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The Professional Value of Your Network

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“..recognizing the importance of a strong network and knowing how to build and nurture that network are often two very different elements”

In business, it is not what you know, rather it is who you know. The value of building an expansive, intentional, trusting and accessible network can never be understated. Each and every introduction and engagement that presents itself is an opportunity for you to increase your worth to others and add their worth to your own personal Rolodex (for those individuals born after 1990, Google it). However, recognizing the importance of a strong network and knowing how to build and nurture that network are often two very different elements. Your business can expand and accelerate, you can find new employment, you can form dynamic business partnerships and build lasting friendships by having a well-developed and regarded network. It takes hard work to build a network, and even harder work to maintain it, but it is one of the most important assets in your portfolio.

How do you turn an introduction and handshake into a friendship, partnership, business opportunity or collaboration? Knowledge is key. Learn, think, research. If you are attending an event, look at the bios of the keynote speakers ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with details or recent news about their company. Learn a bit about the country they come from, key points about their industry or sector, or conceptualize ways that you or your company could be of service to their them. Pay attention to key intersections that you share with a speaker – and if not with you specifically, think of ways in which you can add value to the speakers or special guests through meaningful introductions that you can make for them with someone else in your network. Be the conduit of significance. It is all about being prepared to add instant value to the person to whom you are being introduced – capturing the moment instead of letting it pass.

“How do you turn an introduction and handshake into a friendship, partnership, business opportunity or collaboration?”

“As Zero Deanin said in Being Awesome Doesn’t Mean Simply Existing, “If your presence doesn’t add value, your absence won’t make a difference”. Always strive to add value to those you meet so that they look forward to seeing you, speaking with you, and/or working with you again in the future.”

Whether you connect with someone at a conference that you mutually attend, or if you are alone in an elevator with someone for 60 floors, or connect with someone significant through LinkedIn, all of these connections are only valuable or monetizable engagements if you find a way to extend this encounter beyond the circumstance of your immediate connection. Carry the introduction further, even if it is just a follow-up with an “it was a pleasure to talk with you” message. Perhaps you won’t have an immediate opportunity to cooperate, but one may emerge down the road, and the ability to dip into your network to be able to facilitate a connection for someone else or to enhance an opportunity when it presents itself is immeasurable. As Zero Deanin said in Being Awesome Doesn’t Mean Simply Existing, “If your presence doesn’t add value, your absence won’t make a difference”. Always strive to add value to those you meet so that they look forward to seeing you, speaking with you, and/or working with you again in the future.

Some of the most extraordinary people and prospects come when we least expect them, but only when we are paying attention. Put down your cell phones and look up, see the world and pay attention to the people around you. Strike up a conversation, pay someone a compliment, ask someone a question – acknowledge the people sharing your space. Opportunities for business, employment, partnership, and friendship will walk right by those who are too busy taking selfies, surfing social media or texting.

You can only realize true value from your network if you have one. Your network is like a garden. Your connections are the seeds. How well we nurture and care for those seeds (our connections) determines how large and fruitful our garden (network) will become. How many times have you met someone and forgot to get their business card or were too shy to introduce yourself? How many times were you introduced to someone and you wanted to share a thought, an idea or identify a mutual interest, but failed to capitalize on it? How many times have we reflected in hindsight, replaying moments in our minds, wishing we could go back and do things differently? When we meet new people, the goal should be to carry the conversation forward to a follow on, allowing us to water that seed of a connection turning it into a long-term business relationship or friendship. However, adding connections to our network is only the beginning. We must keep those contacts fresh. You can’t expect to let two years pass between engagements and then assume that that person will remember you, be compelled to take your call, or want to listen to what you have to say. As you build your address book, take time each week to reach out to a few of your older contacts…send them an email to say hello, reminding them where you met (if necessary), ask after their business and summarize what you are working on. This will keep you fresh in their minds and allow that professional relationship to grow and be available when and if the opportunity to cooperate presents itself.

“Be the conduit of significance. It is all about being prepared to add instant value to the person to whom you are being introduced – capturing the moment instead of letting it pass”

“Your network is an asset having a monetizable value. The time to build your network is before you need your network…the time to build your network is now”

No one is responsible for the strength and size of your professional network except for you. How you are regarded, remembered, and respected comes from how well you care for the people with whom you interact. Naturally, there are many people with whom you have the regular occasion to interact, but some of the most important connections are the people who lie quietly dormant in your address books until the right opportunity for collaboration or partnership presents itself. You MUST nurture, prioritize, and add value to your network regularly throughout your career – even if you change jobs, industries, or sectors. There will be many unexpected situations or intersections that you can benefit, enhance or repair by dipping into your carefully watered garden of connections. An opportunity lost is, well, an opportunity lost. A connection that is not nurtured and cared for like a seed in that garden will wilt and fade away, and it is almost impossible to reconnect when time has removed the necessary familiarity needed for maintaining a trusting engagement.

Your network is an asset having a monetizable value. The time to build your network is before you need your network…the time to build your network is now.

Larisa Miller is CEO of Phoenix Global, an award-winning global boutique consulting and investment firm based in Miami. With over two decades of experience working with heads of governments and business leaders in the US and across the globe, Larisa has the exceptional talent of developing mutually beneficial partnerships spanning cultures, countries, and industries. She started her career working for the Secretary of Agriculture in the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, and went on to work in the office of public policy with the Governor of Pennsylvania. Larisa later worked with the Royal Family in Abu Dhabi, UAE, as their business development manager, with a focus on sustainable development, and also as head of their large non-profit foundation, which focused on women, youth, literacy and education. Larisa is an award-winning keynote speaker, and sits on several global boards. She is also Managing Partner of Akon Global, developing and facilitating Smart Cities, affordable housing and technology investments with Akon, multi-Grammy award nominated recording star, businessman, philanthropist and change-maker.

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