Most business people would agree that building relationships and having a good “network” are vital to success in business.  It’s true, but why?

An obvious answer, and the one you’ll hear most often, is sales.  People use their networks to generate sales.  That’s vanilla, and okay as far as it goes, but there’s much more to be gained from a good network than sales.

Networks are sources of resources, and the range of resources is broad:  talent, ideas, capital, equipment, consumables, customers, market intelligence, advice… the list goes on.

And the best way to build your network is by being a great resource for others.

Introduce two people who might be helpful to each other.  Help someone find a new career.  Provide some advice in an area you know a lot about.  What goes around comes around, as they say.

And this is not “selfless” [aghNetworkh, I hate that word].  Being helpful and generous is a response to the best in the people you share the planet with.  There is more than enough to go around, so why not help raise the tide for everyone?  Now, I’m not suggesting you make a sacrifice. [there’s another terribly misunderstood concept – more on that in another post…]  You don’t need to give up your own values to help somebody else achieve theirs.  And no good person would want you to.  It’s simply a matter of understanding that other people doing well is good for you too.  Let’s put an end to Schadenfreude and envy once and for all.

Do you have a Strategic plan for building your network?

If you have an online presence, you probably have a plan for building your online network.  Do you have the same for building your “live” network?  Consider joining networking groups, chambers of commerce, industry groups.  And don’t just attend events; participate.  Join committees, get on the board, add value.  And when you do attend events, don’t be a wallflower; work the room.  I used to hate these things, because I’m not one for small talk.  But as soon as I realized the true benefits, and got over my reluctance to really mingle, I started to enjoy them.  I actually do like meeting new people, and you probably do too.

And here’s a little practical tip.  If you exchange business cards with someone, follow-up the next day with a hand-written card sent by mail (you know, with the mailman).  Just a “nice to meet you” and if its relevant a call to action, offer for assistance, or an invite for a next meeting.  You’ll make an impression.

How about your online network?

If you don’t already have a plan for building your online network, you should.  I am no expert in this field, but there are loads of very generous ones already.  Here’s two great sources for advice, tips, and tactics for creating and growing an online network that’s relevant to you:

BlogTyrant  Ramsay has seemingly endless experience with social media.  This post is a gem.

James Blute  Some great advice on Twitter, here.

Some view networking, online of off, as a necessary evil.  They’d rather just do their thing.  I’ve found that learning what others are doing, and helping where I can, is endlessly fascinating, and is vital in helping me to do my thing.