I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “your network is your network.” And it couldn’t be truer regardless of the business or career you’re in. You never know when those six degrees of separation will place you in front of the right person that takes your business to the next level.
If you view networking as just taking and giving business cards from people you don’t know and won’t remember, you’re seriously mishandling some valuable time. Your network should function as a web of contacts and connections that supports you, provides resources, builds with you and can be a sounding board for solid feedback. As you grow your business, many of the ventures you get into will require more than skill. It will require you to know the right people to help you get the job done. There are 3 essential types of networks you must have as you grow your organization and yourself as a leader.
- Personal Network – Your personal network is who will be the catalyst to introducing you to other key people you need to know, being a reference or sending you referrals as well as help you continue to grow both professionally and personally. These are people who you will meet from work, church, your fraternity/sorority and other civic institutions or clubs you belong to. Take some time to assess what organizations you belong to that you connect with people on a more social level. This web of people may be an untapped resource that will help you grow your business.
- Operational Network – This network is built for the connections you need to run your organization from an operational standpoint. Really connecting with vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, or maybe your web designer. This may also be connecting with internal contacts within your organization that may help you make wiser decisions or strategic moves based on insider knowledge. Consider which connections may benefit the operations in your organization. This week, reach out to at least one of them
- Strategic Network – This network is exactly what it sounds like. This network is built both internally and externally but most importantly it’s built on people who are working towards the future. These contacts could potentially work with you to roll out a new product or service, start a merger, to build key alliances and partnerships. Oftentimes these relationships may not be as obvious or come as easily, but if you are aware of what types of networks you want to have, you can spot a potential strategic network and nurture that relationship.
So the next time you find yourself at a cocktail happy hour collecting cards of people you don’t know and won’t remember, stop. Leave. Throw those cards away and start looking for a calculated and deliberate way to build the contacts you need to improve, grow and sustain your organization or take you to the next level in your career. And no matter what, be watchful of who you allow in your network, because remember, your network is your net worth.
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