I quit my day job about two years ago to launch this business. I knew that “networking” was going to be part of the growth strategy, but I had never really done it before. I didn’t have to (or so I thought).
This is a short story about how networking changed my life.
Stage I: Networking for Selfish Reasons
When I first started networking, to get the word out about Keyhubs, I focused on reaching high-potential targets. Senior executives and business leaders that I knew from a past life. Much to my dismay, these connections did not lead to business as quickly as I hoped (if at all). This forced me to start connecting with people I didn’t know. I started going to networking events, meeting anyone and everyone to spread the “good news” about my service offering.
In hindsight, I think I went about this networking in a sub-optimal way, focusing efforts on my solution and what others could do for me. Despite my imperfect approach, I started to get some traction. Perhaps the product itself made up for my lack of networking skills.
Stage II: Networking Because the Network is Unfathomable
After closing a few deals and reflecting on how I landed them, I was amazed by the intricate and unpredictable pathways that led to those opportunities. People would refer me to a person who would connect me to another individual, who knew someone, who knew someone else, who could benefit from our services.
In one instance, Vineet connected me to Seth who connected me to Aaron who connected me to Matt who became one of our biggest customers. Could I have found Matt on my own? Would he have paid attention had I not been introduced by a trusted associate? Since each person in the chain had (professional and / or personal) relationships with one another, it allowed for super-fluid referrals across the Network. If any one of those links were absent, there would be no deal.
That is one of many examples that led to a shift in my thinking around Networking. If these folks had not taken the initiative to connect me to others, out of the goodness in their hearts, many of my business transactions simply would not have happened.
The combination of kindness with relationship connectivity made way for prosperity and progress. New opportunities emerged, which I could not have orchestrated on my own.
Stage III: Networking For Good
Eventually it dawned on me – if I am landing deals by virtue of other people’s initiative and goodwill, then I have an obligation to give back. Not only that, some of the most successful people I met through my networking adventures were people who gave freely and generously.
While I’m a relative newbie at this, I think the master networkers out there would agree: The informal human Network is far more potent than we can possibly imagine, especially if we begin to use it in a way that helps others.
The Network is intelligent and responds to how we approach it. It serves as a limitless web of karmic threads – etched in its fabric is an undeniable and timeless truth: what you give is what you get.
This realization has made the networking process much more rewarding. Now, I connect with people because I want to get to know them. I want to find ways to help them first. If something comes out of it for me fine, but if not, that is OK, because the Network will reward me in its own unpredictable and mysterious way. My duty is to give, without expecting anything in return.
What started out as a casual business strategy, turned into a vital life strategy. Through networking I discovered a magical and unfathomable Force for good.
Whether you are looking for a new job, seeking VC funds for your next venture or trying to grow your business big or small, think about the stages of effective networking and ask yourself where you want to be. Whether you are shaking hands or sharing drinks, think about how you are using the almighty Network.
Vikas Narula (@NarulaTweets) is Creator and Co-Founder of Keyhubs (@Keyhubs) – a software and services company specializing in workplace social analytics. He is also Founder of Neighborhood Forest – a social venture dedicated to giving free trees to kids every Earth Day.
Image courtesy of Marcel Salathé – creator of a graph applet that maps the anatomy of websites: http://www.aharef.info/static/htmlgraph/?url=https://keyhubs.com