Building Your Network Strategically – Before You Need It

We all know that the economy has shifted, how could you not know it. The economy is what the economy is, we can stay up nights worrying about it, but that achieves nothing. As I network and have the opportunity to speak with people, I have noticed a trend among business people. There are two different kinds of businesspeople out there, those with strong networks and those without strong networks. Those with strong networks seem to be upbeat, positive and not caught up in the hype of the bad economy, while those without a network seem to be struggling to come to grips with their current situation, having no where to turn or people to connect to.While the economy does indeed play a major role in our ability to do business with others, having a strong network that is nurtured and easily accessed is vital to our ability to move forward with ease. Employees who have been downsized and find themselves seeking work are faring better if they have developed and maintained a strong network of people who can help to connect them, support them and pass them needed information, suffer from less of the gloom and doom attitude.Think of the tight wire walkers at the circus, under the wire is a very large net, should the performer fall the net is there to catch them. Your network is your net when you are facing economic tough times. If you have spent little time, building and nurturing that network in the last three – five years it will feel like you are walking a tight wire with out a net.There are three important networks to consider developing, not just for your professional life but your personal life as wellYour Support Network – Everyone needs a support network, unfortunately people often find themselves in a position of needing support and having no one in their network who can help them. They did not develop this network prior to needing it, once you need it you are behind the eight ball. Your support network will be valuable for many reasons; from helping should you be ill, to helping you in your business. People who may be in your support network might include the following.

Your Mentors past or present
People you have helped
People you have taught or mentored:
People you have helped
Your co-workers, colleagues, associates, and classmates
Your family and close friends
Other members of non-business groups
Your former managers, supervisors, and instructors
Your church leaders, members and groups
Your Information Network – Building your information network will be one of the most valuable networks you can create for yourself. Information is a commodity that others will buy, sell and trade. Having a strong information network will allow you to make decisions, get information, share information and get things done in a prompt and professional way. Many of the most powerful people in the world have strong information networks. When you have access to information, you will be able to find jobs others may not know about, opportunities that are not public and deals that not public. People in this network would be:

People who are trying to achieve the same things you want to achieve
People who are in the business or profession you are in
People who were in the business or profession you are in
People who write or produce books, audio, or videos in your industry
People who regulate, audit, or monitor others in your field
People who train others in your profession
People who advise or consult with people in your field
Members of trade, business, or professional organizations in your field

Your Referral Network – This network is made up of people who know, like and trust you. They are willing to connect you to others who can buy from your or who know someone that you want to need to know. They are willing to open their Rolodex and make a phone call on your behalf. Whether you are an employee at a company or a self-employed individual, this network connects you.

People in your contact sphere
Current or former clients
People who get more business when you get more business
People you do business with, other than your suppliers and vendors
Current or former staff members, part time or full time
People you have given referrals to
Anyone who has given you referrals
Other members of a business referral group
Members of Networking groups or associations
Your Contacts – These are simply the people that you meet day to day and add to your database. They may not fit into any of the other 3 categories but they are still people that you can develop relationships with. This is a network that you can spend time nurturing and moving contacts into you other networks.Take a moment and list the people in your database with S, I or R. Note that many people will fit in more than one of your networks. One person could be in your Support Network, your Information Network as well as your Referral Network. Ideally, you would want to have 15-20 people in each of the 3 categories and possibly more in your contacts.Once you have sorted your database you will know where your voids are in your network. Be diligent and pay attention to your network. Adding people to your database with no plan or reason will not create a network, it will create a database. Your network will work for you when you need it if you have taken the time to nurture the network and build relationships with the people you have added.Strong networks are built on the Givers Gain philosophy; they must be nurtured, rewarded, and constantly pruned, and added to. Good networking is more about farming than it is about hunting, it is about caring for, adding to, purging out those things that do not work in the network and adding new members when necessary. The key is to build a strong organized network when you don’t need it, later it will pay off when you do need it. Harvey McKay says, “Dig Your Well Before You are Thirsty”

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