'When knowing what's going on
and what to do
is the source of power,
understanding how - and why -
to network is indispensable.'
in Corporate Networking
(The Free Press)
What you know is important.
Who you know
is even more important.
MERICAN business guru Tom Peters sees networking as a form of insurance
against finding yourself with nowhere to go after a corporate shake-out.
Most South African business people see networking as buzzword for a collection
of miscellaneous business cards specially designed to collect dust in desk
drawers. Others who have what Americans call more business 'savvy' see it
as an entree to ongoing business.
And more than that, they see networking as ...
An irreplaceable source of on-tap expertise
Business people who make a habit of networking advise you to never forget
a name. So do politicians. As case in point was former United States President
The late President was, in fact, enormously proud of his reputation for remembering
names. And he apparently lost no opportunity to boast about his prowess.
Roosevelt's ability was so uncanny that a journalist, Frederick Collins,
intimated that the President looked in people's hats to get their initials.
'And I'm sure he even read both minds and lips,' the reporter said. 'A caller
would begin with "I'm Jo-" and before he knew what had happened to him, he
had affectionately been called "Jonesy" and shoved out into the hall.'
But Collins reported that the President's feat of memory failed when he was
introduced to a New York haberdasher named Kaskel.
'Mr President,' said the haberdasher, 'I have made your shirts ...'
'Major Shurtz!' the President interrupted, 'I'd have known you anywhere.'
The moral of the story: don't trust your memory.
Don't consign names to your cerebral storage; don't keep business cards in
desk drawers where they're easily forgotten.
KEEP AN UP-TO-DATE CONTACT BOOK
According to Peters, your security is directly related to:
- the thickness of your contact book;
- the rate of it's expansion;
- the number of entries that emanate from beyond your company
- the time you devote to maintaining the list.
Writing about the importance of networking, the editor-in-chief
of Success (February 1995), Scott DeGarmo observes: 'Among humans
and closely related species, those who become leaders are not necessarily
the strongest or fiercest, but those with the most friends and connections'.
You can't always go it alone
Most successful business people invest serious time in cultivating
network relationships because they can help immeasurably in:
- finding a job;
- recruiting qualified personnel;
- finding and raising capital;
- getting expert advice, and
- tying up channels of product distribution.
SO SET UP A NETWORK
Before you can establish a functional network that works for you,
you have to determine why you need one.
- Clarify the purpose of your network in 25 words or less. Are
you job hunting, head hunting, looking for information, or merely seeking
social contacts? If they're all applicable, set up a different network for
- List all your current contacts - personal, business (internal
- List your personal resources: knowledge, skills, experience,
interests, talents, expectations and values.
- List your material resources: equipment (office and/or manufacturing),
special facilities, vehicles, etc.
- Identify and list 'status' contacts - people to whom you have
access through your membership of professional, recreational and cultural
- Sort through your contacts to build a 'guys-who-really-know'
(GWRK) database on your computer or with a Rodinlex or library card system.
NOW GET YOUR SYSTEM UP AND RUNNING
Follow these five guide lines to help you establish a customised
network directory that works for you.
- Update your contact list.
- Make time
- Accumulate letters of
- Surround yourself with experts.
- Seek advice.
UPDATE YOUR CONTACT LIST.
We're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Before you can update your
list, you have compile a basic database. And you have to organise it so that
you can find who
want with the minimum of hassle.
Simply adding names and contact numbers in a
book or computer database serves no useful purpose.
To add to the value of your list, classify your contacts under six
Even after you compile and classify your list, it rapidly loses
value if you allow it to go out of date.
Nothing is more frustrating and useless that trying to reach someone
who is no longer where you think he or she should be.
So maintain contact
Set time aside to purge your contact list at least once every month. Use
the phone, send faxes or the postal system to ensure that your list is as
current as humanly possible.
MAKE TIME TO MAKE NEW CONTACTS.
Networking aficionados suggest that you devote a large portion of
your business and after-hours time to increasing the number of your contacts.
Internally as well as externally.
'If you spend at least 10% of your time making contacts, you'll
never be short of business,' asserts self-made millionaire John Kehoe.
business means making new contacts, not once in a while, but
consistently, week in and week out, month after month, year after
You find them almost everywhere: at conferences and conventions, social functions,
sports events ... wherever you go. And don't overlook secretaries and assistants
who often prove to be more useful than their bosses.
to your list
As a matter of principle, I keep comprehensive notes about almost everybody
with whom I come in contact - names, fax and telephone numbers, addresses
and areas of interest plus any other information that I feel is pertinent.
When I've needed information in a hurry, my contacts have often proved to
ACCUMULATE LETTERS OF CUSTOMER DELIGHT.
Nothing breeds success like success. Many companies ask me to make
presentations based on the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations. Advertising
in selected publications also attracts a certain level of response. But letters
of customer delight are by far the most powerful draw card.
So I go out of my way to collect them.
After every presentation, I ask the organisers for feedback. Most of it is
positive and usually comes in the form of a letter signed a senior executive,
if not the chief executive officer himself.
I admit unabashedly that these letters bolster my ego. More importantly,
they impress potential clients.
And they also serve another important purpose.
They give me more valuable names to add to my steadily growing list of GWRK.
I strongly urge you to begin collecting testimonial letters with immediate
effect and use them to promote yourself and your business.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH EXPERTS.
You don't have to employ all the experts you need to run your business
- not full-time, anyway.
It's important that you periodically check that your circle of experts still
exist. The experts you need most at any given time have a nasty habit of
dying, emigrating or just fading from the picture. Occasional discreet and
informal phone calls quickly establish if they're still in a position to
help you. These calls also allow you to determine if any of your on-tap experts
have upgraded their qualifications.
|Quick access to an expert via your network can sometimes save a potentially
disastrous situation. Suppose a costly project comes to a halt because you
can't locate an IT boffin or even a plumber when you desperately need one.
If you establish a
up-to-date contact lists,
you'll find exactly
who you need
when you need him.
Customers as experts
And when you think of experts, don't overlook your customers. Each is an
expert in his specific field. And they'll be happy to share their knowledge
with you if you've kept them happy by providing them with
customer service. Even if they can't give you what you need, chances
are they know someone who can.
Suppliers as experts
The same applies to your suppliers. They're all experts in the own fields.
Keep them abreast of developments in your company as well as your future
|You may be an expert in a specific field. But bright as you undoubtedly
are, you don't know everything there is to know about whatever you specialise
in. There's always a better, faster, cheaper, more user-friendly way of doing
If you're meticulous
you'll never be
short of expertise
when you need it most.
If you haven't developed a network of friends and associates, if you haven't
meticulously maintained your list of contacts, you won't know who to turn
for and the going gets tough and you need quick input.
SO GET NETWORKING AND KEEP NETWORKING
Robert Mueller, former chairman of the consulting firm Arthur D Little Inc.,
has developed networking into a science. He defines it as 'an informal way
to reach knowledgeable people'. He calls it a strategy that relies on getting
around the neatly charted, pyramidal corporate structures to reach the people
who know and can do something to help.
In traditional, vertically structured companies, channels of communication,
as we've already discussed, wind a painfully slow, tortuous path up or down
the ladder through and endless chain of regions, divisions, departments and
This system of communication, which sends memos fluttering in all directions,
thrives in a bureaucratic environment. But in an era when the rapidity of
change outpaces the transmission and receipt of communications, networking
is the only way to go.
So, if you're the boss ...
The GWRK system which, incidentally, Mueller developed, even works
in massive multinationals that have a flair for innovation. As case in point
is the 3M company. At the core of the corporation's communication system
is the motto: 'If you need help, go find it everywhere.'
To encourage networking and promote the free interchange of ideas, the company
established 3M Technical Forum in the 1980s. This organises regular seminars
on technical topics at which researchers and technologists are encouraged
to mingle and mix.
Club Mediterranée, with its head office in Paris, is another multinational
corporation that firmly believes in the positive benefits of networking.
It uses a staff rotation system is calls 'nomadism' to break down hierarchical
barriers and promote personal interaction between staff members.
The Club moves the staff from one holiday village to another every six months.
In addition, resort managers swop jobs every two years.
According to the company, this cross-fertilisation improves direct communication
and leads to innovation. Better still, it leads to action.
At boardroom level, the network concept provides a far more robust
system of two-way internal and external communications than conventional
If the centre of power at the pinnacle of the a pyramidal structure destructs,
the company will flounder and probably die. Even if the system loses only
an arm, the centre of power will lose its ability to send and receive communications
Mueller claims a network is more flexible and less vulnerable because it
is designed in the form of a spider's web. The web will survive the destruction
of any of its nodes, including the centre, because the remaining nodes remain
Flat corporate structure
Networking performs best in a flat corporate structure where communications
can flow unimpeded throughout the organisation. It provides an always accessible
database packed with useful, up-to-the-minute information. It allows you
to directly contact the people who know what you need to know.
Once you get the communications flowing, you'll be a better position
to test your worth in the market.
SO HOOK INTO YOUR NETWORK NOW