The difference between “just knowing” people and having a network you can rely on
Earth’s population is almost 7 billion and it would be very difficult if we had to do it all alone. That’s why you should fully utilize the power of connecting with other human beings through networking.
Networking is how to advance your professional career tenfold but it’s more than just meeting people. The main focus is nurturing relationships and finding ways to consistently provide value in your relationships.
When you master small business networking, you will be surrounded by like-minded people who are go-getters in life.
I learned how to improve this skill of networking through research (a few books) and a lot of practice with the help of some great mentors. One of the best networking books I have read is Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey MacKay.
It discusses the core importance of why networks will make or break your success and how to build relationships that empower you to hit your goals.
“A network is an organized collection of your personal contacts and your personal contacts’ own networks. Networking is finding fast whom you need to get what you need in any given situation and helping others do the same.” — Harvey MacKay
Just because you know people doesn’t mean you have a network.
A network is a relationship (system of relationships) formed to meet the needs of both parties on an ongoing basis. You give; you get. You no give; you no get.
So here are 5 things I learned from the book that if you apply will help you to build a network you can rely on:
1. Prepare For The 2 am Call
*Ring, ring**… it’s 2 am and you’re calling because you urgently need a favor from whoever will pick up.
Who’s going to pick up and fulfill the favor for you at 2 am?
This idea brings up an important realization. We must network as if our lives depended on it because they do. If you ever need an urgent favor, do you have people you can rely on?
If not, you need to start building up your network of reliable people today.
The best way to do this is by meeting more people and “feeling them out”. Are they a taker or a giver?
If they are a giver, then serve them and stay connected with them. Ask often, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
You may not be able to do everything they respond but use your skills and your resources to help them somewhere.
The person who picks up at 2 am is the person you’ve done multiple favors for. This person trusts you, respects you, or they REALLY owe you a favor. MacKay talks about putting these favors in ahead of time (digging your well) way before you need it.
Pay attention to the “takers” in the givers vs. takers example. This won’t work for takers, they are not concerned with reciprocation and they mainly think about themselves.
Here are some methods for “digging your well” today:
- Share books and other resources to help others
- Connect people using your network
- Give your time and your expertise to help someone move forward in their life
- Do favors for other people (especially givers) that will save them time or money
2. Be Intentional About Your Networking
Focus on being intentional with the people you meet. Not everyone will be valuable for your network.
In the book, Harvey mentions a list of professions that would be good for any human being to have connections with and some of those are doctors, lawyers, insurance agents, CPAs, and police officers etc.
I want to build strong bonds with mechanics, airline employees, clothing designers, hotel employees, (I used to work for Hilton but no longer), and a few others.
We network with other people to expand our contacts. More than often we do so because they have something we need.
Be valuable to other people you meet. Because if you aren’t valuable to them, they will eventually “drop” you due to inertia.
Do your homework before you meet someone and find out if you have some common ground. There is much you can find out online before you make your introduction.
3. Join Professional and Social Groups
The internet has a plethora of interest groups that we can join. MacKay recommends joining the Chamber of Commerce if your city/town has a local chapter. Also, any other industry/career or professional development groups are a major plus.
If you do not consider yourself a master of networking, then take lessons to improve your networking and communication skills. These skills will only get better from practicing and getting out of your comfort zone, not from books.
Pick an organization, any organization, and get active. Small business networking is about bumping shoulders and connecting with people from different backgrounds. But you must make sure to stay connected and offer value to the people you really resonate with.
My first major leap was in Toastmasters. It was a group where we physically met up every Monday night to practice our speaking and leadership skills. I also joined this group called Ambitious Entrepreneurs where we ate breakfast at a cafe every Friday and talked about entrepreneurship.
Also, you can check out BNI (Business Networking International).
4. Volunteer/Give Back
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” — Muhammad Ali
Volunteering is the easiest way to add new faces to your network, and it feels incredible. Join a nonprofit and serve on a board.
Previously, I served as chair of the Communications and Public Relations Committee at Choose to Do, Inc. I was an active member of the board for a little over 8 months. I learned professional skills, met a host of interesting people, and gave back to my community at the same time.
There are many opportunities for you to contribute and make something better. People will notice your efforts over time and you will build solid connections from what they see. It all starts with an online application or a phone call.
5. Get Serious about Your CRM
In the book, Harvey is still using a Rolodex but now with the evolution of technology, we have software that can perform this role more effectively.
I recommend using a CRM if you are serious about building a vast and useful network because you will be meeting a lot of different people doing different things in life. Rather than keep all this information in your head, you will need an organized process (likely accompanied by some type of software) to document the fine details of each relationship.
You will accumulate lots of business cards and may end up taking many notes in various places and this is why you would need a CRM: to be organized and store customer data in a secure + central location!
Your notes and client information would be stored in a database for easy searching and sorting. What will take your small business networking to the next level is your ability to record and use the information to grow your company.
Here are some examples of CRMs (the Excel sheet is the least recommended because as you enter more data, the sheet becomes more cluttered and there isn’t much space for notes):
A software CRM is not for everyone, just for those who are serious about meeting a lot of people and remembering as many details as they can… not in their head but documented in their CRM for reference at a later time.
Do what works best for you!
Put yourself in other people’s shoes and present yourself in a way that will be advantageous to the other person because you cannot build a strong network without being useful/helpful to other people FIRST.
If you want to learn more about what makes a small business successful, consider reading this article that I wrote. Keep learning and jumping beyond your comfort zone.
Check out this book by Mr. MacKay and let me know what you think.
Start digging your well today, thanks for reading! Leave a comment if you liked this article.