What’s In Your Network?

by: Smith and Howard

March 31, 2016

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What is a network and what is networking? 

A phone network is a bunch of wires connected to make the phone systems work.  The effectiveness of the network is determined by the quality of the wire and the strategic connections.  It is the same for your people network and those you are connected with. Networking simply means the art of building your connections in the community through friends, acquaintances and colleagues. Building a quality and strategic network of people allows you to be more effective in life.  Yes life, not sales!  Most people think of networking as having the ability to meet people and sell.  That is not true.  Having a good network of people can assist you in all aspects of your life.

Begin with why

To start your development of networks, begin with why. I believe your intent comes through whether you understand it or not and understanding your why is essential to being deliberate and effective.  One really important note in determining your why, it can’t be all about you!  It must focus on others.  Steve Beecham’s book “Bass-Ackward Business: The Power of Helping without Hustling” provides insights as to why this is true. Once you know your why and you understand the others focus, take time to strategically think about which relationships need further development and what gaps you have that need filling. 

Now that you have determined the what and why of networking, let’s take a look at developing new relationships.  You can go to events (reunions, chamber, cookouts, church, PTA, etc.), you can talk to every stranger encounter at the store, elevators and the alike, or you can be introduced.  A combination of all three will give you a more diverse network.  Introductions tend to be the easiest and most rewarding because it is usually an immediate win, win.  The person that was helped with a problem (needing a plumber) and the person that was referred to solve the problem (the plumber) each win.  Both are very appreciative and value has been added to each.  However, do not leave out the other two!  The key to events and talking to strangers is making sure you are spending your time wisely in the right places and at the right time.  Ok, you have a lot of people in your network, what’s next?  Maintain and continue growth!

You must maintain your networks! 

Since every persons needs are very different and always changing, knowing how to maintain your network can be tricky.  Some people need more frequent interaction and other people can go years without connecting, but you still have a close enough relationship to reach out to them anytime.  The key is to really understand the relationship with each person and what value you bring to the table.  Your value could be as simple as forwarding an article to them about sailboats because you know that is their hobby. Or saying congratulations because you saw they were honored at an event.  Building relationships takes time, energy and commitment.  Not all relationships are created equal and only you can determine the success or failure of these relationships.  Consider your current relationships, strategically determine the importance of each and then spend time developing them.  These actions will help your network be the best it can be!

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