Case

Jan Simpson & Simpons Management Group
The Importance of Networking

Intro:

What a perfect evening to be going to an outside networking event. The crispness of air and the moon peaking out of the clouds, fall weather always changes the energy of crowds. If only Kevin and Brad would just shut up. If I hear again, "Now Jan, you are new to this group and it is better if you just don't talk to anyone. We will introduce you to those influential execs. After a few months, you will feel comfortable enough to begin a conversation with these execs." It irritates me that Kevin is allowing Brad to speak with to me like that, but it is not my event. As I walk through the doorway, I see the man of the hour, the one person everyone wants to meet and have in their network. Of course the one person I need in my network and I am not allowed to speak with him.

As I scanned the room, the Honored Guest and I lock eyes and smile at each other politely. Kevin and Brad are leading me over to greet him. As I shake his hand, he asks where I am from originally, I respond. Come to find out, he is from my hometown. He was so excited, he said "I thought you looked familiar, I knew your grandfather and in fact the entire family." I look over at Kevin and Brad with their mouths open. Mr. Man of the Hour and I spend the rest of the evening discussing the hometown and introducing me to important people.

To my surprise, I was not voted in as a new member. Number one reason, I violated the Rules of Engagement. The first one being, I didn't ask what the Rules of Engagement were.

Background:

In my family, I was expected to take the place of my mother in all business events with my dad. I probably went to 250 before I was 18. At 13, one event was a little tenuous because my dad was competing for a large contract and the competitors were invited to the party too. My dad was an incredible networker, not an open networker. As my dad was losing the contract, he ran upstairs to the phone and called the governor, I saw his competitor going upstairs. Acting quickly, I intercepted Bob and took him back downstairs and introduced him to lesser important people at the party to occupy his time. My dad won the contract that evening because his competitor didn't hear him on the phone.

However, I was scolded by my dad and mother that I was too young to handle an adult such as I did and I needed to have alerted my dad instead of embarrassing his competitor. I knew then I could handle the tough issues of networking.

Professional Issue:

In 2000, I began a new career at the hottest Fortune 500 Company on the planet. It was not a part of my expertise, other than my contacts. I was excited, albeit soon found out that my contacts could not help me and I needed more specific high tech contacts.

My success in my personal life and career is based on my ability to build relationships and network with people. Networking done right is like having all the answers for a test. It is mission critical when trying to connect the dots for projects. Whether you are trying to research information, finding someone to hire on a project, do a favor to get a favor by making an introduction, or building a consensus of like-minded people to develop an innovative product, networking enables you to easily accomplish many things.

First thing, I called a few of my friends in that area and asked them how they met the most influential people around the globe. Hands-down they said Linkedin (LI) . After reviewing the site, I quickly understood that LI was going to be a challenge for me. I sat down with a few friends and developed an initial strategy. (For a more detailed outline on networking both online and real life face-to-face networking, please see notes section).

1. Established a mentor/sponsor for the site

2. Discussed with them

a. Expectations of site

b. Expectations of mentoring

c. Rules of engagement

d. Do's & Don'ts of our relationship

3. Researched possible connections

4. How to get noticed by the right people

5. How to build my reputation as an expert of my field

6. Exit strategy

7. Real Life face-to-face groups to help increase my brand with local members

It was slow going at first, but I posted comments to questions and I began to build my brand. Soon, I was known as a very reputable expert on the site. However, a strange change begins to happen very quickly. In networking, change is common foundation. I had a stalker which alone is scary enough, but the damage he was doing to my reputation was bad. I decided my brand was being damaged and began my exit strategy. You never know to stand up for yourself on these sites or just move on. I moved on to another where I am establishing myself as an expert in the matters of my business, politics and going green.

One thing to learn, you can be different experts on various sites. There are different levels of networking. They are:

1. Online Sites

2. Face-to-Face – watch out for groups with no purpose, waste of your efforts.

3. Mixture

4. Closed Group – Small World is the most talked about and only special people are invited

5. Open Group

6. Create your own Group – Xing is the most popular at this time.

I truly believe to be successful; you must incorporate all these levels into your networking community. A closed group is good for several reasons. It becomes the most talked about group, everyone wants in. If you track the revenues earned by the group, you will not only have a successful group, but this will increase the brand two-fold.

The next step in networking is to decide on your influencers, the givers, power players and how to add them into the world of networking. For me, my strategy is different depending on the site. Twitter, I want as many followers as possible. My goal is have the most followers. Why, because I love to talk to people and it makes me a better focused writer. On LI and Facebook, I want very few followers due to the high activity of con artist, the many request for help and the list is long. At first you are trying to get them to talk about your expertise, but you will soon find out they steal your thoughts and mark them as their own. You may see your exact words in a book and they are profiting from them.

After you begin to remove, limit and still grow your network, it will be trial and error. There will be a lot of heartbreak, times when you will want to quit. That will be up to you. However, you will lose plenty if you give up. Keep your profile on the site, just move to a different site.

The best word to describe Networking is Serendipity. A friend of mine lost his job literally last Friday. He was sitting a coffee shop updating his resume when he overheard two men talking about how to market a wireless phone application. Chuck suggested they try Twitter. He graciously showed them how it was done and in instant they saw how many responded to his update on Twitter. Had Chuck not built a solid networking community, this conversation would not have happen. During the demo, they asked Chuck what he did and through that a job offer was given to him. So, anything can happen when you build good relationships. Be yourself, communicate honestly, know when to say you are wrong, laugh a lot and just breathe.

Personal Challenge:

Building you network whether on twitter, Linkedin or any other social network I time consuming, you are constantly discussing issues, making decisions about that person, how do you handle them. It is very easy to lose connections with just one innocent statement. One day I was watching football and a player made a comment I thought was out of character. I tweeted about it and to my surprise; I set off a fire storm of comments. I lost over 500 followers within seconds. As the situation was innocent, I was glad it happened. If people can't handle opinions, they need to move to a like-minded site not a worldwide site encompassing many different views.