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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Networking is not a one sided activity

What do you mean you want my help, knowing me should be enough

Some new and established networkers may have missed the office memo: “Networking is far more than asking for help.”   Networking is meeting others followed by establishing a relationship.  This requires more than a 5-minute intro in a bar.  Often it means meeting with people again and getting to know them better.  In addition to getting to know the people, you should learn their skills, likes and dislikes because that is part of the person.  This takes time and you can expect these people to want to know you as well.

It is a very odd email to receive when someone sends a note after a brief intro and they ask for intros to people that may invest in a company.  A brief intro to a person does not allow one to develop a sense of the right type of people that may help the requesting party.  Secondly, the personality of the person making the request may not be a fit with those were a referral is made.  Finally, some people never adequately describe their company in a brief meeting.  This does not allow for identification of the correct people that may be helpful.

It is equally odd to receive an email from people you have never met where they request help in finding investors for a company.  This happens rather often.  It is even more surprising when the person requesting introductions wants the help with nothing to offer back.  One interpretation of this type of behavior is “please help me get rich while you watch.  That should be satisfaction enough.”

Stranger still are the networkers that may have a great idea but fail to describe it.  Telling someone you just got a patent is wonderful, but that is not adequate.  Perhaps 1 in 5,000-10,000 patents are actually of significant value.  Often the people seem do not understand what having a patent means.  A patent gives one the right to block people from selling your product.  It does not give you the right to sell your product.  A lot of other work is required to understand whether you have a freedom to operate!  Some of the patent holders cannot even elaborate what their patent protects.  This sounds bad and it is.  You need to know what your intellectual property covers!

Meeting someone you wish to develop relations with requires your intentions to reciprocate; i.e. when you get a call, you will help them!  Perhaps you know people that are one-sided and always come with a handful of “give me.”  They may even be the ones with alligator arms when it comes to picking up a check after lunch: i.e. their arms seemed to get so short they can reach the bill.  No matter how often you go out with the person, they never pay the tab.  Guess they expect their company is good enough.

Networking means establishing a relationship.  You want my A-list of contact; you have to earn my trust.  Asking for help means, you may have to help me in the future and I have to trust you.  I have to understand why you need help and what you are trying to accomplish.  Can you imagine calling someone to make an introduction and not be able to provide any info what so ever?  I may lose credibility with my contacts or worse, introduce them to a person they will regret meeting.

Think of networking in the correct manner.  Developing a solid network is critical to your future.  People in your network are people you would help if they call you and available if you need help.  You are not to abuse your privilege and should be appreciative of what help you receive.  If you never get a request for help, that is fine.  However, you should never approach the relationship with only yourself in mind.  That makes it one-sided and doomed in the long term.

Taffy Williams is on Twitter by @twilli2861.  Email questions to twilli2861@aol.com. More is available via his company website ,  photo website, or “LIKE” ColonialTDC on Facebook.  You can also find him in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. Other articles are in the Charlotte, NC- small business section of Examiner.com.

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