and the girls dispersed, it was time to make my move.

‘Excuse me, Coach Donovan…excuse me, coach. Can I just ask you a few…’ This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Was he ignoring me on purpose? Was he freaked out by the pajama-wearing student-reporter? I would soon find out that the answer to both questions was no. He simply didn’t hear me beckoning him. Apologies if I built that up, only to let you down.

I resorted to tapping him like a 5-year-old who is trying to get their Mother off the phone until he caught on. I had his attention and I was not going to mess this up. I told him that I was writing an article for the Gator Times and asked if he could give me five minutes to talk to him about this “event.” He couldn’t have been more amenable.

We chatted about life, love and loss – I mean basketball – and he told me that he was impressed with my basketball knowledge. I knew a thing or two about hoops after watching Heat games on TV in a super obsessive fashion, so it was pretty cool to impress the big man on campus with my random facts. For example, did you know NBA veteran Bimbo Coles’ real name is Vernell? No? Neither did Coach. Stuff like that.

Coach and I got to talking about my future career, and I told him it was my dream to work in the Miami Heat’s front office. He mentioned that he knew a bunch of folks, including Pat Riley, and would be happy to send them a letter of recommendation on my behalf. Was he serious?! This just went from awesome to unreal. After about 30 minutes of chitchat, he said he’d have that letter ready for me to pick up in his office the next day. OMG.

I wasn’t sure if this was for real, so I played it cool, i.e. told every friend, family member and stranger about this interaction. As directed, I headed over to the Sports Information Office and asked for Coach’s executive assistant, Tracy Pfaff. What a gem that Tracy Pfaff is. As soon as she heard the first syllable of recommendation letter – that would be rec – she was on it. She whipped out this full-page letter of rec, Gator letterhead and all, and presented it to me like it was my diploma. Actually I think it would end up being more valuable than a diploma. She also nonchalantly mentioned that Coach had asked her to send it directly to his contacts at the Miami Heat. Wow! This guy is no joke!

I went home super fired up and can specifically recall sitting on a campus sidewalk telling my mom the play-by-play. I was pretty much convinced that the Heat would come calling promptly, and everyone was all like, “Now Talia, this stuff takes time. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Be patient.” If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s putting all my eggs in one basket. Good thing I was right and they were wrong. About one week later, I received the call of a lifetime – the call asking me to come in and interview for an unpaid internship with the team. I would have been equally as excited if they said I had to pay them for this internship (although that would have been odd), but I knew in my gut that this was my big break. I got the internship, which lead to a full-time position post-graduation, which led me to where I am in the sports world today. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Stay with me.

I always have wanted to share this story for a few reasons:

  1. I want Coach to know the impact he had on my career and how much I appreciate the efforts he made on my behalf. He didn’t have to go out on a limb for me, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
  2. Billy Donovan is a class act that genuinely cares about the future of UF students. And his own players throughout the years, like Udonis Haslem and Matt Bonner, certainly share in this sentiment. No wonder Billy D. is the longest tenured coach in the SEC, and his basketball coaching skills and consistently winning records probably have something to do with that too.
  3. It still amazes me the impact that one letter/gesture can have on a person’s future. And that wouldn’t have happened without taking advantage of that opportunity in my sorority house and having the gumption to harass Coach until he paid attention to me. Sometimes those random acts of assertiveness truly pay off.

And while I have no recollection if I even ever wrote/published that article, the experience was headlined by an assist I’ll never forget.

Thank you, Coach Donovan! And GO GATORS!

The Good Word With…Sam Perkins


Q: We are just passed the All-Star break. Thoughts on the season thus far?
It’s hard to say where teams will be at the end of the regular season. Everyone is playing on cruise control right now, with games almost every night.

As far as surprise teams, it’s still somewhat the Spurs I believe. Indiana is also surprising, they are the ones under the radar. Minnesota is promising, but it’s tough because that’s a team that doesn’t get a lot of publicity…they’re not the Knicks. Now when it comes to Philly, last year the team wasn’t really together. But, with the young team they have now, in addition to Iguodala, they all seem to be on the same page. That turnout is surprising – they went from in the cellar to near the top of their conference.

Jeremy Lin, that’s a whole other story. From coming out of nowhere to getting people fired up and making up slang and nicknames for him, he has changed the dynamics on and off the court. All of the attention has gravitated toward him, and he’s all over the news. He’s not the prototype we are used to, like Deron Williams, CP3, Rondo, but you have to guard him like you would anybody else.

But I think that if he weren’t in New York, Linsanity probably wouldn’t have happened. If he played in Houston or Sacramento, it would be a story and that would be it. But because it’s happening in New York, he’s in the center of things and all the headlines. I’m sure it will die down.

Q: Your alma mater UNC is having quite a season. What’s your prediction on how March Madness will go for them?
I honestly don’t think they will fare well. I think they need shooters. They get blown out, they have lapses in the last seconds. They are up and down. Look at Xavier, Kentucky, these other teams are so hungry – they come out with conviction. I’ll definitely watch UNC play this month, but it seems they have so much inconsistency that it will be hard to put things together.

Q: Which current NBA player reminds you of a young Sam Perkins?
The closest guy would probably be like a Chris Bosh for a few reasons. He’s left-handed, and he’s not necessarily the guy that gets the pub, but he’s a team player and goes out there and plays hard. I think that’s a fair assessment.

Q: You have really evolved into a global ambassador of the game of basketball. Any particularly interesting trips lately?
I recently went with Dikembe to assist him in Sudan, the home of Manute Bol. We were there to talk about NBA ideas and see if we could develop a rapport or even try to continue what Manute was trying to do in his homeland when he was alive. The people there talk about what he was trying to do for his people, and his relatives are trying to fulfill his dreams and further his quest to help the people of Sudan.

In parts of Africa, the NBA already has implemented some programs, and they were interested to see if Sudan was a possible consideration for NBA programming like Basketball Without Borders. There were a lot of meetings, of course, but we also did some camps with boys and girls. A lot of the locals were taken aback by the idea of women playing basketball – many feel they should be home doing the domestic stuff. But these females were young, and they could play. Sudan is a well known soccer country, but we are encouraging them to try to get behind basketball.

Dikembe and I have been friends because of our Association with the NBA, and we travel in the same circle of people and have been on trips together before. But this was more about he and I trying to collaborate and get ideas to send back to the NBA. It was a really good trip.

Q: And what else do you have going on these days?
A lot of people don’t really know, but I am an assistant coach with the D-League’s Texas Legends in Frisco, Texas. I’m doing a little player development, trying to help the young guys in the Developmental League play at a consistently high level. I never thought I’d be coaching. I’ve had a taste of management, player development, and of course playing, but I never thought I’d coach.

Now I can see why you have to invest so much time as a coach. You have to pay close attention to it; you can’t help but go home with it. I’ve learned a lot from our head coach Del Harris. It’s challenging in the D-League because we have like 35 players coming through the door at any given time, and you have to deal with the highs and lows of players getting cut. The door is swinging a lot…it’s a lot for a coach to take in.

I’m also on the Board for the Special Olympics, which I’m very involved with. There are a lot of things keeping me busy, especially raising my twin girls. I am trying to get them in the right mode for applying to colleges and am making sure they are doing well in the academic world.

ABOUT SAM PERKINS
A 17-year NBA veteran and lethal three-point shooter, Sam Perkins, also known as “Big Smooth,” remains an NBA fan favorite. Selected fourth overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1984 NBA Draft, the 6’9” power forward/center enjoyed a successful NBA career with teams including the Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle Sonics and Indiana Pacers. In addition to making NBA All-Rookie First Team and recording the only 30-20 game in Mavericks history, Perkins was the co-captain of the gold-medal winning 1984 U.S. Olympic basketball team. A college standout and graduate from the University of North Carolina and member of the 1982 NCAA Champion North Carolina Tar Heels, he was named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary men’s basketball team as one of the 50 greatest players in Atlantic Coast Conference history.  

DJ Irie: To Know Him Is To Love Him

DJ Irie…Whatta Man (thank you, Salt ‘N’ Pepa).                   

Practically bursting at the seams with energy, DJ Irie, or as I fondly call him, “Deej,” is one of the greatest guys out there. With his larger-than-life personality, contagious enthusiasm and endearing charm, this guy is no ordinary DJ (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

*Reader’s note: It suddenly dawned on me that I might sound one adjective away from a restraining order. Just so we’re clear, Deej has been a friend of mine for over a decade, and I shall brag about him as much as I please. Additionally, I am not a paid DJ Irie endorser, nor involved in a love affair with him.

Moving on.

As the official DJ of Carnival Cruise Lines and the Miami HEAT (yup, that was him celebrating the 2006 NBA Championship in the locker room popping bottles), Deej has developed into an international brand name that is one hot commodity.  

He’s not a businessman. He’s a business, man! (thank you, Jay-Z). Too much?

In addition to working closely with Jamie Foxx and DJing a ton of high-profile events for celebs like Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Bosh, you can find him on the tables at NBA All-Star Weekend, VH1 Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam and the MTV VMAs, just for starters. In-between gigs and firing up the crowd at HEAT home games, Deej is a world traveler, bringing his trademark act to just about every continent under the sun. It’s a matter of time before Antarctica comes a-knockin’.

You’d think that with all these late nights – which obviously come with the job – the man would be utilizing daylight hours for minor things like sleep, maybe laundry, maybe routine doctor’s visits. But no, he’s a mainstay DJ on Miami’s WEDR 99Jamz, and did I mention he’s built a thriving entertainment consulting firm, Artist Related? No wait; did I mention his latest venture is joining Pucci’s Pizza as a partner?  And since he’s got so much free time on his hands, Deej has developed Spin’iversity, an at-sea DJ academy, with Carnival. Google it.

Believe it or not, I haven’t even gotten to the core of why I think this guy is the best thing to come out of Miami since Crockett and Tubbs. His resume and talent speaks for itself, but it’s the person who Deej is that impresses me and those who know him the most. He’s got an inherent magnetic way about him and an incredible ability to make those around him feel good. It’s just who he is.

It was no surprise to me a number of years back when I learned that Deej had added “philanthropist” to his repertoire. For several years now, he has hosted Irie Weekend, a highly anticipated and star-studded weekend of events, which benefited Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami.

More recently, he launched the Irie Foundation, his very own non-profit that works to support the health and social needs of South Florida kids. Even so, he still plans to work with other charitable groups he admires, including The Special Olympics, Udonis Haslem Foundation, Overtown Youth Center, Alonzo Mourning Charities, Wade’s World Foundation, Odessa Chambers Foundation, Ronnie Brown Foundation, The United Way, Jason Taylor Foundation, and numerous groups benefiting Hurricane Katrina victims.

Just a few weeks ago during NBA All-Star Weekend, Deej hosted Jocktails, a special event to benefit his Foundation, which racked up $6Gs. Not too shabby for a few hours in Orlando.

You’d think that after all of the global media attention and flourishing success, some of the cha-ching would have gone to his head. Nope. Deej is the same gracious and happy-go-lucky (not in an annoying, cheesy way) guy he was when I met him many years ago. He still flashes that signature, megawatt smile about a hundred times a day, and makes sure to “take care of his people” whenever possible. The best part? It’s all genuine. Deej is one legit dude.

You know those people you are particularly happy and proud to see do well in the world? Well, Deej is one of those people for me.

And something tells me I’m not the only one.

(This is probably a good time to reread the above reader’s note).

The Good Word With…Bernard King

Q: You had a tremendous career, but no NBA Championship. Does that weigh on you today?
If you look back through NBA history, you will see that other than when Hakeem won the title with Houston in 1994 and Dirk with Dallas last year, no team has won an NBA Championship without at least two All-Stars in many years. I never had the opportunity to play alongside another All-Star, and this was an era where you had Moses and Doc in Philly; Boston with four Hall of Famers; the Lakers with Magic, Kareem, Worthy; Detroit had Isaiah and Joe Dumars, and of course, the Michael Jordan era. I came through a period that without two All-Stars, you wouldn’t even go deep into the playoffs.

Looking back, the only thing I wish was that Patrick Ewing and I had the opportunity to play together. If we had played together, I firmly believe we’d each have a ring.

Q: How about the Hall of Fame situation?
I did not grow up thinking about the Hall of Fame when I played or when I was growing up. My goal was to help my ball club win, play consistently, and be in the upper echelon of players in the league. Those were my objectives – to do what it took to win on a nightly basis.

Would it be an honor? Certainly. I was MVP one year, but nobody is guaranteed. Do I, in a humble way, think I am deserving? Yes I do.

Q: You haven’t been nearly as visible as some of your NBA peers since retiring in 1993. How about a snapshot of your last two decades?
After retiring, I got involved in broadcasting with various outlets on the college and pro basketball side, along with hosting a radio show in New York. When my wife and I had our first child (a daughter who’s now 14), we thought it was important to spend time making sure we raised her properly, which meant I didn’t want to be on the road. I stopped broadcasting and traveling, and we decided to move to Atlanta to bring her up in a diverse and family-oriented atmosphere. We are very pleased that we made that move a number of years ago. I know my in-laws were not as happy, but they come visit quite often!

Once my daughter started to get older, I began taking a look at the business environment – where I could best fit and what would be marketable and ultimately profitable. So about six years ago, my best friend and business partner Ricky Thompson and I launched Bernard King & Thompson Energy. We help municipalities reduce electrical utility costs, which are significant savings for them year after year, and we have been able to make our inroads into the arena of energy efficiency. I have – and continue to – study the energy business.

I was involved in real estate, but we know that market is under water at this time, so I’m out of that. I’ve also been doing some speaking engagements and appearances, and working with the MSG Network as well.

Q: Knicks fans have enjoyed seeing you in front of the camera this season. How’s the MSG broadcast experience going for you?
Well, I began working with the network last year when I was doing the pre- and post-game studio shows during the playoffs. It went well, and now I am doing TV alongside Clyde whenever they ask me. I treat this role like everything else…I spend a lot of time preparing for each game, especially when I’m next to the greatness of Clyde, so that we mesh properly. There’s a tremendous chemistry, I believe, that we have together, and it translates on the air. Feedback has been good. I hope MSG is pleased!

Q: What lessons from the court have translated to the business world?
All of the lessons I learned as an athlete in the sports world, those are transferable to other endeavors. I use them every day…the ability to set goals, plan, self-motivate, focus, be disciplined. These are all necessary attributes one has to have to be successful and work well with others. I built a great foundation from all of the lessons I learned in athletics.

I am also very analytical, so if there’s something I don’t understand, I will learn it. And that goes for everyone. We all have talents and capabilities to learn anything if we are willing to spend the necessary time to learn and understand the field we have an interest in.

Q: Talk about the camaraderie on your Knicks teams…
My time with the Knicks was a great experience for me beyond the camaraderie. Growing up in downtown Brooklyn, I had the chance to play at home. I followed the Knicks in my youth, but playing for the Knicks, wow, that was a dream for all the kids playing ball in the playground.

When I joined the team, I was overjoyed and exhilarated to put on the uniform worn by Earl Monroe, Clyde, Bill Bradley…and the history it represented. I had a great experience playing with wonderful guys like Darrell Walker, Paul Westphal, Bill Cartwright, Marvin Webster, the list goes on…

Q: With your size, long arms and scoring ability, you epitomized the small forward position of the 1980s. Talk about how the position has evolved…
A player at that position today has great athletic skills. But what you don’t see as much today is a player in the small forward position posting up on the low block…most of the play is done on the perimeter.

Like today, small forwards were versatile, including some of the greatest players in the game…Dr. J, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, Alex English, Adrian Dantley, Mark Aguirre. Every night was a challenge.

Q: What is your relationship like with the Tennessee basketball program?
I have reconnected with the program. I was the first basketball player to have my uniform retired, which certainly was an honor. Since then, Ernie Grunfeld had his retired. I have to say that the greatest chemistry I’ve ever had with any player was with Ernie…it’s very rare or unheard of that you had two guys on one team each averaging 25 points a game.

For the last 25 years, I have maintained a scholarship fund at the University. Each year, a young person of merit has an opportunity to draw from that fund to help them pay for college. It’s always touching hearing from students who say they wouldn’t have been able to go to college if not for the scholarship. One student told me that because of the scholarship, her 98-year-old grandmother could see her graduate. That’s beautiful thing.

Q: Which current player reminds you of a young Bernard King?
I’d say Carmelo Anthony…because of his spin moves, basketball IQ, toughness, ability to get the shot that he wants (which is a very large part of being an effective scorer), willingness to do whatever it takes to help his team win. For whatever reason, Melo says he models his game after mine, which is an honor.

He and I did a commercial together for Nike. I received a call from Nike, and they indicated that Melo personally requested my participation in his signature commercial, which I thought was a nice thing. That was my first opportunity to interact and talk with him.

ABOUT BERNARD KING
A four-time NBA All-Star and 14-year NBA veteran, Bernard King, an explosive runner and outstanding scorer, is highly regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history. Selected seventh overall by the New York Nets (now the New Jersey Nets) in the 1977 NBA Draft, King scored over 19,000 points, earned an MVP award and was selected to four All-NBA teams during his playing career, which included stops in New Jersey, Utah, Golden State, New York and Washington. A native of Brooklyn, he attended the University of Tennessee, where his number 53 jersey was retired by the Volunteers in 2007. To learn more about Bernard King & Thompson Energy, visit http://bktenergy.com/.

The Thing We Love To Hate (Myself Included!)

Networking, sigh.

It’s like going to the dentist- you know you’ve got to do it, but nobody actually enjoys it. By nobody, I mean about 82.6 percent of people would rather watch Kathy Griffin’s new talk show (spoiler alert: it’s really happening).

But, like it or not, networking is an essential component of growing any business, and, more importantly, developing your own personal brand. For some, it means getting outside of your comfort zone. For others, well, selling yourself to strangers is your wheelhouse. Regardless, it must be done.

I am of the belief that positive working relationships are the foundation of all successful business practices, especially for entrepreneurs. And networking allows you to expand your reach and meet people that actually leave you thinking, “Hmmm…not only do I not want him/her to [insert something very bad], I may even want to have frozen yogurt with him/her.” See, that’s the spirit! Why not give it a shot? Imagine a world where you work with people you actually like? It’s a beautiful thing.

For small business owners, and often for those in the corporate world, there are many important reasons for doing the deed, including:

  • Increasing your chances for referrals: the more folks that know you and your business exist, the more likely you are to receive referrals from people other than your parents.
  • Picking up “how to” tips: while you may be awesome at what you do and how you do it, someone else is probably doing it better, faster and at a lower cost. The cool thing is that those people love to brag about such topics. Those are the brains you want to pick…and take notes.
  • Giving yourself a new perspective: it never hurts to see what’s new in your industry and learn about emerging trends. You can fight the trend kicking and screaming (this is me, the proverbial pot, calling the kettle black), but eventually you will have to adapt or your biz will face extinction.
  • Building strategic alliances: the yin and yang approach is a powerful tool. You’ve mastered the sales pitch; your new networking cohort prefers the deskwork. A match made in heaven.
  • Finding new products or services that can better your business: for example, when I attended the New York XPO For Business this past fall, I learned a ton about all of the companies out there working to bolster your social media practices. It’s good information to keep in your back pocket.
  • Practicing grassroots, word of mouth methods: according to author Malcolm Gladwell, Hush Puppies saw an unexpected resurgence in the 90s as a result of word-of-mouth marketing. Apparently Starbucks’ success story is similar (except we’re talking coffee, not business-casual, suede footwear). It’s amazing what can happen when people spread information – positive or negative – throughout their network. It’s time consuming, but worth the effort.
  • Making friends with people who share your interests: if you are at a particular networking event, chances are that there’s another person in attendance who shares your interests, etc. Whether that means finding a new BFF or your soul mate, it can happen. Maybe.
  • Landing a new gig: as far as I’m concerned, this is key. You never know when you will be seeking a new job opportunity – the time can come sooner than you think. Networking leads you to people who can offer job leads, advice/info about a particular company or industry, and connect you to others.

If none of the above reasons appeal to you, networking is always a good excuse to get out of the house and out of washing the dishes.

And you are almost always guaranteed a decent skewer or two of chicken satay.