Bill Hendrian, Financial and Homeownership Education (FHE) team educator in District 5, shared with me some great advice about building strategic connections with people – from local employers to state legislators. Something as simple as a smile and a handshake can open a door that leads to another.
Some thoughts Bill had and experiences he shared:
- Attend local events, even if they’re not in your program area. Also, seek out events where local and state leaders will attend. Bill attended a local agricultural breakfast. There, he met Darwin Booher with a handshake, a smile and his elevator speech.
- Remember to say, “Thank you.” Sen. Booher helped appropriate funds during the foreclosure crisis of 2008 that funded Michigan State University (MSU) Extension FHE positions and programs. The FHE work team visited the senator in 2015 to personally thank him for all of his efforts. Team members also shared the success that they were having helping Michigan’s struggling homeowners. That success was made possible because of the funding to train and assemble a staff ready and able to meet the needs brought about by the crisis. Sen. Booher has recently touted our efforts with local community leaders as well as the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
- Share your impact stories with county commissioners. They can also connect you with others. MSU Extension provided education and guidance in regard to the Michigan Step Forward program, helping local citizens who were hardest hit by the recession. The commissioners realized that the program was responsible for recouping thousands of real property tax dollars into the county coffers. Now, their county offices refer struggling homeowners to our offices to help them stay in their homes.
- Each time you hold a program or speak with an audience, remember that each person sitting there has connections of his or her own. It turns out that one of the folks who attended an FHE course was a human resource professional at a large manufacturer. When the company needed financial education for its employees, the manager suggested using MSU Extension programs. Because of that connection, we were able to provide on-site Money Management classes.
“I have learned that it is important to make ourselves available to our local communities as often as possible,” Bill said. “I have learned that even a smile and a handshake can go a long way, that one door leads to another and that it is important to be patient, and stick to our goals as educators – to provide relevant, timely programming and to treat everyone with respect. You never know when you will have the opportunity to give your elevator speech.”