I say it is the most valuable asset a business person has today. More important than your inventory, building, or bank account. Without your network, the rest doesn’t matter and you probably wouldn’t even have any of it.
It’s the people. Starting with those who work for you, your vendors, your customers and your partners. Branching from there to the people you have known most of your life, family, those you attended school with and those you met playing sports or practicing your hobby. There are people who are important to you everywhere. Important for different reasons. Maintaining those relationships and nurturing them so they are leverage-able is critical.
Just how do you do that?
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
1. Build a network – the good news is you have been your whole life. Keep at it and be more deliberate. Online and off, look for people you need to meet who you can have a mutually beneficial relationship with. Go through your current network and look for people you need to reconnect with or develop a better relationship with.
2. Organize your network – where do you keep the contact information for all the people you need to keep in touch with and how do you know when you last contacted them? You can use any type of contact manager that will let you organize and tag data. I use a combination of MS Outlook, Mailchimp and a new tool called Nimble that allows me to feed all my social media contacts into one place and manage them. It’s good to make a list of your top 100 people to stay in touch with and determine what method to use and how often you will connect with them. For those of you in sales this does not necessarily include your customers and prospects. This list is people who can provide resources, information, referrals, great references and other things you need in your professional life. If you are selling, I do recommend doing the same for clients and prospects.
3. Maintain – you have a network, you are growing it and you have a way to organize it. Now, you have to maintain it. This can be time consuming if you aren’t organized. There will be a group of people you will need to see in person several times a year. A visit to their office, coffee, a meal or a glass of wine will be appropriate. In between those visits you might send them an email with an article they will appreciate, they might be on your newsletter list, or you stay in touch on social media by clicking like, commenting or sharing their posts. Others you will call on the phone once or twice a year to catch up. In between the phone calls they get your newsletter or a personal email from you sharing something of interest. Again, you can use social media to say happy birthday or congratulate them on other events they share.
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