March Spotlight: Andy Lopata Leading Business Networking Strategist

Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East
 I’ve been working in the field of networking and professional relationships for over twenty years now. I originally joined the business network that my father had founded in 1998 and we then sold our interest a few years later to set up a speaking, training and mentoring business. 
I’ve spoken and delivered training in over 25 countries around the world and had the pleasure of working in the Middle East on two occasions. I delivered two keynote talks at a two day conference in Tehran a few years ago and then had the pleasure of being part of the Duke Corporate Education team delivering a programme to the Prime Ministers’ Office in Dubai in October. 
Professional relationships underpin most of the challenges leaders face in the modern world. Whether you are looking at business growth, managing major change, keeping abreast of key trends in your industry, developing future talent or more, strong networks of key influencers, sources of information and introducers can make a tremendous difference. 
In my experience so far it is clear that the Middle East is quite possibly more strongly rooted in networks and connections than any other region. So the platform is there to use professional relationships to boost the economic success of the region; my job when working there is to ensure that those relationships are focused on strategically so that their full power is harnessed. 

How would you describe the culture of your business?  

I’m a great believer in engaging with others with integrity. I’m not comfortable taking short cuts that run counter to my core values, which means that sometimes success is a little longer in coming – but more sustainable. 
I teach professional relationships and they lie at the core of my own business. A lot of time is invested in nurturing relationships and staying in touch with people, even when there is no direct agenda. It has meant that referrals and support tend to be there when I need them. 
A reputation as someone who gives to and supports his network is, I believe, at the heart of any success I have enjoyed. My philosophy can be captured in one quote, from poet Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco – ‘Blessed are they who give without remembering and receive without forgetting.’


How easy is it for you to get direct access to the decision makers when selling your solutions? 

Well, I teach referrals and this lies at the heart of that challenge. So I would argue that it is a lot easier for me than it would be others. I certainly punch above my weight in terms of who I’ve been able to connect with, the clients I’ve been able to attract and the global nature of my business. 
That’s not to say it’s always plain sailing. Not everyone wants to be reached and there are internal politics that come into play, particularly when your approach is based on strong relationships. I can, however, always work out a strategy that will give me more than a fighting change of a conversation with key stakeholders.  

What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years? 

On a macro level, the impact of global trends such as Brexit, the economy and issues like the Corona Virus will have an, as yet, unknown impact on my business. Already I have to look at the invitation to speak at a conference in China later in the year and weigh up the risk. And we don’t yet know how Brexit will impact both business with European clients and also global businesses based in the UK. 
On a micro level, I need to develop my business so that it operates effectively without me. Essentially, our main revenue source at the moment is my time and that is a finite resource. So we’re working on strategies to effectively scale the business and future proof what we do. 


What are the skills and competencies companies and individuals need to train in order to meet talent requirements?
From my perspective I’m going to say professional relationships, of course! It is an important point though, businesses are only as good as the touch points they have with clients, suppliers, influencers and even internally. If they employ people who don’t understand how to approach professional relationships strategically then they risk burning more bridges than they build. 
In addition, I’m speaking more and writing a book on the importance of asking for help. I believe that honesty, transparency and vulnerability lie at the heart of successful 21st Century business. I have spoken to a few clients who really encapsulate this in their culture and you can see the positive impact it has on productivity and staff engagement.

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