Network Your Way To Success

April 13, 2009
The City Paper - Online

 
Your contacts can help lead to career growth, greater business knowledge, more friends and a whole lot more. Every person you meet in both business and social settings may very well become a meaningful contact for you in the future. The more names in your contact file, the more opportunities you have to accomplish most anything in business.

Don’t be shy! Get to know people. When you meet someone new, look them in the eye, put your hand out with a firm handshake and say “Hello my name is …”   Have a short speech ready about who you are and what you do.  Then, be ready with several good questions to pursue the conversation. Plan your questions ahead to fit the circumstances. Be a personality–not a wallflower.

Keep track of everyone. Hand your business card to those you meet and ask for cards from others.  If you are between jobs, create your own personal business card. Date and make notes on the cards, and then record key information in your computer contacts list.  Then, dedicate yourself to staying in touch.

With a good contact list, you can recruit new employees, check references, and build teams. The more contacts you have, the greater your network for resourcing and problem solving. And, should you need job, a broad network of contacts might be your number one asset.

Social networking websites are another great tool. Online communities such as Facebook and MySpace have made it easy for the average person to connect with countless people through blogging, photo and file sharing, and instant messaging--services that are generally provided free of charge. For the businessperson, the popular professional sites Ning and LinkedIn provide a virtual space for networking, sharing of best practices, and communicating with customers.

Relationships with those at higher levels at different companies and in diverse businesses can yield tremendous benefit. It is easy to “keep your head down” and stay focused on your regular responsibilities, but your leadership effectiveness and your overall knowledge base will grow with your ability to research and resource via an extensive network of contacts.

Stay in touch with everyone. Stay close to key people at your prior company and keep an open line with those who have left your organization. Go to industry meetings, trade shows and even school reunions.  Join your professional association and get to know your peers and even your competitors. Meet people in your neighborhood and your community. 

There are more than 500 names in my contact list, and I have had some communication with the majority of them in the last year.  It may be a call, a card, or an email – the point is “I stay in touch.”  Make the time. You never know when a contact will work to your benefit.

From time to time, I receive invitations to sit on executive panels, serve as “an executive in residence” at universities, and requests to make high level contacts for others. There are also requests to serve on boards of directors and to teach classes on leadership, ethics and retailing. These invitations are a result of a lifetime of business networking.

Every ambitious business person should have a plan and a commitment to be effectively networked. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain. Networking is a win-win proposition.  Make networking part of your life long mission.

Joe Scarlett is the retired chairman of Tractor Supply Company and the founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute. He can be reached at 
joe@scarlettleadership.com.

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