Small but Significant Steps
Over the last few days as well as during the next few days, I’m carefully going through my business cards from the recent International Christian Retail Show. During those several days and dozens of times, I exchanged business cards. Now what? I’m taking a small but significant step with this information.
I know some people simply put a rubber band around these business cards and stick them in a desk drawer. I don’t because I’ve repeatedly seen the value of this information. As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a world with lots of movement. People get promoted within a publisher and change job titles and even direct dial phone numbers. Editors move to different publishers. While through trade publications and online ezines, I try to keep up with these changes, it’s not possible to have a perfect Rolodex.
Without a doubt, I know that some of the information in my electronic Rolodex is wrong and flawed. Why keep it? First, I don’t have the correct information but some day I may cross paths with the person again and receive this correct information. Also while they may have moved, maybe one or two pieces of the information remain valid—such as a personal email address or a cell phone number. I rarely use this information but when I need to get in touch with someone, I will try every bit of means which I have to reach them.
Also notice I say my electronic Rolodex. If your Rolodex grows very large, it’s easier to sort and find information if you have it in an electronic format. Then you can use the “find” or “search” feature of the program. Some times I’m looking for a particular publisher or magazine or other times I recall the person’s first name. The electronic format makes it easy to find the information and use it. It’s much more effective than keeping it on business cards.
I’ve sorted my newly collected business cards into two stacks. One stack includes people who I already have in the Rolodex. I’ll quickly check these cards to see if it contains new information, then add this data to their existing record. The other stack of cards are new people that I met at the conference. These cards will be scanned electronically (a real timesaver) and added to my Rolodex. Admittedly it takes time to process this information but it’s valuable and important from my perspective.
Several years ago, I needed to contact someone that I have not reached for at least fifteen years. I tried my information and nothing worked. I contacted the office of this author and attempted to get the information. The receptionist or assistant wouldn’t give me the information on the phone saying, “Terry, how do I know that you are really from a publisher and not just making up this story on the phone?” I turned to my Rolodex and asked, “Does this author still live in ______ (the city)?”
I received a hesitant response, “Yes.”
“And does this author still live on _____________ (the specific street address)?”
Another hesitant, “Yes.”
“Is his home phone number: ___________?”
“Yes, but the area code has been changed to ____.” I thanked the assistant and redialed the number. In a matter of minutes I was speaking to this author’s spouse and leaving a message about why I needed to be in contact with him. Within 24 hours, I was talking with the author. I could have floundered around for days on such a detail if I had not maintained the information in my Rolodex.
I can see from the emails and other contacts that other people I met are beginning to process their information as well from the conference. Understand the value of this information and the potential power. Then you will guard and protect it for your own writing life.