Jeff Kleid is the founder of Jeff Kleid Consulting, and prior to that, established and served as president of one of the most successful entertainment, sports, and high net worth insurance agencies in the country. He recently wrote a book called “Networking with the Cards You Are Dealt” in order to impart his professional networking strategies and philosophy to a new generation of entrepreneurs.
In the Introduction to Networking, you profess to have no particular passion for reading. What made you decide to write a book? Well I realized a lot of people like to read and it was the best way to get the message out. It’s great information, not because I wrote it, but because I lived it.
The structure of the book is essentially an analogy to Texas Hold ‘Em. What made you choose this strategy in order to impart your lessons about networking? I love strategy, and I love poker. It’s not so much the gambling, but the strategy behind poker and how you engage with players at the table. When I think of networking, I literally think about who I’ll be sitting at the table with, whether figuratively or literally. I really saw Texas Hold ‘Em as a great platform to explain that because most people understand the game whether they play or not. They know about the World Series of Poker with thousands of people trying to get to that last table. People of all walks of life, and at the end of the day, if you sit at a poker table with someone long enough, you really figure out who they are and how they work. The major difference between the actual card game and how I use it, as an analogy, is that there’s no winning the way I see it. The book ends and you’re still in the middle of a game. I want you to figure out who you’re going to play with, not necessarily win.
You consider yourself an “Intentional Connector” and “Accidental Entrepreneur.” What do those terms mean to you? I’m an intentional connecter because I go out of my way to listen and find reasons to help people. So if someone is trying to grow their business, I listen to what they’re trying to do and go out of my way to connect with them. I’m an accidental entrepreneur because I was a sales guy back in the 1990s, and I was basically told, “we either have to grow or we have to sell.” A handful of years later I became president and owner of the company. We just kept growing it and growing it. We went from about a dozen people to 80 in a few years. At the end of it I was an entrepreneur. I’ve been in entrepreneurial forums for about 15 years now, but it just kind of happened. It wasn’t the plan.
At one point in the book, you describe a situation where you thought you had exactly what a certain group of business managers needed, but they didn’t immediately say yes? Are there moments like this in networking more broadly where one “goes all in” and yet, comes back empty-handed? The strategy is knowing your audience. In that particular instance I was working with high-level CPAs in the entertainment industry. And I was trying to convince each of them that we had the best in-class service, best in-class product, and the best team to service their needs. The connections I had got me in the door, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t control their decision making process. The only thing I would do differently is that I would really know… you need to sell what they’re buying rather than what you’re selling. And we knew what they needed, but they weren’t ready to buy what we were selling. And the only reason they finally bought what we were selling is the industry was told that there was a problem, and once all the CPAs and business managers knew that there was a global problem, and we had already addressed it, it allowed the floodgates to open and gave us the potential to grow exponentially.
What has the reception to your book been like? Is it being passed around in business circles? Very much so. I have a friend who runs a 9,000-person company here in Orange County, and he’s embraced it. He loves the conversational style. He loves that it talks not only to people trying to reach the highest level, but also people who might just be in transition, trying to develop a network. Let’s put it this way, even people who network regularly are finding something in it. The things I talk about, they correlate forward into customer service and backwards into sales. People don’t realize that networking is really customer service and customer service really becomes sales. No one talks about it like that, they’re all about focusing on sales but they don’t realize that the sale will come if you work on networking and connecting.
To learn more about Jeff Kleid or purchase “Networking with the Cards You Are Dealt” or the networking “Deck of Cards,” please visit www.CardsYouAreDealt.com.
Perry Fein is a writer and contributing editor for Jlife.