Annemarie Henton on Achieving Networking Goals
CEO and Founder
Coffee Lunch Coffee
Head of Growth, Strategy and Marketing
Cantina Business Strategies & Development, Inc.
In our seventh episode, Annemarie Henton, Head of Growth, Strategy and Marketing for Cantina Business Strategies and Development, joins host Alana Muller to share how she intentionally and methodically achieves networking goals, starting by evaluating professional strengths. Tune in to learn how to empower your network and navigate challenges by celebrating each other's wins. “How do you prepare your skills and your brain to be able to see, think and change your perspective in order to connect with the people on your team, your customers and other people that you need to do work with?”
Alana Muller: Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank and Trust, that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader, whose primary focus is to connect, inspire, and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank and Trust, thank you for tuning in to another episode.
Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Enterprise.ing Podcast. Delighted to have you all here today. And I'm very excited about today's guest. I'm so happy to welcome Annem
Henton. Annemarie is an economic development executive with more than 15 years of experience in corporate strategy, community building, leadership training, marketing, and communications.
As head of growth, strategy, and marketing for Cantina Business Strategies and Development, she helps businesses strategize how to generate new business, increase revenue, enhance visibility, and expand their real estate footprints. Annemarie Henton, welcome to Enterprise.ing.
Annemarie Henton: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me today. What an honor.
Alana Muller: Well, I'm so glad you're here and I feel like I found my people and a true master networker. So I'm so excited to dig in with you and talk a little bit about relationship building and networking. Tell us a little bit about you and about Cantina and what it is that you do in all the various versions of your life.
Annemarie Henton: Yeah, I would say, the easiest way probably to describe me as a professional is, I'm somebody who really sees possibilities where other people see barriers and roadblocks. So I'm a very curious, open-minded, 360 futuristic type thinker, and I can't help it. I do it in every single piece of my life. In some ways, that drives people crazy and in others, it's very valuable. So I'm really excited by people. I'm excited by patterns.
I'm fascinated by sociology and the way that we all interact with each other in the workplace and in relationships. And I feel really, really passionately about empowering people to see what's possible too. We live in a time and a society where it's pretty easy to open a phone or a computer and compare what we're doing to other people. And it's really important to build strategies and skills to make sure that you feel empowered, and also that you're celebrating your wins, that you are really digging deep for things that you love and are good at, and feeling a little less of the sting. When you have those moments of failure, how do we turn them into blessings and opportunities actually?
Alana Muller: Yeah, well, and gosh, I mean, these times more than maybe any other time, at least in our histories that we can remember, isn't that the truth, right? That we almost have to look for those silver linings moments and the opportunity to make something good when things seem a little grim. So I love that. I love your positive attitude.
Annemarie Henton: Thank you. Well, I will say that I think being optimistic is a skill that you can hone and develop. Especially in the leadership space, it can be hard to be the person that everybody's looking to, to lead the ship and to inspire and to keep people believing in something, especially when you're experiencing losses or things aren't going the way that you want them to. And so I think that's an important part of networking also is how do you prepare yourself going into that space? How do you prepare your skills and your brain to be able to see and think, and kind of change your perspective to connect with the people on your team, the people you need, your customers, the people you need to do work with?
Alana Muller: Right. Well, and I know, speaking of that, I know that you specifically, like myself, you teach people the art of strategic networking. Can you talk a little bit about some ways that you encourage people to manage their relationship bases in order to establish and nurture connections?
Annemarie Henton: Definitely. I think in some cases, a lot of people are so intimidated and freaked out by the word “networking.” I think we all envision these big, fancy ballrooms where you have to walk into luncheons and be seen and have these awkward stranger conversations for two seconds where you hand somebody your business card and hope that it will turn into something. But the reality is...
Alana Muller: Yeah, I call that the drive by networking moment.
Annemarie Henton: The reality is what we're really about is connection. How do you connect with other people? Some people like me, I will out myself, I am the ultimate extrovert. And so having to sit in my house all year by myself was really interesting and really made me rethink my own networking strategies. And then for people who are introverted, the thought of sitting with a stranger and making small talk is the worst possible thing they can think of to do with their time. And so I think the important piece about how you connect with other people, that connection that you make, first and foremost, you have to be really clear with yourself. Where are you good? Are you good in one on one settings? Are you great in person? Do you have the gift of gab on the phone? God bless you, if you do.
Are you an excellent writer? Are you somebody who's very quick-witted? So really doing that self-evaluation around how do I really want to spend my time to be able to create these connections and maintain them along the way? So I think you asked me what do I do personally? Because I actually get energy from other people, going into a crowded ballroom is exciting to me. So I will first and foremost say that doesn't freak me out at all, but I have definitely made the transition away from wanting to spend 5:00 to 7:00 PM every night at an event versus really channeling my time and energy into my hobbies and connecting with people via those interests instead. And so I would say I do a number of things. I kind of look at networking as a strategy, the way that I would let's say saving money, for example.
So I have these big, long term goals of what I'm trying to accomplish. I have these, what I call splurge items, that I really want to do, experience, care about. And then those really those day to day needs that we really have to be doing. So I look at my month and my calendar by who do I need to connect with this month to do a great job at work? Who do I need to connect with in my personal life this month to feel like I am really putting in the time and connecting with the people that I care about? And then the third one is who do I admire? Who is it that I want to learn something from, that I want to develop a relationship with? And so I approach it from those three perspectives. The meetings you have to have to do a great job. How do you figure out how to connect with people?
And so I just mentioned one of the things that I think is really powerful, that a lot of people forget about is if you have a hobby, a way that you love to spend your time, it is a great place to network for professional advancement. I have a really great story from...
Alana Muller: That's great.
Annemarie Henton: Yeah. From a couple of weeks ago. So I am really outdoorsy. I love all athletic pursuits, including snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, all of the things. I like being in the mountains and with nature. And so a couple weeks ago I went mountain biking with a group of three gentlemen who I'd never been with before, but I sit on a board of directors with them locally. And this year, since we weren't really able to meet in person like we're used to we thought it would be a good idea. Well, I want to bike anyway. And you like doing this and let's just go out and do that. So of course I overdid it and went over my handlebars and it actually made for a really great connection story because they're like, "Hey, road rash. How are you?" And so now all of a sudden...
Alana Muller: So you have a new nickname. A new nickname came from it.
Annemarie Henton: I got to have a banter with this group of people. And then the next day I have a friend in town who runs a development company locally and he and his wife every single year, the last weekend in September, we invite a group of people professionally and personally to go hike La Luz in Albuquerque, which is the seven mile hike up the mountain. And it's not an easy hike. And we only do it once a year.
Sometimes I only see this group once a year, but it is such amazing soul time where we talked about the upcoming education election for the education board, we talked about strategies that people had to employ this year to attract new talent. We talked about kids. We talked about pretty much everything you can possibly think of. And leading from that, that one day of sitting with these people turned into a couple professional wins for me. A couple weeks later, I got a referral from somebody. I was able to move a construction project a little more forward than I had been before, because I found a contact that I had been looking for. And so I got to do the things that I really want to do on the weekend while feeding my professional success, so to speak.
Alana Muller: Well, and I want to go back. So you had said you were talking about what are the things that you're good at that you love to do that make you better? And also just as you're describing now, kind of allow you to collect those professional wins. I love that idea of leveraging your strengths. I think that we forget about that and we forget that we have the capacity to do that and to connect with people in a very real and authentic way. And so you were on a hike and yet you were talking about all these very deep topics. I'm sure there were a lot of laughs, maybe a few tiers, a lot of strategic discussions from a hike. And so generally people wouldn't think about that as a networking opportunity, but look at the way that you were able to, again, leverage something that you love for something very professionally satisfying and beneficial.
Annemarie Henton: Exactly. I am lucky to be part of a group of professional women here, who a lot of us will go do walking meetings with each other. We'll go walk three or four miles and have our girl time slash professional development time that way. So again that's a two for one, because I'm trying to get exercise at the same time I'm trying to get better at something at the same time I'm trying to maintain a relationship. And so reframing your mind about what does networking look like is really important.
Another thing that I am so grateful for, I had a mentor when I was in my early twenties suggest to me, I didn't know what I want to do. Most people... I mean, some days I still don't know what I want to do. Right? So they suggested to me why don't you just pick out a couple people in Albuquerque who you really admire, maybe business leaders you want to be in their shoes someday. Why don't you just call them and ask them to go to lunch and see if they say yes? And so from the time I was 24 years old here until now, which is not that long ago, just kidding. I go to lunch every single month with one person that I do not know who I admire in this community.
Alana Muller: I think that's great. And I'm guessing the people you've asked if we had to do a tally up, I'm guessing that maybe not a hundred percent, but 95% have probably said yes.
Annemarie Henton: Yes. I rarely, rarely got a no. And even, and there were some meetings where it was like, oh, thank you so much for your time also you're definitely not my person. We don't have chemistry. We don't [crosstalk 00:11:51] and so that's okay too, to take that step and realize who you connect with and who you don't. But that one activity has completely transformed my career in Albuquerque specifically because it's people here that I'm connecting with, but it has also changed my life from a friendship perspective.
Alana Muller: Oh, I bet. I bet there are a lot of people who you've connected with in this way that you would not have known otherwise who have become very important people in your life.
Annemarie Henton: Right. And that activity is really, really great too, because you have these very busy, successful people who don't often hear, "Hey, I would love to hear lessons learned or I would love to really understand something that you overcame because I really need advice." They're usually running crazy busy and people want something for them or they're being pitched a thousand products and services every day. And so I'm always pleasantly surprised by how many people are like, "Oh, oh yeah. Well, for that turns out, I'm available this Friday." Versus is trying to get on their calendar months from now for a business discussion. And so having those meetings where you are truly not trying to sell anybody on you or on your product or service, but really making an effort to listen and understand another human being eventually turns into most of the time referrals, business, job offers, whatever. I've been offered jobs by some of these people that I never had to apply for because I just simply spent the time with them.
Alana Muller: That's right. That's right. I think that's great. And by the way, the converse is true. You're very important to them also. So the kind of the mutually beneficial nature of this you're essentially describing, I bet you've given and them referrals too. Right?
Annemarie Henton: For sure. Along the way.
Alana Muller: Yeah. I want to sort of pick up on something that you were talking about earlier. I know that you do a lot with staffing and hiring of talent. In light of the pandemic, we are living in very strange times, right? And so many businesses... I honestly, I think every day I've had... Every day for the last couple of weeks, I've at least had one conversation related to talent acquisition. And so given that these businesses are struggling to recruit, hire, and retain talent, in addition to your role at Cantina Business Strategies, I know you're also the owner of a consulting firm, the Henton company, and that you're also a co-founder of Albuquerque's initiative called Stop Bagging and Start Bragging, a campaign. And I believe that all of that is related to workforce acquisition and retention. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about the effort and how it has empowered community members to get involved in talent management?
Annemarie Henton: Absolutely. So previous to this year, I was actually with Albuquerque Academic Development, a local organization that recruits new companies to Albuquerque. And so we were literally creating jobs for people and it was always amazing to me how I would sit with a company in the morning who would say, "Wow, I can't find talent." And then I would sit with somebody at lunch who was like the perfect match. And I'm sitting there going, "Whoa, whoa, what's happening? Where's the disconnect?" And I found that in a lot of cases, it was either generational differences and misconceptions about how people are communicating or what their perception of the workplace was. Or perhaps somebody just didn't understand resume game and they weren't using the right keywords on their resume. Or perhaps these businesses were following these super old school recruiting methods instead of really thinking about where their target talent might be.
And so that kind of got me interested in the conversation around workforce development and is why I ended up opening a consulting firm to help people because I just kept seeing so much disconnect there. And then simultaneously something that was happening here in our local community was there was just... And I know it happens everywhere, because I hear from other professionals the same thing, when you live in a community, we all have a tendency to talk about and hear about the negative things that are happening versus really spending as much time talking about the things that are really interesting and great.
And so if we want to be attracting the right talent to our city, if we want to be keeping our residents here, instead of them dreaming that the grass is greener and going away for better opportunities or if we want to welcome people back who had gone off to experience the world and now want to make their homes here, what are we doing to make sure that we are building a conversation and a storyline around, "Hey, if you choose to make your life here, whether it's by circumstance or by choice, there is so much for you to do here and enjoy." And from an economic development perspective that doesn't cost us a dime. There's a million people in the city and we all have a voice and we all have an online presence. And so we as individuals get to play an active role in our community's talent attraction strategy just by promoting a little better, the things and the people in the businesses that we're proud of and we're excited about.
So that was truly the, the launch of Start Bragging was reminding people, "Hey, remember what you're saying to the world and how can that attract your clients?" And same thing with businesses. If you're a business leader and you're not helping your employees connect to things in their community that are going to make them want to stay here, you're missing a key opportunity with talent retention. And then you're also missing a key opportunity with attraction because your best brand ambassadors, your employees, pulling other awesome people here and letting them know about this awesome company they work for. So that's what started the Start Bragging campaign. And we do have a website startbraggingabq.com and a Twitter feed if anybody's really interested in learning more about what that campaign is and how we've evolved it. We have a podcast, we do a number of things and it's all volunteer. None of it is attached to a company or a... It's truly just a community initiative to make sure that we have awesome job opportunities and people are happy in our community.
Alana Muller: Have you seen specific results in terms of, have there been new hires? Has there been an intake of new residents as a result that you can tie back to at least in part, as a contributing factor to getting those individuals either employed or to move to the community?
Annemarie Henton: Anecdotally for sure. I can't claim to come back and say, "Hey, this campaign led to X percentage increase in population growth." But I can't tell you that we hear on a very regular basis from people who are either thinking of moving here, who want to know more about the community or companies asking us "Hey, can you help us with, we've got this amazing recruit. We want them to love it here." We hear from people who tell us that they were just itching for the opportunity or for somebody to lead the way to be able to get more excited about the community instead of constantly talking about where we have challenges. We hear frequently from people who go, "Wow, I had no idea that existed here and I've lived here for 30 years." So we're effectively turning our cell into tourists in our own town, which is really, really impactful and beneficial. And then...
Alana Muller: That's really cool.
Annemarie Henton: And then we also play a role, I would say in spouses coming here. If you move to a new city and your spouse hates it, what are the chances you are going to stay in that job? Probably slim to none.
Alana Muller: None.
Annemarie Henton: So what are we... Kind of a, I would call it a grassroots initiative, but I definitely think that it has made a difference here both for the way that people see the city, how they talk about it and then how we're able to kind of support these businesses and people who are really working hard to create great businesses and be great employers.
Alana Muller: Yeah. Wonderful story. And clearly a very beneficial initiative. So very well done. Congratulations to you and your colleagues on that. I want to put in a plug here for Enterprise University, which offers a variety of business courses to professionals really now throughout the nation, especially since so much of what we've been doing has become virtual. I know that from time to time, you actually teach networking courses through Enterprise University. Can you talk a little bit about some of the foundational tips that you share with some of the participants and especially people who are specifically seeking to grow and cultivate their networks?
Annemarie Henton: Yep. For sure. I was lucky enough to be a presenter last year on mentorship, and then this year really on the art of networking. And I think those things go hand in hand, for sure. Whether you're the mentor or the mentee, how you build your network is really impactful. And so if I were to really slim it down into a very condensed version of how I help people think about building a winning strategy, is that's exactly how you think about it. What are the activities you're doing that are going to drive results? So if you know that if you go work out five times a week, your body's going to be healthier, then what do you do to make sure you can work out those five times a week?
It's the same thing with relationships and connection. How much time A) can you allocate to that? I know everybody lives incredibly busy lives, but there are so many tips and tricks that I use that could really help. So I think I mentioned the first thing being proximity. So if you are somebody who is... I'm trying to use an example for myself, if I really love being connected to professional women. And so I make sure that I put myself in those places where those are the topics. So like the Women of Influence awards. And if a woman that I love is speaking at say the economic development groups or the chamber luncheons or whatever, I make an effort to go to that luncheon specifically. Maybe not all of them, but the ones where I really need to either show up for somebody who matters to me, or I'm really eager to learn from somebody else.
Alana Muller: I think you nailed it with you show up, you show up. I mean, to me that there's nothing more foundational than that, and I know again, we're sort of living in these strange times, this hybrid world where we're sort of in person, but not really. And it kind of depends on the situation, but I do think that there's a way to show up in every way that you wish to. So I love that you focus on the people who are important to you and you show up when you know that it's going to matter.
Annemarie Henton: Yeah, for sure. And I think it's important, especially this year, because like, wow, the rules changed on networking when you can't physically [crosstalk 00:22:16]
Alana Muller: Yes they did.
Annemarie Henton: Plus we all, all the sudden, are a little more possessive of our downtime. People are a little less likely to take Zoom calls than they were a year ago. A little less likely to want to meet for coffee than they would've pre-pandemic.
Alana Muller: Right.
Annemarie Henton: And so it's important to remember too, you can show up in multiple ways. You can show up virtually, you can show up physically, you can show up with a handwritten note. How often do you ever get a real piece of mail? You know what I mean? That's not a bill.
Alana Muller: I know. It's the most fun.
Annemarie Henton: And how unexpected. So that's actually the most fun that I would plug. And I said this in the Enterprise Bank training also is there is this app that I use called Ink Cards. Have you ever heard of that?
Alana Muller: I don't know that one. Tell us a little bit about that.
Annemarie Henton: It's an app where I can literally pull a picture off of a news article or somebody's Facebook page or whatever, slap it on this postcard, say congratulations. And it, for two bucks it sends it to the person for me.
Alana Muller: Oh my gosh. That's so cool.
Annemarie Henton: You don't have to go to the post office. You don't have to go to the store to get a card. It all happens right there in your phone when you are not sitting at a stoplight, but sitting at your house.
Alana Muller: That's awesome. Okay. So, so tell us again, what, it's an app that you download and what's the name of the app again?
Annemarie Henton: Ink. I N K. So it's just like ink. And so I use that in a multitude of ways. If I see that a local CEO won a really cool award, I'll send it to them, thank you for building your business here. If I know somebody lost a job or is struggling with something personal or whatever, I send them one of those out of the blue to say, thinking of you.
Alana Muller: Yeah. I love that. Very, very smart.
Annemarie Henton: Yeah. I don't have to plan, "Hey, can we get together in the next three weeks?" I don't have to allocate drive time or my family time or my personal time. And yet I'm still making those connections and letting people know, "Hey, I'm paying attention. I care about you." And that comes back to me in spades.
Alana Muller: I'm sure it does. I just love that. And I think that there's, there's almost nothing greater than a handwritten anything. And so I love that this app makes it even simpler for us. So that's great. As our time together is drawing to a close, I want to ask you a couple of just fun questions. So if there was one person that you could network with anybody just for one great cup of coffee, living, dead, fictional, nonfictional, whoever it is, who would it be and why?
Annemarie Henton: That list is probably 30 people deep. But I will tell you right now, I want to talk to either Jason Sudeikis or Ted Lasso. So the writer, actor, and, or the character. I just am in love with that show and what a brilliant example of great leadership it is, but it's entertaining and light. And yet it... I mean, I just want to talk to both of them to learn. That's the leader. I want to be. That's the person I want to follow. That's the person I want to be in business.
Alana Muller: What I love about your answer is not only do I agree with you, but you're not the first guest on Enterprise.ing to say that they're not sure if they would prefer to meet Ted Lasso or Jason Sudeikis. So I'm very impressed that right now he's winning. Everybody wants to meet him. Maybe we'll get him on Enterprise.ing and invite everybody back. I just love it. So one more, just fun question. What's on your nightstand right now?
Annemarie Henton: Well, first of all, a lamp and a picture of...
Alana Muller: Yes, of course. Good.
Annemarie Henton: A picture of my two stepsons. And I do love to read and I am very un-millennial in this way. I like reading real books that I can hold in my hand.
Alana Muller: You mean a physical book, something with paper and pages? You really mean that?
Annemarie Henton: I love it. I love to highlight. I love to dog ear. It's like mine. It's like my own personal...
Alana Muller: So awesome. It's true. I'm with you, I'm with you.
Annemarie Henton: I'm very grateful for the iPad for sure. But yeah, I love that. So there is a book that I'm actually rereading right now. I guess I would consider it a business book. It's called Essentialism by Greg McCown. And it's actually really relevant to this topic because the whole point is how do you realign your brain, your time, your focus, your energy around the things that are truly essential in your day.
We have thousands of choices all day long. How do we stay on task with the things that are really going to help us build the lives that we want and also be really successful at work? So I feel like I pull that out every probably year and a half and just kind of reread it. For example, there's an entire chapter about how... It's called protecting the asset. And it's about sleep. It's about how we don't give...
Alana Muller: I love that.
Annemarie Henton: Yeah. How powerful sleep is for productivity and brain functionality and mood. And so I just really appreciate being able to reset and rethink about how I spend my time so that I really maximize my life in the ways that I want to.
Alana Muller: Love that. Thank you. I have loved, loved your words of wisdom, your tips, tricks, and tools. Thank you so much for spending time with not just with me, but with all of our listeners. Annemarie, tell us a little bit about where we can go to learn more about you and your companies.
Annemarie Henton: Thank you. So this is an inopportune time because I do not have websites up for the companies we're talking about yet, but I'm pretty easy to find online. I'm on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, ACHenton is my handle. And then Annemarie Henton on LinkedIn. And I really, I truly love it when people reach out to me, it was one of my favorite things about the enterprise training with so many people from across the country, just ping me on there and we're having such great conversations. So if anybody's at all interested in connecting with me, I actually read all of those things that come through.
Alana Muller: Love that. Well, it's wonderful to get to know you. I hope that we can connect in person sometime soon and I wish you only continued success. So thanks for being with us.
Annemarie Henton: Thank you so much. I look forward to learning from everybody else.
Alana Muller: Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe so you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders. One conversation at a time.
The views expressed by Enterprise.ing presenters or guests are those of the presenter or guests and not necessarily of Enterprise Bank and Trust or its affiliates. All content of this podcast and any related materials are for informational purposes only. Enterprise Bank and Trust does not make any warranty express or in applied, including warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. And specifically disclaims any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information presented. Enterprise Bank and Trust is not under any obligation to update or correct any information provided in this podcast. All statements and opinions are subject to change without notice.