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How to Build Your Network to Drive Growth Opportunities

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How to Build Your Network to Drive Growth Opportunities

Like sales, networking is a non-negotiable skill for business owners to master if they want to be successful. The important part is putting in the time and effort and approaching it in a logical way. In this blog, we’ll discuss how to access your network to drive growth opportunities without even leaving your office.

You might not think you have an extensive network. That’s when I arrived in Australia at the ripe age of 42. I had no network. The only people I knew were my parents-in-law and the rest of my wife’s family.

At the time, I had no idea how important and valuable networks were. Many don’t. It was a classic case of not appreciating something until you no longer have it. I now look back on my web in Europe with a lot of envy and gratitude because these days, I appreciate how valuable the natural network you develop over life is.

So, the good news is that you already have a network built. Unless you have recently done what I did, moved to the other side of the world, and are inevitably starting all over again.

When I lived in Europe, I underestimated what I had. I did not truly value or leverage the organic networks created. What do I mean? As we go through life, we consciously and unconsciously build a network. We start at primary and secondary school, meet friends, and belong to groups. This experience provides our first networks.

Then we move on to university, trade school, or the workforce and develop even more networks. During these early formative years of our lives, we also build networks of friends that flow through our families and schooling. Our friends have parents, friends who have networks, etc.

By 22, we will all have developed extensive networks stretching further than we realise. It will also grow through hobbies and pastimes, connecting with people via social media, and even those we meet on holiday!

headtrashalert3

Head trash alert!

Before we go to the next step and map out your network, we need to deal with some of the head trash. It is all the negative head chatter you will have to overcome and push through to leverage your network and build an effective referral strategy in your business.

Part one: Know that this is one of your biggest challenges. The reason why I mention the head trash is that it will come. The only question is, what form will it come in? Some thoughts you might have include:

  1. I’m not much of a people person and never met many people along the way.
  2. I don’t want to be one of ‘those’ networkers, the inauthentic ones. (You know, the vile picture you have in your head that you will never be!)
  3. My connections don’t want to help me. I’d feel awkward asking for anything from them.
  4. It is overwhelming just thinking about it!
  5. When will I have the time to network? I’m already running myself into the ground.
  6. Even though networking events have not been mentioned in this blog, I’m getting put off anyway!
  7. Some other head trash is not here, telling me this is not for me, too hard, something else.

Part two: Recognise it’s occurring and identify these thoughts as head trash. Because when you are aware that it is occurring, you can acknowledge it, unpack it, and move past it.

Network Mapping & Stock Taking

What do you already have? Now it’s time to begin mapping out your network and take stock of what you already have to leverage. We call this a circle of influence, a powerful asset you have been building all your life.

Who would have thought you were a business person at the age of 3 when you were playing with your friends at kindergarten? Who would have thought you were building your most valuable business asset when you were mucking about with your friends as a 15-year-old?

So I’d like you to begin this 30-minute activity right now! Begin by creating a list under the following headings:

  1. Primary School
  2. Secondary School
  3. Tertiary Education (University/Trade School/Other)
  4. Sports
  5. Hobbies
  6. Family Friends (Parents/Kids)
  7. Work (Boss/Colleagues)
  8. Industry
  9. Other

Under each heading, I want you to come up with a minimum of 5 names, but challenge yourself to come up with 10. Rather than making this problematic for you, I would strongly advise you to write down the names of people who come to mind. Don’t make it more difficult by working out in advance if they will help you or not or what you want them to do for you.

Something to make this task easier

Before you let your head trash get in the way of writing down as many names as possible, I want to tell you about the most simple human traits: we are all hard-wired to help. When was the last time someone you knew got in touch with you and asked you for some help, and you said no? Of course, if not done right or the favour is too big an ask, you might say no. However, if someone you knew asked you politely, and it wasn’t too much of a burden, would you ever say no?

In fact, think about the times when you asked for some help. When it happened, did you not get a warm and fuzzy feeling? Did you feel a bit flattered that someone asked you for some help? Did the endorphins get going and make you feel good about yourself? I’d hedge a bet to say yes!

Now back to the task. Create your list, and make sure you are creating a live document, as your circle of influence is the gift that keeps giving. Have your address book nearby, and have LinkedIn and Facebook available. Search for old primary and secondary school groups. Do the research, do the work, and do whatever it takes to ensure you get to 100+ names on your list.

It might seem overwhelming, especially when you have 15 other urgent tasks on your to-do list. But if you don’t make the time now, I promise you, you never will. All I want from you at this stage is to start and book more time as necessary to continue growing your business.

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