by Brian Benedict

Build the Business of “U” by Connecting

Most firefighters dread walking into a room and attempting to break the ice with a bunch of strangers.  Especially those leaders within the community or city.  The truth is it’s an important part of building you and the departments value and influence.

I visit fire departments across the country and they all have one thing in common.  The lack of city influence.  This not only makes contract and wage negotiations tougher each year but grievances, fundraisers and budgets more difficult.

How can we correct this?  We need to utilize the individual strengths of our firefighters.  Young and old.   Erase the seniority and “get some time” phrase when it comes to community influence.  Your careers are dependent upon your community value.  As firefighters, we know we add value but it’s tested several times a year by the decision makers upstairs or across the street.

So how do we ease the pain of connecting with others and begin to build a network of trust?   Here are a few steps when visiting a community event, chamber of commerce or young professionals meeting.  Remember the younger members of these organizations are made up of future city and county leaders that will dictate your raises and working conditions.

Here are five ways to begin Building the Business of “U”

  • Say “Cheese”. Walk in the room and smile. It’s that simple.   Just smiling will make you and them feel better about the situation.  As a bonus it will make others relax while around you.  I think its a good idea to smile in the car prior to entering the event.  Why?  So you can see yourself calm and confident.  The other is to check and pick food particles from in between your teeth if visible.


  • The crucial “First Impression”.  Share positive enthusiasm. Win people over with your a healthy attitude.  Be the sunshine of their day.  Make every person feel as though they’re the most important person to you right now.  Be enthusiastic and  excited about the future.


  • Ask a question, listen, then ask another.  The quickest way to get the conversation started with a stranger is to ask them a question.  What would you want someone to ask you?   Remember listening to others feels odd when you’ve never focused on it.  Many of us tend to want to win one up during conversations with others. Warning to all extroverts…  It’s not about you!  It’s about them, so listen.


  • Sell “U” First.  Be yourself and keep the salesperson at home. Connecting is all about relationships.  Building long term relationships begin with a question and then listening.  Keep it fun and light hearted.  Don’t use offensive humor or remarks.  Selling “U” first is the key.


  • Be friendly and interested.  A pleasant personality is hard to find.  If you’re attending a networking event after a long work day you’ll be tired, hungry and grumpy.  If you can’t change into a friendly and likable person don’t go.  Splash water on your face.  Do a few jumping jacks.  Get the energy and enthusiasm back so you can turn on your interest and bring your awesome personality out for display. is a site for firefighters who would like to know more about becoming a person of influence within their communities and departments.


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