Nurturing Your Networks

Luxury Travelethnographic researchNetworking

Nurturing Your Networks

One thing I’m realizing as we come out of this pandemic is how much our social networks matter. I’m not talking about social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. I mean our networks of real friends and associates. People we really know because we have met them in person, made a real connection, and found common ground on shared values and goals. People who can make us smarter, make our lives richer, and, if we’re lucky, make us laugh. 


It doesn’t take extensive research to know that real relationships take more than the occasional thumbs-up emoji on a post – they take going out for coffee or drinks, breaking bread together, sharing experiences and stories, making actual eye contact. That’s my definition of social networking! 

Chanttel, our Managing Director, recently blogged about the importance my network played in TOG being able to complete a project for a high-end luxury fashion brand. The companies we normally depend on to provide people for ethnographic research weren’t delivering. They hadn’t kept up their databases (their networks) during COVID, and what should have taken one week wound up taking four weeks. That’s when my network came into play. From my desk in New Orleans, I was able to call, text, and email people, who knew people, who knew other people and . . . Voilà! We were able to make the project happen–all because of networking. 


One way that I’ve built my network over the years is through membership in EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization), a peer-to-peer global network of entrepreneurs that I’ve been a member of since 2003. EO is like having a first-class, around-the-world ticket. It has been an incredible way to meet people who speak the same language (entrepreneurship), have been though the same training, have the same rhythm and challenges. As business owners, we have the same issues of dealing with clients and employees, managing money, and juggling our businesses with our personal lives. 

I was recently at an EO meeting in the Dominican Republic and this member from San Francisco, Corey Veverka, notices my name tag that says I’m from Louisiana. As it turns out, his mother was raised less than 20 miles from where I grew up on a rice farm in Cajun Country. The next day, he shows up in a Napa Valley Country Club shirt and we discover we have a lot more in common than just our love of boudin (it’s a Louisiana thing). The Olinger Group got a call from a client about a high-end luxury resort in Napa on a research project, so I ask him if he knows anybody there with local knowledge. He tells me I need to talk to Shelby. “Wait!” I say. “You  don’t mean Shelby Scarborough from EO DC who I met in Berlin and danced with at an EO event in New Orleans about 15 years ago?” Later, I get her on the phone, and it turns out it is the same Shelby and, not only does she remember me (I must be a pretty awesome dancer), but she knows the CEO of the company that owns the Napa resort. How’s that for social networking? All because some guy with a Cajun mother read my name tag at a cocktail party in the Dominican Republic and we struck up a conversation. 

IMG_1888On one level, it seems like serendipity had a lot to do with all of this but it sure seems to happen to me a lot. I have to say that one thing I’m excellent at is keeping in touch with my friends and connections that I make in business, and there’s more than luck or coincidence at play. It’s about keeping the Iines of communication open. Putting yourself in the serendipity’s path. I’m not big on social media but I am an avid texter, caller, and emailer. It’s not unusual for me to send 100 texts while I’m on a flight to catch up with people. Love me some good airplane Wi-Fi and my MacBook! 66935653576__563289C9-0141-4048-96D7-E2548F3B7922

EO is one of many organizations and networks that I belong to. I connect to people by serving on boards, volunteering my time, and giving back. I do this not because it looks good, but because it feels good and allows me to do good

This is the way you get to meet like-minded people and guess what? Turns out, THESE PEOPLE KNOW OTHER PEOPLE. And it just snowballs from there. Suddenly, you have connections, baby, and it seems like there’s nothing you can’t do. You’ve invested your time, believed in the process, and now you have good ol’ social capital. 


Being part of real social network is about creating relationships that satisfy your curiosity and move you forward both in business and as a human being. For me, it’s about helping people without any expectations for anything in return and then being delighted when you can come through for them or they come through for you out of the blue. 

jude and pierreI’m just the crazy-ass son of a Louisiana rice farmer, but I’m happy to say I’ve figured this networking thing out. If you found this interesting let’s connect, but don’t just like me or follow me. How about you get to know me and I you? Sorry, Zuckerberg, but real social networks have, and will always be, where it’s at.

Published On: April 7th, 2022 / Categories: Luxury Travel, ethnographic research, Networking /

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