Business cards fall under the category of:

a) Things we take for granted and shouldn’t.
b) One of the best networking tools you have to keep the conversation going, and one of the most ignored.
c) A presentation of your company, but not necessarily of you and your signature brand.
d) When done right, the best and most economical financial investment a business person will probably make.
e) All of the above, and then some.

The answer, my friends, is e. And as we explore some idiosyncrasies of Relationships this month (our Ho‘ohana theme) I beg you to pick up your own business card right now and take a good look at it. When you invest in a new, potentially good relationship, do you have a great business card to share? One that will help you keep the conversation going?

The catalyst for this post was my absolute amazement at the recent Maui Writer’s Conference I attended, to find that 2 out of the 3 people I met didn’t even have one. We’d have a great conversation, I’d ask them if they had a card to share with me so I could keep in touch or watch for that great book they were publishing, and they’d start shuffling through papers for a clean corner to write on. Incredible. Business cards are not something you only get as a freebie from your employer!

Even if you are unemployed right now (or employed but looking to trade up) you should have a “personal calling card” that you can present to people you want to keep in touch with, a card that presents to them the brand that is YOU. For instance, right now I have two different cards, one that introduces me to new associates as the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, and another that introduces me as the author of Managing with Aloha. Thanks to Vista Print one was free (250 cards), and it only cost me $3.99 for another 250 of the other.

With deals like that out there, you really have no excuse for not having a terrific networking card. Don’t cross out old info and write in new updates – spring for a new one. And include all the info people need to get hold of you easily, and in the way you prefer.
 If you hate voicemail and know you avoid it, forward your office phone to your cell phone and put that number on your card instead.
 Live and work best by email? Many of us do these days, yet that is the number one addition most people write in on outdated cards.
 If you have a place of business and prefer to use a post office box for your mail, put both on your card.
 Have a website? Make sure that’s on there too—please! Personally I much prefer receiving a card with your website than costly and cumbersome brochures that give me the same info.

And those are just the basics. There’s also the whole area of marketing savvy” But perhaps the best thing to remember, in this time of rapid change and job turn-over, is how enduring those 2×3 ½” pieces of paper can be when you leave a position and find that the company IT guy has purged Outlook before you thought to hit print” who are you hoping will always have one of your “personal calling cards” stashed away? Give them a good one, one worth keeping.