If you’ve read any business book, watched any investor network, or read the Business Journal lately, you’ve been exposed to at least one article or report explaining to you how important networking is. And, it is — very important.
The problem, however is that the majority of professionals who attempt to network have the general idea in mind that “the more touches I make, the more my business will grow.”
This is very, very wrong.
I know, I’m blaspheming the revered book of business protocol, but trust me, I will explain to you why networking with just anyone is a bad idea.
Starting With The Stats
For all of you data-crunching gurus out there, let’s start with some statistics.
Right now, there are an estimated 7.53 billion people on the planet. If you tried to network each one of them in the time span of one year, you’d have to talk with over 20.6 million people every day.
But, who’s going to do that — right?
OK, let’s be realistic here and say that out of the 20.6 million people you’d have to talk to everyday, we’re going to trim that down to the number of individuals on the planet that you’d have to speak with in a year that may actually would fall into the same general industry of your chosen customer. Let’s say 6.18 million people or only 30% of the previous amount.
That’s easier, right?
Yeah — no. Not really. But, of course, you just thought that and called me an idiot under your breath. Who has time to connect with that many people? How are you ever going to network to your full potential?
Well, I guess that’s defined by how you think about what you define as your “potential”.
The Real Goal of Networking
The real, honest-to-goodness goal of networking is to surround yourself with like-minded professionals who can support, uplift and edify your professional journey.
But, let’s take the key words out of that sentence and highlight them here: like-minded professionals. Let me tell you a story about what happens when you try to network with just anyone and the effects of not taking this key factor into consideration.
Let’s got back several years to when I had just set out as a consultant. I’ve finally secured my first, consistent client and met regularly with them on a weekly basis.
They were phenomenal and had a heart of gold — eager to learn and ready to rock their business. I couldn’t wait for them to introduce me to someone in their network that they said needed my help.
Enter “Charles” — or so we’ll call him for now — at a bar with a well drink in his hand. I was not only stoked to meet Charles, as I was briefed before hand on what his needs were, but I was also super excited to see another potential client in action that night as he took the center ring for a belt title.
I was invited to a happy hour to meet with Charles, prior to the event beginning, and sat down next to him at the bar. He was young — really young — and had made millions off of a branding idea that he sold when he was only 16 years old.
Wealth and fame had found him early — but to his detriment.
Charles was in a bind. He politely told me that he had no idea how to grow his business or market his new program for aspiring home renovators and needed assistance building a branding concept and deliver-ability system.
He was my “perfect customer” — someone who fit the exact idea of who would be my best client. He had the money to do what he needed to, had a great idea, the market was fresh and he was ready to rock.
But here’s where things got interesting.
Contracts signed, proposals accepted, it’s my first week working at Charles’ office, and things are starting to go down hill — fast.
Week one: I’m conducting an on-boarding evaluation and his cell phone rings. It’s his wife. After the fourth ring I suggest that he may want to answer it, and he does. At the top of his lungs, he screamed into the phone, “What the *&$% do you want!!?? I told you not to call me when I was in the middle of a *&$#ing meeting!!”
My jaw drops.
The polite Charles I had met with at the bar with had suddenly turned into a demoniac.
After picking my jaw up off the floor, I decided to try to pretend that didn’t happen and continue our conversation. After all, not everyone’s marriage is perfect — right?
To make a long story short, this was only the beginning of weeks of irate behavior that turned into temper tantrums, verbal abuse and meltdowns on a scale that I had, and probably will never again, seen in my lifetime.
Not only that, but the personality changes were off the charts. One moment he wanted me to take him out for a drink and talk him off a ledge, the other he was cussing someone out for missing a suggested deadline to have paperwork done.
This man wreaked havoc on relationships, had no idea how to cope with circumstances and was a complete wreck. He truly was a troubled soul.
So, why am I telling you this?
In my other article, I mentioned the point of being aware of the kind of legacy you will leave as an entrepreneur. The same applies to your network and who you affiliate yourself with.
There is a cost for networking with just anyone. Charles’ legacy was that he made money and was on the road, once again, to stardom; however, he left piles of bodies as he went consisting of former relationships that helped him get to where he wanted to go.
As soon as I could end my contract with him, I did, and never met with him again.
Today, in passing among networking circles, I hear Charles’ name mentioned often— and not in a positive way. He’s been booted out of country clubs, celebrity level circles and the people that associate with him simply “put up with him” to get what they want.
How very, very sad.
Why Networking With Just Anyone Is A Bad Idea
You can network with just anyone, but heed my warning. Remember that every day you practice what you do as a professional, represents the next chapter in the legacy you will leave for others to follow.
The type of network that Charles had was the kind that will leave you hanging high and dry the minute they don’t need you anymore. Not only that, but in a real, professional environment, you would be pegged as a networking ambulance chaser, no one would trust you and you’d personify the negativity of Charles himself — simply by association.
Being selective about who you build relationships with shows others that:
- You have integrity. Real business is done with people who respect you because you are strong, confident and genuine. Don’t be deceived into thinking that bending to the will of others will make you more likable.
- You have boundaries. What a crazy idea — boundaries. This means that you’re not willing to work with people who cross boundaries, burn bridges or sacrifice the common good for their personal gain. Distancing yourself from dysfunction personifies key point number one above.
- You mean business. When you choose who you associate with — you want to get down to business and build lasting relationships. Why? Because you don’t spend time with wishy-washy people who are unsure of themselves and their goals.
- You are protective of your network. Like any good mother or father would shield their children from negative or chaotic circumstances, you also feel the same way about your connections. You are protective of your network and that shows them that you value their relationship, time and business. They know they can trust you to deliver and defend.
As my mother used to say to me as a child, “You are your environment.” Remember that who you surround yourself with will define who you become. Yes, you can decide to network with just anyone, but be cautious as to who you allow into your inner circle. They will either make or break your success.
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