Every December, our team helps organize a dinner in New York City for 100 CIOs, CTOs and heads of banks, hosted by the former CTO of Credit Suisse First Boston. It’s a veritable who’s who of Wall Street and tech, but what I find most interesting in the room is the warmth and benevolence inherent in the network.
Many of the dinner attendees have known each other for decades, and you see genuine joy as they catch up on family, life and work. Because the event has been going on for 16 years, we can also see how the network has benefited people through career, board and partnership opportunities.
Which got me thinking: The standard definition of net worth is all your assets minus any liabilities. But in truth, it’s so much more than financial.
The secret to building net worth that matters lives in your network: It’s a living, breathing and growing thing, so long as you continue to invest into its care and feeding. The people you know, both on a personal and professional level – and these “lines” can and should overlap – are a part of your own value as much as they are a part of who you are.
Network as net worth is true on a personal level, but your business value is also largely derived from the collective network. It’s important to make regular investments to nurture and grow it. Attending conferences is important in our business, but so is keeping connections alive on a more personal, 1:1 basis. Social media and marketing automation certainly make “staying in touch” easier, but there is no substitute for a personal touch, scheduling coffee or drinks, picking up the phone, and cultivating authentic connection over time.
Regular deposits into your network are important. I’m a believer in paying it forward and generally building good karma in the universe. Helping connect people, investing time with students exploring future careers, assisting people who are looking for career changes or mentors, and introducing quality people to quality people without expecting anything in return is all part of making those deposits.
Connecting your network is akin to strengthening it. Don’t ever be afraid of “giving away” connections; they come back to you tenfold.
Putting the Power of the Network to Work
The power of connections goes both ways, and it is strong. We’ve been in business more than 20 years as an agency, and over that time the network has flourished because each of us has grown and tended to it. It’s a network built of past and present clients, partners all around the world, marketing leaders and CMOs, technologists, venture capitalists, journalists, analysts, family, friends and the Wall Street connections mentioned above. This ever-expanding network translates into some pretty deep value for our clients, as we bring more than our services and expertise to client engagements: we also bring an ecosystem of CIO, CMO and other influencers with us.
We’re always connecting people for new business opportunities, investments, jobs, advisory boards, partners, quality services, global partnerships and more. I’m never happier than when these connections pay off in ways big or small, and often they may not benefit us directly, except in terms of tapping and growing our network and, of course, the joy and purpose that comes from helping others.
And we find other ways to nurture and grow our network. For example, we proactively identify people or businesses we admire, and we ask for coffees without expectation of anything in return. And almost 100% of the time we get a yes in return. This is how I’ve developed most of my outside mentors throughout my career, simply by asking for a few minutes of time. And we coach our team to do the same, providing dedicated training on networking strategies, and encouraging them to spend time building their networks both online and offline, getting outside of the office for some in-person networking, too.
After all, a network is made up of people. And people, by our very nature, want to know and learn from other people. Each December, when the New York City dinner is over, I find myself with at least 10 new business cards or LinkedIn requests from people I’ve met. I start to plan the New Year out by thinking about how I’ll stay in touch with each one of them, and what value I can bring their way to make our connection even stronger, without expectation in return.
Robin Bulanti has spent the past 19 years working closely with high tech clients on communications strategy, corporate positioning and building executive brands. As president, she also oversees the agency’s new business, professional development and services. Contact Robin here.
Offleash builds brands and fuels growth for B2B technology companies by providing big agency services within a high-touch boutique model.