Real life networking is far too easy to ignore since we live in an active virtual world.

One of my business objectives is to designate time to my calendar each Tuesday to spend time with those that I am connected to virtually. I have a list of franchise and business professionals that I am either connected to or want to meet.  My goal is to schedule appointments, lunch dates, meetings for coffee and actually network in real life!

Mary Kennedy Thompson

Mr. Rooter

I had the honor to meet with Mary Thompson, President, Mr. Rooter(R)  Corporation and Vice President of International Relations, The Dwyer Group(R). Mary and I see other annually at the IFA (International Franchise Association) convention but we never have the time to sit down and chat.

Mary’s bio via The Dwyer Group Website:

Mary became the president of Mr. Rooter® Corporation in 2006.

Mary served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps as a logistics officer and achieved the rank of captain. She began franchising in 1994 when she opened a Cookies by Design® franchise. By 1997, she opened two additional locations. Mary was promoted to president in 2004. Mary led the company in market penetration and sales, earning awards for Top Performer, Outstanding Customer Service and Masters Award. At the end of her first year as president of Mr. Rooter Corporation, U.S. Business Review selected Mary as one of its 2007 Editor’s Choice Executives of the Year. She is also vice chairman of the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) VetFran Committee and has earned her certified franchise executive designation from the IFA Educational Foundation.

Mr. Rooter is located in Waco, TX which is a three hour drive from my office. I couldn’t have picked a better day to drive to Waco. It is Texas bluebonnet season and with  temperatures in the low 80s made it a perfect day for a scenic and very comfortable  convertible road trip!

Mary gave me a full tour of the Dwyer Group facility, introduced me to co-workers and shared the wonderful history of the company. Dwyer Group is well known for the corporate culture, code of values and family atmosphere. As a visitor I felt right at home in a very caring and warm environment.

Mr. Rooter Wall of Fame

It is evident that Mary is very passionate and proud of the  Mr. Rooter system. One entire wall is dedicated to a “Wall of Fame.”  Proudly displayed are the names of annual award winners in the system: Franchisee of the Year, Women of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Sales Leaders!  Another wall is the Mr. Rooter logo and I couldn’t resist asking Mary to take my picture!

ehAnderson, PR

My afternoon was spent with the wonderful team at e.h. Anderson, Public Relations also located in Waco.

Before the annual IFA convention I received a beautifully wrapped package in the mail from Bage and Liz Anderson. Inside was a invitation to visit their booth at the convention to participate in a video interview with Nancy Weingarter, editor Franchise Times. I thought it was brilliant marketing and enthusiastically accepted the invitation! Their videos of leading franchise professionals can be found: http://www.ehandersonpr.com/insights-ifa2012

Bage and Liz bring very different expertise to their agency which was founded in 2002.

Liz is a writing professional and expert at pitching the media. “In 1999, when Liz  was working at a PR firm in Dallas servicing technology clients who expected more than their PR Newswire press release getting picked up and posted by Yahoo! Finance, she found her niche — media pitching. CNET was one of her first big wins.  Unlike her colleagues, she was able to get a reporter on the phone, pitch the client — Rackspace Managed Hosting — and set a face-to-face meeting with the reporter and Rackspace CEO Graham Weston.”

Bage has “years of media experience, his knowledge and news instincts make him a one-of-a-kind PR practitioner. In local television newsrooms across Texas and Georgia and CNN, he shot, edited and produced many of the major news stories during the 1980’s and 1990’s.  If you watched the Davidian compound burn on CNN that windy April day, you watched through the eyes of his camera.”

Deb with Bage and Liz Anderson

I enjoyed getting to know Bage and Liz on a personal level and sharing tips on PR and social media.  We have continued our sharing via email, tweets and Facebook!

If each Tuesday is filled with the excitement and learning  that this Tuesday had, it will be my favorite day of the week!

What is your “in real life networking” strategy?