The power of your network

Everyone tells you that networking is the most important thing in business – and I think we all go on a personal journey discovering just how true it is. On that personal journey, you might convince yourself that people ‘wont remember you’; or ‘wont be interested in helping you’; or indeed that you ‘don’t know anyone that will be able to help you’. None of these statements apply!
I tentatively wrote a ‘cold’ email to someone that I had not seen in EIGHT YEARS – on the ‘off chance’ that she might remember me. That same person, not only remembered me, but with a bucket-load of enthusiasm and encouragement, took me out for dinner and spent the whole time imparting her wisdom, and telling me I should absolutely ‘do it’. Now Rosie is quite a character – and any bystander that night would have probably had quite a giggle: Rosie wildly recounting her trade secrets, accountant’s details and anything else she could think of, with a slightly bewildered looking me, scribbling frantically in my note book! She was, and still is, a relentless source of both emotional and professional support.
My lessons thus far (I hope they give you confidence):
–       People are unbelievably giving of their time and their wisdom
–       People love to be asked for their opinions and advice
–       Everyone wants to help
–       Talk to everyone – every single person I have spoken to about my venture has had at least 1 other person I should speak to!
So what about the how…
Start a list – personal on the left, professional on the right, and schedule a coffee / lunch with them all.

Personal Professional
Family Colleagues, peers and team mates
Friends (even dig out the old ones) Managers & leaders (past & present)
Social / sports/ religious groups Your customers / clients
Alumni (school and uni) Your suppliers, agencies, consultants
Professionals – your hairdresser, accountant, lawyers, anyone! Competitors
Neighbours – past and present Colleagues in professional associations or networking groups

These will be your ‘first degree’ contacts. Over coffee or lunch let them know what you are planning on doing – and ask them if they have any thoughts, suggestions or advice. No-one has yet said no, or been stumped with nothing to say! In addition, always remember to ask if they know anyone else you should speak to, or that might be able to help further. The purpose of this is to identify some second degree contacts. Meet them for a coffee, repeat and they move up the ladder!
If you’re a visual person like me – get a huge piece of paper (mine is stuck on a wall!) write a first degree contact in a bubble, and draw lines off their bubble to all of their second degree contacts, each in their own bubble. Repeat for all your first degree contacts, and keep on adding new lines off your second and third degree contacts as you meet more people. In some cases I have got 6th and 7th degree contacts now. This visual representation really helps me on a ‘doubting day’ – I just have to look at it to realise that there is someone that can help, or that I haven’t spoken to in a while to pick up on business.
Hope it helps.