In the late 1980’s I joined the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to jumpstart my networking and relationship building skills. One of my principal activities was participating in the twice-monthly networking groups, Business Alliance 1.
Though I’m not a ‘morning person’, I chose the Tuesday AM group, knowing I could commit to its schedule. The group, led by Chair, Irv Spivak. Today, Ordained Secular Minster; then, the undisputed San Francisco King of the burgeoning world of Voice Mail and Pay Telephone Booths (wow, 25 years had given us major change in communications).
Co-Chair was Suzanne Tucker. Then and Today, Owner of One Stop Graphics.
There were 30 of us in the group; only one to a profession. Every meeting, we went ’round the room, each giving a 30-second commercial about our business, honing our skills in a friendly and supportive environment. At each session, two members gave a 10-minute promotional talk about their business, focused on its key areas of focus, and what would make a good lead for their business.
We ended the session by circling the room, one more time, each of us dispensing sizzling hot leads (a phrase coined by Irv). This was not a name and phone number, but someone we had talked to about a fellow member’s business. And, had received permission to share the prospect’s name, phone number, and specific needs with our Business Alliance cohort.
In our uber-busy world, it’s easy to let skills, such as these, fall by the wayside. I can’t…. because they were embedded into my subconscious by Business Alliance 1 at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
On October 17, 1989, people throughout the San Francisco Bay Area were shaken by the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I had just returned from a conference in Phoenix, not one hour before the quake.
On the phone with a client in Los Angeles, my third-story apartment started to shake. I lost the phone connection, dove under my desk, and heard glass breaking at the front of the apartment. After about 30 seconds, shaking stopped, and I surveyed the damage. Just a few broken glasses… no phone connection… no power; nothing dramatic. Phew!
Where was my wife, Chris? She normally worked at a bank branch in Foster City. That day, she was part of a seminar team,toward the South Bay, near Palo Alto, off of Highway 280. It was now only 5:15pm, I gathered myself, batteries, and candles. In a very long two hours, Chris magically appeared; bedraggled, but no worse for the wear.
She recounted getting her students outside, from the 2-3 story seminar building, out an open parking lot, away from breaking glass or worse, a building collapse. Fortunately, her drive home was still during daylight hours. Stretches of Highway 280 were squeezed by the quake, creating temporary skate board ramps in the middle of the road. She drove off-road, around these impassable sections, and as the days passed, the highway settled back to a level state.
As the phones and electricity began to come back to life, I started to feel survivor guilt. San Francisco power was coming back on, slowly, section by section. We lived in Diamond Heights and could see a reflection of flames, in the sky, coming from homes and businesses burning, in the San Francisco Marina. Until almost 11pm, we could only see two buildings, with lights on, in the South side of the city… San Francisco City Hall and San Francisco General Hospital.
The Morning After
The tumultuous events of October 17th were not a dream. It was random chaos of all sorts: buildings damaged beyond repair, the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge in a state of partial collapse, the collapse of the Cypress structure (Highway 880), punctuated by a postponement of the Giants – A’s World Series.
And then came a voicemail message from Irv. We were in the dark ages of communications, or so it seems, now. With some good strategy, Irv had crafted and sent a message to everyone he knew in greater San Francisco…. clients, members of Business Alliance, friends, acquaintances. Essentially, he said just a couple of things in that voicemail message
- If you are in distress… in need of a place to stay, move your business belongings, whatever… call him (Irv) back and let him know what your needs are and the best phone number to get in touch.
- If you were in good shape… please let him know what you can offer: transportation, muscle, a place to sleep, some temporary office space, whatever might be helpful
- And then… Irv would become the matchmaker, connecting needs with volunteers
Soon Irv connected Chris and me with another member San Francisco Chamber member, ADBP (Another Dancing Bear Productions), owned by Jonathan and Mojdeh Stone. Their lives were disrupted in every way. The ADBP office was on the second floor of a brick building on Front Street. The building was condemned, immediately.
Somehow they managed to get 15 minutes dispensation to go into the building (using a cherry-picker) and retrieve their business records. ADBP sold corporate gifts, imprinted items, that sort of thing. They could get new manufacturer samples, easily, but managing to retrieve customer records was a huge win.
Their monthly parking space, near the office, was underneath the Embarcadero Freeway. The road was closed, pending inspection. Ultimately, it would be disassembled, making way for a boulevard. Jonathan and Mo’s Marina apartment had been red-tagged. Meaning… they couldn’t go into the apartment until the fire department had inspected the property and deemed it structurally sound.
Jonathan and Mo had a place to stay, with relatives. Within a couple of days, they had managed to make a connection for new (or at least temporary) office apace. Chris and I were able to help by using two of my vans, and the four of us transported the new furniture into their office.
A relationship sprouted out of a massive, tragic event. Everyone knew someone, affected. Just being able to help out, even a little, was a healing experience. Making lifelong friends was completely unexpected and the ultimate bonus.
PS: Next Monday evening, August 25th, I will be speaking at a Networking Event as part of the WeddingWire Education Team at The City Club of San Francisco, walking distance from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the second generation of ADBP offices.
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