Duck Tales

How to build a business network

How to engage in healthy networking, no kale required.

What can vegetables tell us about building a business network? A fair bit actually.

I don’t like carrots. I like my potatoes roasted, preferably double roasted. I consume different vegetables depending on whether I’m cooking a Western, Asian or Indian style meal. If I’m feeling super healthy, I blitz a bunch of veggies in the mixer and drink the juice. However there is still one vegetable I don’t know what to do with, kale.

While wellness influencers spruik its health benefits, kale isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, kale isn’t a healthy option for everyone. Telling someone to eat it without knowing their medical history can do serious damage.

What has kale got to do with being an entrepreneur or executive? Bear with me.

We’ll all different. Just like a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work with vegetables, it doesn’t work with networking. While networking is unlikely to kill you, it could kill your future growth if it’s not prescribed correctly and tailored to your unique circumstances.

Vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet in the same way that networking is essential for personal and business growth. The key with both is finding what works for you.

We're all different, so why would a one-size-fits-all solution work?

What is networking?

Google ‘networking’ and you will find over five billion responses. Investopedia defines it as “the exchange of information and ideas among people with a common profession or special interest, usually in an informal social setting”.

I define networking as, “the establishment of relationships with people who will most likely become your friends, influence your decisions and/or be an ambassador for what you stand for. They will support and stand by you as much as you will support and stand by them.”

Networking is a critical life skill and it has no barriers or limitations – anyone can do it, including introverts. It’s not simply the exchange of information, it is an integral part of our growth, now and in the future.

Networking is an extension of you – your brand, your lifestyle, your attraction, and your desires. We network everyday even if we don’t realise it. If you have a website or social media page, you’re networking. If you are walking down the street or in a bar, you’re networking. If someone is talking about you, even if you’re not present, you’re networking. Networking is working for you 24/7, 365 days a year so you need to maximise the opportunity.

Overcoming your fear of networking

Put a bowl of kale in front of me and I can’t help thinking about how my Mum used to feed it to the cows as a child in Poland where it grew freely with other weeds. It just doesn’t appeal to me. You might feel the same about networking.

Networking can be extremely daunting for someone who is introverted or feels stuck and unable to break through a plateau. You might fear that you’ll say the wrong thing and be rejected. You might  feel uncomfortable having to engage in small talk with strangers. You might feel weighed down by the pressure to connect and sell. Maybe you just have no idea what to say or how to follow up.

The biggest obstacle I’ve heard in my 20 years in business is, “I don’t like going to networking events”. Guess what? You don’t have to. There are 30 other network pathways you could try and I guarantee you will enjoy at least three of them.

Just like you can pick the vegetables you prefer to stay healthy, you can pick the kind of networking you enjoy to keep your personal and business growth on track.And if you’re still worried about your natural introversion, don’t be. Right now is the ideal time for introverts to network. The way we interact is continuing to evolve with more opportunities in the online space. Introverts, this is your time.  

Five (unconventional) ways to network online

1. Start volunteering.

Reach out and offer to help people with their online programs. Online programs have increased dramatically in recent years providing a great opportunity for you to build relationships with teams who have different backgrounds or niches.

2. Get published.

Want to know how I get a lot of my articles published? I reach out and ask if an article on business growth would be of interest. If you’re an expert on a particular topic, get in touch with magazine editors and offer to share your insights with their readership.

3. Reengage your online networks.

There is no point having millions of ‘connections’ if you’re failing to connect with them. I have over three million connections through LinkedIn groups and I recently started to reengage them by asking two simple questions:

  • How are you?
  • How can my network support you and your network?

I had a wonderful response which strengthened my networks and kept me front of mind.  

4. Become a trusted voice.

Take the time to share your expertise in online groups. I contribute to 10 groups every day which has built my reputation as a leader in my field. On the flip side, if you need expert advice from someone else, reach out via online groups to connect with people who can facilitate your growth.

5. Pay it forward.

I recently sent 25 $10 coffee vouchers to key members of my network – five to existing clients, 10 to hot prospects and 10 to prospects that had gone cold. I included a message that reflected my personality and unconventional style. This simple initiative had an overwhelming positive response.  

Why Network with Purpose™ is important?

Purposeful action is fundamental in how we interact with team members, clients, prospects, suppliers, brand ambassadors, advocates and industry colleagues.

My Network with Purpose™ framework is built on over 10,000 hours of real life experience. It fosters the right behaviour and decisions to naturally increase the quality of your growth, trust and commitment. It is the glue that binds your intrinsic motivation with your big picture goals.

In the same way vegetables improve your wellbeing, networking with purpose helps you live a healthier and happier life. It makes you more visible, memorable, intriguing and compelling which can result in an astounding transformation. And no, you won’t have to attend a networking event. Or eat kale.

Keen to find out more about networking with purpose? Download my e-book, ‘30 Ways to Make Networking Feel Less Like Work’ or order printed copies to share your with your colleagues and team.

It’ll help you raise your profile and grow your business, even if you hate networking.

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about Gordon

As an executive coach, speaker and international author, Gordon helps entrepreneurs and professionals break through their plateaus and accelerate their personal and professional growth.

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