The New Networking: It’s About That Money, Honey

OK before the moral police come for me, calm down. It’s not what you think. Or maybe it is, just a little.

If you want to be successful in networking, you have to stop being afraid to talk about making money as it relates to networking. Sure, money is not the end all be all, and there is more to life than money. Real relationships have true value, and so does doing good for others. But the indisputable fact of life is money does make the world go ’round. And people with genuine networks, with real people who are serious about growth and success want to make money and help others make money too. So why can’t we include money and business talk in networking?

I’ve been networking for years and I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the same sorry soundbites. Provide value. Give first before you receive. Never think about WIIFM (what’s in it for me). And so on. Yeah those are all dictates of networking 101. The problem is if you’re not strategically networking with the right people, you could find your self broke as a joke. But at least you’ll know a bunch of really cool people. Here’s the thing though. Knowing a lot of really cool people is useless if they can’t or won’t help you. Yeah, I said it, because it’s true. Look, I’m not advocating you build your network with dollar signs in your eyes. But you can’t stay stuck in relationships that don’t give back to you, ever.

I have a wonderful network of high achievers who know how to get shit done. They are successful and very strategic about who and what they invest their time in. They are rightfully discerning. If you look at their own circles, it’s made up of powerful people who make power moves. And they know how to leverage the relationships for mutual benefit. You can’t just let anyone into that kind of circle.

I have a small circle of mentors who just kick butt. They are all at higher levels of their businesses and careers (no to mention their investment game is tight) than I am. And I look to them as role models and for advice as I build my own empire. They know what my goals are and invest their time and energy into helping me succeed. Helping me isn’t their only goal of course.  But I’m grateful to them. And believe it or not, I even contribute back to them in my own ways. I would never want those relationships to be one-sided.

Then I have that much smaller circle of people I consider friends. Though each of these circles range in status, interest and success, I find them all equally valuable for different reasons. They call me on my stuff, dare me to step out of my comfort zone. Wait, scratch that. Some of them push me kicking and screaming out of my comfort zone! But these are people that whether rich or poor, support me for me…Adrienne Graham the person…and I’d do whatever for them too. My networks, mentors and friends are carefully cultivated.

So are you an opportunist?

We should all be slightly opportunistic, in a good way. If you do it right, you can end up with healthy, strategic relationships that keep giving to both parties. A conversation with a good friend of mine really confirmed this for me. None of my core values and beliefs about networking have changed. But she gave me a different perspective to consider if I truly want to grow an empire. She said her proclamation for this year was that if it don’t make or leads to her making money, she ain’t doing it. As the words came out of her mouth I felt a jolt in my heart. She said out loud what I had been thinking for a long time now. I just never said it out loud because I didn’t feel the need to justify it, and I still don’t. But it did make me stop and think about how I could help others reinvent (or at least jump start) networking to make it truly fulfilling and beneficial. And make sense as well as dollars. As my friend put it, I want us all to grow and make money and you can’t do that if you’re always the one giving and never receiving. And you certainly can’t do that if you never ask or you surround yourself with takers.

I’ve talked about fearless networking, and even how to strategically align yourself with ideal people. No, not play the come up guy or gal, but really position yourself to network from a place of leverage. And what my friend said is really at the core of power networking. Listen, I have friends. And a lot of people confuse friendship and networking. Yes one can lead to the other, but they are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of people I’d love to get to know on a personal level. But for growing my business, I need to be around movers and shakers who can make things happen and who don’t mind helping others realize their goals too. But that comes at a price I’m willing to pay. You see, there are people out there who want to be the come up guy or gal. They want to swing from one networking branch to the next until they’ve used up favors and  have gotten what they want, without having to put in much on their end. Networking is a two-way street and it isn’t about making friends or giving away lots of yourself like some would have you believe. I’m talking about building something long term.

This ain’t your momma’s networking

I’m going to share with you a very unpopular fact about networking. It isn’t about making nice. Nice doesn’t pay the bills. It’s about building relationships, but relationships that lead somewhere. I’ve grown past the point of making relationships that are idle. We both have to be able to do something for one another and bring something extraordinary to the table. It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the same time. Building social or business capital take time. I don’t expect to meet someone today and ask them for a favor tomorrow. But I do expect that at some point we should be able to help one another and neither of us get offended at the other for asking. If I just wanted to gather a bunch of people, I’d take a class or join a social club. Just because you sit in a class together and you go through the same experiences together, doesn’t mean you’ve built a real relationship.

Part of power relationships is leveraging what you have (influence, relationships with others, insight, etc) and being able to draw on that to help other people. In return, the person should be leveraging what they have to help you too. Case in point, I can like you, respect you, admire your success. If you come to me and ask me to promote your new book to my community, network or audience, my audience is getting exposure to you. You have the potential to make sales to an audience you previously didn’t have access to. To say I had you on my show, or have me praise your work in my social media gives me no direct, immediate benefit. It’s a feel good moment, but it’s of no benefit to me. That’s how a lot of these “networking relationships” end up working out, very one-sided. You can go out of your way to help the next person, but then they move on, never offering to extend the same courtesy. The experts will tell you it’s the cost of doing business and that in the long run, because you’re so nice, it’ll come back to you. But that’s not always the case.

I hate to burst your bubble, but there are people who have no intention of reciprocating. So it’s important that you get  clear understanding up front that if you help them, they have to know that at some point you’re going to need their help. That’s where some of you have a problem. Because you’ve been told that it’s bad form to ask for or expect something in return. If you expect to grow a network, you don’t ask. Well I don’t ask any more. I require. If someone wants me to help them, I have to know their track record (how they’ve treated previous networking relationships) before I consider helping. If I see a pattern of one sided arrangements, I’m not dealing with a person.

So how can you avoid uneven networking?

Well that’s simple. Know what your intentions are. Why are you approaching this person? Do they have an audience you’re trying to reach? Can they connect you to someone very important for your business? Can they give you exposure? There’s nothing wrong with needing any of these things. But what are your intentions for the long-term with this person? Are you only going to turn to them when you need something? That well runs dry really fast. Or will you make yourself available to help them in their time of need?

Understand the other person’s intentions. Many times we get caught up in one-sided networking. we listen to the so-called experts who tell us that networking only works when we give and give, but never ask for anything in return. So we give and give, and we put ourselves out there. And we offer to help everyone else. But when it comes time to ask for help, we flake out because we don’t want to seem like a pest.  Or the flip side scenario is the other person comes up with excuses why they can’t help (I’m over committed; I have a lot on my plate; I’ll take a look and get back to you). I know you’ve encountered one or more of these excuses. I know I have. And it’s not cute to see that you’ve been used, but can never collect. So before you offer or agree to help, find out what the person’s angle is and if they’re offering anything that can be win-win for both of you, or is willing to reciprocate for you in your time of need. If not, keep it moving.

Finally, just be clear up front. I know this may sound a bit brash, but in order to ensure you have a mutually beneficial networking relationship, everyone has to be on the same page and come to the table with assets. When I say assets I don’t mean money or things. I mean contacts, resources and opportunities. They can be long term or future assets, but as long as they are willing to extend you the same courtesy and can deliver, there’s no reason you shouldn’t help them out.

So how will you change the way you network? Join the conversation by leaving your comments below.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham
I only build power networks so we all win

 

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Adrienne Graham is the Founder & CEO of Empower Me! Corporation (www.empowerme.org), a Growth Strategies consultancy with brand extensions in media, publishing and small business & entrepreneurial education. She provides Strategic Business Growth consulting services to companies with high growth potential to assist clients in creating processes and strategies to effectively run, grow and position their business for success. Check out her weekly radio show Views From the Top. Adrienne is also an avid techie dedicated to promoting diversity in the tech community. Her company The Red Shoe Agency helps companies recruit & retain talented women in technology & engineering, and helps talented women in technology & engineering grow their careers. She is also a Mentor for the Straight Shot Accelerator in Omaha, NE, which helps guide startups to successfully launched ventures.

 

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