I’m sure you have heard the catchphrase, “No man is an island,” but have you ever wondered what it means or where it came from? It came from John Donne and few people know the context from which this came to be written.
"Donne was Dean of St. Paul’s and in his last years of life, he became seriously ill. As he lay in bed, he heard the bells tolling for funerals of people he had known. He believed that he was soon to die and the bells made him aware of the interdependence of men and women in the life of mankind as a while. He ended up writing the Devotions which outlined his thoughts and emotions during his illness. Essentially, he said, “We are important as members of the human race; our very existence makes its own contribution to mankind and however insignificant and useless we may feel, we matter to each other.” *
This has a lot of meaning for me in life and business. This caused me to think about how important it is for us to build networks in life and business. I notice when I get busy that I tend to isolate myself. I focus on what I need to get done and I lose sight of the importance of interacting with others.
This year, one of my goals is to build a more powerful network. The concept of building networks is not new to me. I learned the concept of networks of help for the first time when I studied for four years with the Aji Network. They taught a 12-part strategy for business building and one of the parts was building powerful networks of help.
Here are the concepts we learned:
- Powerful networks of help are essential for learning and producing identity as part of a dignified member of the business community.
- Professional groups that meet are a professional’s network of help.
- Professionals invent their present and future with the group.
- Professionals design standard practices to take care of breakdowns and open their future.
- Professionals train themselves to be of value to others.
- It is important to develop personal dignity which people call character.
- It is important to take care of other people’s dignity. Don’t gossip. Have compassion and patience.
- Offer coaching only in areas in which you are an expert or at least competent to understand the concerns, breakdowns, and risks at stake.
- Take your own as well as other people’s human and business concerns seriously. Always.
The reason I provide this context is that building a network of help is different than networking. This is why I didn’t use networking in the title of this blog. I wanted to provide space to think differently about networks and why they are important.
When we realize that building a network of help is important for our success and that it is altruistic - in that is important for other’s success as well as our own - it makes it more meaningful when we do participate in an event or situation to build our network.
When you think about building a network instead of networking, what should you consider or ask? Here are some questions to ponder:
- Where can you offer the most value?
- What are your goals? Personal and professional.
- What are your concerns? Challenges?
- How much time will you invest in building your network?
- What groups would be relevant? Where you can offer and receive help?
- What events would be relevant? Where you can offer and receive help?
Once you have identified what is important and the types of groups|events that are relevant then you can begin to create a strategy (a plan of action) to consistently build your network.
Let’s use me as an example. I have a goal this year to build a more powerful network - both in real estate and with other female business owners. The first thing I did was look at my current network and assess where I had relationships that I had taken for granted or where I could reconnect. When I did this, I discovered at least 5-10 people that I could approach to begin to re-engage. What did I do? I reached out and scheduled lunch. When we had lunch, I asked them what I could do to help them? Then we scheduled lunch once per month.
Next, I identified two networking events that I wanted to attend this year. Not for the sake of attending but for the sake of building my network. Building a network is more than just attending an event or lunch. It means taking action over time to build the relationship. This is an important distinction because it requires more investment.
The first event I attended was called a Wonder Woman Dinner. I was attracted to this event for the following reasons:
- Limited to 20 executive level females;
- Family style dinner hosted by a female executive leader in Austin (where I live);
- Cross-generational attendance - age range from 24-65 at this dinner;
- Chef prepared with organic foods and wine;
- The discussion focused on who you are versus what you do
I will tell you that I was very nervous about attending this event. I knew that I wanted a more intimate setting to get to know people but it was still a little intimidating. I showed up to the dinner and we spent about thirty minutes chatting before we sat down to eat. It was interesting because they had us in a very tight space which was uncomfortable but required interaction. It wasn’t possible to hide.
My strategy going into the dinner was to meet everyone, identify three people that I would reach out to after to try to build a relationship and to get the list of attendees and connect with them on LinkedIn. Actually, this is probably the most important element of the strategy. When the dinner was over and I woke up the next day I did not want to do the follow-up work. I reminded myself of my goal and that attending a dinner did not a network make. I started with identifying the three woman I thought I could connect with the most and reached out to them via LinkedIn. I asked them if they were interested in coffee|lunch. I set up three coffee appointments from the dinner. Also, I found every attendee and connected with them via LinkedIn.
The coffee appointments are this week and I am already nervous and my brain is telling me I am too busy. What I am trying to say is that it isn’t as easy as it looks. I also know that it is totally worth it.
The next event I identified was a female only real estate conference. I have been attending this conference for over a decade and it has been one of the primary sources of my success. I have met many successful women in my industry and we have helped each other for years. This is how I know building networks is not only important to our success but it is important in our personal fulfillment. I have experienced many difficult situations in the last few years and I knew I could call on any of these women if I needed help. Not only that, they supported me, grieved with me and cheered me on.
The point? Building a network is not about getting to know a lot of people so they can refer business to you. It is about meeting and helping people so they trust you and want to help you succeed and you trust them and want to help them succeed.
There are five steps you should keep in mind to successfully build your network:
Step 1: Determine which events|groups are important and relevant to your goals. One way to do this is to remind yourself why you are attending an event. If you are recruiting, then the purpose might be to build relationships with your local real estate community—to be in front of as many people in real estate as often as possible so you can build relationships over time.
Step 2: Put these dates on your calendar. Block time each week to ensure you have at least one powerful opportunity to build your network that fulfills your purpose. Remember, the rule of thumb is to participate in one activity to build your network per week.
Step 3: Prepare for the event. This is where many people fail. They don’t prepare in advance for strategically meeting people. Preparation can include things such as who might be at the event, what is the demographic, are there specific individuals you would like to meet, what conversations might occur based on the type of event. If you are building your recruiting network, it could include determining how many people you need to add to your recruiting database to potentially get at least 1 appointment. If you know in advance how many contacts you need to make to get one appointment, you can then determine if the event was a success or not in terms of potential ROI.
Additionally, this helps you begin to see what events|groups are better than others. If you are going to spend time, energy and resources you want to spend them in the most productive way possible. One important area of preparation is to plan ahead for what you might say when someone asks you, “How is the market?” This is a standard question people ask when they find out you are in real estate. Another question they ask if you are with other real estate people is, “How is your business?” I recommend you become familiar with answering these two questions, as your response can both impress and help further the conversation, or lead to a dead end and stop the conversation.
Step 4: Attend the event. The objective is to meet a few key people AND continue the relationship in some manner. Remember, the purpose is to build the relationship and by connecting. You can do this first via LinkedIn or Facebook and then ask for coffee|lunch.
In each conversation, focus on asking open-ended questions. The purpose of open-ended questions is to determine what you can offer them in order to stay in touch and further the conversation. The more you demonstrate what a good listener you are, the more people will engage with you.
Step 5: Follow-up after the event. Like any successful lead generation program or strategy, follow up after an event is typically the deciding factor in determining how successful you might be. After the event there are 3 important things we recommend you do:
- Enter contact information into your CRM. Schedule a follow-up campaign. This includes anything that you might have told someone you would offer. For example, if you told them you would give them a business plan, make sure you send it. Or if you told them you would send your contact information, this is the perfect opportunity to send a handwritten note with your card. Or email and invite them to a training event.
- Connect via social media. This is an easy way to build a long-term relationship. Find them on LinkedIn and|or Facebook.
- Ask for the next engagement. Ask them to meet you for coffee|lunch.
When you adopt the philosophy that “No Man Is An Island,” you will begin to look at each situation as an opportunity to build a network for the sake of achieving your good life and helping others achieve their good life. In this way, it is a selfishly altruistic practice. What I have learned is that my life is so much more fulfilling the more I participate with people and look to creating the future with them.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to answer the questions in this blog and think about how you will build your network this year. If you would like my help to create a plan to build your network, please schedule a free 30-minute session with me at https://calendly.com/talentattractionexperts.