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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

Your Network is your Net Worth!

Like sales, networking is a non-negotiable skill for business owners to master if they want to be successful. 

Even if you don’t think you’re good at networking, the more you do it, the more confident you’ll feel, and the more results you’ll see. 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 without even leaving your office.

Building your network

You might not think you have a big network. But I’m willing to bet that, even if you’re not actively seeking out and growing your connections, you have a far bigger network than I did in 2012.

That’s when I first arrived in Australia at the ripe old 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 of 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 the network I have in Europe with a lot of envy and gratitude, because these days I appreciate how valuable the natural network you develop over life actually is.

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

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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 are consciously and unconsciously building a network. We start at primary and secondary school. We 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 who have networks, friends have friends who have networks, etc. 

By the age of 22, we will all have developed extensive networks stretching further than we realise. And we’ll continue to develop these networks all our working lives, bringing in people we’ve worked with directly, or indirectly, through our industry and suppliers.

It will also grow through hobbies and pastimes, connecting with people via social media, and even those we meet on holiday!

Hopefully, by now you can see the possibility of all the people you already know who are waiting for you to offer them the chance of helping you; the chance to enjoy the magic of giving!

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Headtrash alert!

Now before we go to the next step and start mapping out your network, we need to deal with some of the headtrash that can begin to develop at this point in the process.

Headtrash is all the negative head chatter that 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 the biggest challenges you will face. 

The reason why I mention the headtrash is because 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 that 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. This 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 (and you might not even have to go to one to execute the strategy), I’m getting put off anyway!
  7. Some other headtrash going that is not written down here, telling me that this is not for me, too hard, something else.

PART TWO: Recognise it’s occurring and identify these thoughts as headtrash.

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 to take stock of what you already have to leverage. We call this a circle of influence, and this is a powerful asset that 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 difficult for yourself, I would strongly advise that you just write down names of people that 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.

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Something to make this task easier…

Before you potentially let your headtrash get in the way of writing down as many names as you possibly can, I just want to let you know about the most simple of 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 it’s not done right, or if 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 were recently 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 on giving.

Have your address book nearby, have LinkedIn and Facebook available. Search for old primary and secondary school groups. Do the research, do the work, do whatever it takes to ensure that 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 in more time as necessary to continue growing your business.

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