The Power of Networking

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Welcome to the first of a periodic series of articles that will take a more in depth look at some of the topics that make frequent appearances in my Mentor’s Journal series.

These appearances may be because that was the specific topic of the meeting or, as in this case, because it is a very clear and consistent lesson learned over the years and something that I feel it is important not to be overlooked by any company, but especially early stage companies setting out on their journey.

It would be good to start with what exactly do I mean by ‘The Power of Networks’. As this is 2019 we all understand about the phenomenal reach that social networking can have and the multiple different channels that are available. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any of the other myriad such companies, all are subtly different and there is no doubt that using social networking can help promote your company or product in slightly different ways to slightly different audiences. Social networking can produce great effects and SEO (search engine optimisation) can also produce good results. For me, I would also very firmly put LinkedIn on this list as being the only purely business focused social networking tool with such a massive reach – we all seem to be 3rd connection to almost anybody else in the world!

But that is not the real focus of this article. In my experience, virtual networks have nowhere near the power of the real thing – but again I would suggest that any real experience is always going be better than the virtual, and therefore removed, alternative. Whatever some might think, I strongly believe that face to face, human contact beats all else and I wanted to expand on a theme that regular readers of my Mentor’s Journal will be familiar with, and that is the principle of 2+2=5 or much much more. And in many ways this could also be seen as ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. Over the years as my own personal network has grown, and maybe I have become more skilled at joining all the dots together, I have become more and more convinced at the sheer power of networks and what a huge difference they can make to your business. 

However, like anything else in life worth obtaining, getting the real power out of networks takes effort, time and imagination. Developing a real network takes a lot of one to one meetings, attending seminars and networking events, and working on not only your company’s brand but also your personal brand. Asia is almost purely relationship driven and whilst the west is much more transaction driven, nevertheless most people would still prefer to work with someone that they know and like and have met before. That is, someone in your personal network.

We each need to accept that no matter how good we might think we are, not even a genius at the top of their game can be good at all things and, just as importantly, have the time to do all things. This again echoes a common theme of mine about the importance of working with the right partners, and the best way of finding the right partners is through having developed a good personal network. Personal contacts or personal introductions always work best as they carry the endorsement of either your own existing knowledge of that person or that of someone else that you trust. This is immensely powerful in business.

Some of the more obvious benefits that the power of networks can bring include:

  • Improved marketing and visibility
  • Increased sales
  • Unexpected opportunities
  • Cross selling and cooperation opportunities
  • Joint referrals leading to increased sales or revenue streams
  • Better advisors and advisory board members
  • Access to complimentary products / services so leading to greater client satisfaction

The dictionary definition of a network is ‘an interconnected group or system’ which itself implies that it is an intricate web or matrix and not just a relationship between two points. The power comes from when a number of these points, or contacts, are introduced to each other and all start working together in a win win situation.

But the real power of networks is in the multiplier effect. Put simply, that is the fact that the power can grow exponentially as the more dots that there are on your radar the more the chances are that you have of joining some of those dots together around you.  So if we go back to the simple sum of 2+2=4 but with networking it can equal 5 or more, then a much better way of thinking about the sheer power that they can bring is by replacing the ‘+’ symbol with a ‘x’ symbol.

                                                2+2= 4                                                   2x2=4

But the more people you have in your network the greater the impact becomes:

                                                2+2+2=6                                               2x2x2=8
                                                2+2+2+2=8                                          2x2x2x2=16
                                                2+2+2+2+2=10                                  2x2x2x2x2=32
                                                2+2+2+2+2+2=12                             2x2x2x2x2x2=64
                                                2+2+2+2+2+2+2+14                        2x2x2x2x2x2x2=128

Well, you get the idea. And the greater the number, the greater the effect. But the point is that by viewing the effect as a multiple rather than as an addition, the growth in the power of your network moves from being liner to being exponential.

But I would also urge some caution, don’t fall into the numbers trap as so many people seem to in their private lives on Facebook or other social networks. A real network’s power is more about the quality of the people in your network rather than the sheer number; although ultimately of course a large network of quality contacts is the perfect goal. Sheer numbers might be useful in some circumstances for promotional type activities but it is the personal, known, and nurtured contacts that are the ones that bring the power and produce the multiplier effect above.

Again, experience shows that a network is at its most powerful when it us very clearly a two way relationship and both sides are winning - treat it more as a list of friends that you want to help and they might be able to help you, rather than as a database of contacts just there to be used. In my career, Karma has often proven to be very beneficial, even if the return is not until many years later.

None of the above is new to any of us but when you are ‘heads down’ working in your startup it really can make all the difference to put your head up sometimes and get out there, and make sure that you are working on the bigger picture by building and nurturing a quality network. If you do this right then the power can be amazing. Trust me, you won’t regret it.