Direct interactions, purposeful relationships and trusted partnerships are important to the foundation of a successful business venture. As I shared in a recent blog post, 8 Actionable Tips for Entrepreneurs, your network is a valuable asset for developing and sourcing ideas. My network has also been a significant resource for getting validation and seeking support as I continue to grow my businesses.
However, for those of us in executive positions, with full schedules that leave little room for anything else, networking can be a challenge.
That’s why a targeted approach to find individuals who will propel your career trajectory is important. Here are five things I’ve done to make my executive network more valuable and you can too:
1. Have a Distinctive Purpose
The best way to build your network and ensure you have valuable people in your inner circle is to have a clear, distinctive purpose. Your purpose is your career identity—or higher-level goal—and it will give you a clear vision of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Having this distinctive purpose helps you stand out and makes you more attractive to potential network prospects. Adding people to your circle who truly buy in to what you’re doing from the beginning is a very valuable asset.
2. Visibility is Important
For anyone looking to build his or her network, visibility is important. Establish an active digital presence, whether that’s on LinkedIn, as an author on credible publications in your industry, or as a voice within your community. This visibility can be used to advertise your purpose to others who could potentially provide value to your network.
Some executives have a natural passion for it while others view visibility as self-serving and inauthentic. At the end of the day, visibility improves your reach, leads to more business opportunities and ultimately increases your profitability.
3. Be Smart About Your Game Plan
Time is money for executives, so it’s important to form a strategic approach for networking from the beginning. Make a list of 10 executives that would bring the most value to your network and focus on building a deep relationship with each one. These could even be people that are already within your network, who you’ve had minimal contact with so far.
Identify common interests and goals through research before making a new connection or re-introducing yourself. This ensures that when you take the time to do this outreach, it’s logical, impactful and authentic.
4. Be Persistent
Forming profitable partnerships through targeted networking requires time and persistence. Be proactive about setting meetings with executives and work to stay connected. It’s not enough to assume that one or two short meetings with someone is enough to get them to invest in your business venture, for example.
Instead, focus on developing the relationship over the period of a few months before asking for tangible resources or help. What’s more, always provide your services or value first—being selfish has no place in effective networking strategies.
5. Make Face-to-Face Time
I recently came across a Hubspot article that said 95 percent of business professionals surveyed believe face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships. This is a great reminder that while digital networking is important and valuable, it will never take the place of meeting people to make a personal and lasting connection.
Even now, as a business owner, my brother, Michael and I believe that we must be present in the flesh for employees and managers who run our offices overseas. We do video conferences daily, but nothing ever replaces the face-to-face time with our organization’s leaders. I hold this to be true with my entire network, as well.
Ultimately, networking will be most profitable for you when you master this targeted approach. Surround yourself with the people that can help you reach specific business goals, commit to your purpose, and focus on how each person in your network can be of value, as a mentor, investor, and more.
Ted W. Rollins, Co-Chairman and Founding Principal of Valeo Groupe, is a seasoned real estate entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience in real estate investment banking, development, structured finance, start-up businesses and construction. He is focused on niche opportunity investing in both real estate and financial service sectors, particularly those that balance economic, environmental and social outcomes. Connect with Ted on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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