The Business Card Hoarder

I have a confession.

(Image Courtesy of Tanate Raktaengan/

(Image Courtesy of Tanate Raktaengan/

I found a 3” three ring binder on my shelf in my office with about 2,500 business cards in it.  The business cards dated back 15 to 20 years.  Additionally, I have two other binders of business cards on my shelf and a Redweld® expandable file stuffed with business cards.  I have been collecting business cards since I first began networking in earnest right after I graduated from law school in 1992.   There must be close to 5,000 business cards in my office.

So today, I started cleaning out the biggest binder of with the oldest business cards that I collected.  As I started to go through the cards, which were put into the 8” x 11” business card holder pages in alphabetical order, I realized that even though I did what I teach my clients to do –put the date, the event and a couple of notes about what you talked about on the back of the card – I had no clue who the hell these people were.    I couldn’t remember them at all.  And, if I couldn’t remember them, they probably wouldn’t remember me.

Out of that giant binder, I retained 72 business cards – less than .03%.  Many of them are people with whom I still connect on a regular basis.  In fact, they are old cards of theirs and from positions they use to hold or companies with which they used to work

A few of these remaining business cards of from people whom I actually remember fondly but have not thought of or had contact with in years (sometimes a decade or more).

I started reconnecting with that latter group of people today as well.  A couple of them are on LinkedIn.  I hope they remember me as fondly as I remember them.  If we reconnect, I am going to try to find ways to help them with their businesses, whatever they are doing now.  Others, I am unable to find in a search and they will remain a warm memory.

Over the next couple of days, when time permits, I will be going through the other two binders and the giant file folder and try to connect with the people I remember, who may remember me, again.

Here’s the crux of the story.   When I talk to my clients about networking, I tell them to stop collecting business cards and leaving them on the corner of their desk, or throwing them in the top drawer, where all they do is gather dust.   Instead, you have to find a way to create a relationship with the people whose cards you have.  Nowadays, it is so much easier to do so because you can do it through social media after you have met them.  But it must be proactive.  You really only have a few days to connect with someone whom you met at a networking event before you start to become a distant memory and a dust collector on their desk.

Also understand that many of these people you meet will not need your legal services right away (or ever), but if you connect with them on a regular basis, keep yourself top of mind, they could need your services in the future, or refer someone who does.

Rainmaking is all about creating relationships – not about collecting business cards.

It’s something that I have known and practiced (although apparently not to perfection – but I’ve never claimed to be perfect) for decades.

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