Part 1 of 2
Developing a Powerful and Caring Network
There are several ways to build your network. Let's talk about two categories that are common for entrepreneurs. The first is building a network to grow within your current business. The second category is starting fresh in a new business or industry. Both of these categories share similarities and I'm sure in the right situation are entirely interchangeable. One of the greatest joys of being an entrepreneur is creating and maintaining your network. Some of the most successful and fulfilled people I know have a powerful network of family, friends, associates and contacts. It follows that the most successful businesses have the strongest networks. A good friend of my family always used to say proudly that in fifteen years of business he had only lost one client, "but that was our choice not theirs," he added. When asked how he managed to keep his clients for so long he told us that he really cared about their businesses and made sure he spoke to them often about how he could help them improve. He understood the principles of networking very well. "Share you time, knowledge and offer your help" he said, "and be compassionate towards your clients".
Creating Momentum in an Existing Network
Become a master of your trade. Learning all there is to know about your industry or business may be impossible but most of us have the ability to master the basics and keep current on the most relevant stuff. This is important if you are going to try to create a reciprocal network of people to work with. You need to understand how your business works, who your market is and what the factors that influence success and failure are. What it doesn't mean is that you become a know-it-all who can't wait to interrupt others with your version of the day's news. Becoming a master of your trade allows you to make better decisions about who needs to be part of your network and what knowledge you need to be able to include yourself in positive communication. Interesting people are often included in senior discussions, asked to deliver workshops and invited to speak at seminars.
This is not a difficult as you might think it is. Initially it will take some time to gather the necessary knowledge required to feel confident about speaking with others about your area of expertise. After essentially blundering into a position some years ago I found myself not knowing much about the industry I was working in. I realized that my good luck would run out soon if I didn't demonstrate to the rest of the team that I actually knew what was going on in our segment of the market. For about 6 weeks I would go into the office about an hour early and read every newsletter, article and book I could find on the subject. Gathering this information soon paid off. After just two months with this company I was delivering information workshops to our partners, vendors, journalists and even the company's board of directors. This put me in touch with hundreds of new people every month and my network grew from almost zero to a thousand in less than a year.
Share your knowledge actively. Giving of yourself will always bring positive results. Sharing your knowledge or wisdom is one of the greatest ways we can give others something good.
In one of my first jobs I was fortunate enough to have a boss who lived by the principle "if you want to succeed make sure you help everyone around you succeed too". As I was still new to the industry she went out of her way to send me interesting articles or highlighted sections in books and magazines. I caught the bug and was soon forwarding great news pieces and dropping interesting articles on others desks. It was amazing how many good things happened from this simple way of sharing knowledge. In one particular case I started a magazine exchange with a very bright senior consultant working for big broadcast company that shared our office building. This constant exchange brought us closer and years later he accepted the position of CEO for a media company I had founded.
The important part of idea sharing is making it relevant. Nobody wants to receive more junk mail or spam so be aware of the relevance of the knowledge you share has to the recipient. It might be really interesting for you but might not hit the same buttons for the other guy. Keep connecting on the basis of shared interest and in the interest of sharing knowledge.