“Your Network Is Your $ Net Worth”

Canada Leadership

In my last job in the music industry, with PolyGram Canada, I created the acronym TN2T. This acronym stands for teamwork, networking, negotiating, and time management. I felt at the time that this quartet of essential skills in combination, like dynamite, constituted a powerful combination of life skills. I believed that if developed and activated in a variety of ways, they would give our company an edge. Not so surprisingly, when I started my own business a few years later, my official company name was and still is TN2T Management Limited.

With respect to networking, I came up with the adage “your network is your $ net worth.”

The purpose of this post is twofold. The first is to share my own experience with networking and why I believe this adage holds true. The second is to learn how to network without hating the process, as so many people do.

Whatever success I have enjoyed in my various careers, I can say that in most cases I got the job by way of an introduction to the final decision maker. This was true of my introduction to the music business, the food business, as well as the construction industry. I knew somebody who knew somebody who I needed to meet—the person who would ultimately hire me. It is a little crazy as an example, but let us say that you had a strong reason to meet the pope. Approaching the pope directly would be impossible, but if I approached the parish priest and in turn the bishop and then the cardinal, I might stand a chance. The saying “It’s not what you know but who you know” takes on real meaning when it comes to networking.

On the negative side of the equation, let me mention a networking opportunity that I failed to take advantage of, back when I was looking to leave a job. An opportunity came about from a friend of mine who I had been instrumental in getting onto our board when I was in the food business. This gentleman, Doug Smolen, became the president of YPO (Young Presidents' Organization) in South Africa and subsequently became YPO President worldwide. He first encouraged me to join YPO when we were living in South Africa. Then, when I was in Brazil, he again suggested I should join. On both occasions, I did not act on his kind, reciprocal invitation, claiming to be too busy. If anything, there may have been a little complacency on my part.

Many years later, on a flight from Paris to Toronto, I was engaged in a particularly friendly conversation with a fellow passenger who, it turned out, was a member of YPO. As we chatted more, I warmed to the idea of finally joining YPO. He asked me how old I was, and when I told him that I was 41, he said ruefully, “Ah, that’s a pity, you have to be under 40!”

Let’s now take a closer look at how to make networking work for us. Many, including me, do not enjoy networking and therefore fail to act when opportunities present themselves. The common excuse is that we are too busy, overly secure in the job we have, or blasé and negative about the whole networking process. We look at networking as something a little sleezy, something others must do, but not us!

So, here is my advice, based on my own experience networking:

  1. Do not be too busy to nourish and build your network. You never know when you are going to need the help of a friend or your network.
  2. Like all meaningful relationships, building relationships through networking takes time, so do not expect instant results.
  3. If you are at a networking event, do not rush around handing out your business card to anyone who will listen to your story. It’s not about you: start by being curious about others and taking time to build trust. The biggest breaker of trust is being self-oriented.
  4. Go with an attitude that you will look for opportunities to help others. Or, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “If you want more, give more!”
  5. Lastly, make sure you express appreciation for the people who have helped you along the way.

In closing, on this Valentine’s Day, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the patience, kindness, and help shown to me over my lifetime in so many ways by my network of business colleagues, clients, and friends.