One of the 44 executives I interviewed for the book, Joe Viscuso, SVP and Director of Strategic Growth at Pennoni, discussed starting his own company early in his career and how networking positively impacted his success. This post is an excerpt from my interview with Joe.
Joe: After I left college in ’73, I went to grad school and took night classes. Six years later, once I had completed my graduate degree and had my PE license, I started my own company – so I was relatively young at the time.
One of my early decisions was that I wanted my own business. For six or nine months, I left consulting and worked for a fast food restaurant called Gino’s, which at the time had even more restaurants than McDonald’s.
The economy was not in good shape. I saw that they were trying to shed potential sites rather than build restaurants. I decided I would form my own business – and it was right in the middle of a recession, which was probably even crazier.
Many of my peers were members of ASCE, ASME, and several other trade organizations — and to me, as a business developer, that never made sense. How would I get business if I was in a room full of people just like me, looking for the same kind of business?
I decided that I needed to take another course of action to develop my business. I joined the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Council — business associations where people might be looking for people like me. That early career decision turned out to be one of my best because I was in a room full of like-minded people who, when you peel the onion, are all looking for business and to make connections. Rotary was another great one for me.
It’s like going to a high school dance. It’s tough to ask that first girl to dance, right? It felt similar because I was the rookie in the room. A lot of folks were older and obviously more seasoned than me — I was a little intimidated. It took me a year or two to realize that age wasn’t a factor because we all shared a common element — everyone was looking to grow their business.
Something that can be frustrating is not having instantaneous results. But then six months later, “Joe Brown” would call me and say, “Hey, I met you at a Rotary luncheon. My brother is building a building. He’s going to need some civil engineering services, and I thought of you.” Then all of a sudden, the connections start to happen. I learned that you don’t necessarily get instantaneous gratification.
Anytime I joined an organization, I usually made it through the ranks. I became very involved. I have been on executive committees and eventually became the board chair of quite a few organizations.