Kissing Frogs & Network Potential

I’ve had a few meetings recently where I’ve been asked to make introductions to other people or organisation which I’m generally very happy to do. If I’m able to make a useful introduction then it reflects well on me/100%Open which has significant value down the line. However I was interested to observe that a few people asking me to make introductions appeared to be expecting me to ask for something in return which I think is curious and has prompted this post.

Our network is one of three core assets that 100%Open currently has (the others being our know-how based on over 4 years worth of experience of designing and running open innovation programmes, and also related to that the brand). However I wouldn’t dream of trying to make money out of the network directly for the following reason. For every 10 introductions we make, only 1 will lead to real new business for somebody. Therefore if we try to tax those introductions by charging a fee through some mechanism there will be one happy customer and 9 unhappy customers. It just doesn’t make sense to me if you want to create value over the long term.

 You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince they say. I guess we could present ourselves as ‘kissing frogs so you don’t have to’ but that also doesn’t sound too appealing to me either. My networks give me information, joy, influence, ideas, exposure, motivation, analysis and many other wonderful and intangible things, but the network doesn’t pay the rent, at least not directly.

“‘Networking’ is only one letter away from ‘Not working'” Chris Powell

“‘Networking’ is only one letter away from ‘Not working'” as Chris Powell is fond of saying but this blurring between work and play should not be underestimated. It is because (social) networking is (or ought to be) enjoyable that makes it so valuable. People only work with people they like, and regardless of all the process and criteria you want to put in place, if the relationship isn’t there, and some kind of human connection isn’t there, then you arn’t going to win business. I used to find this deeply frustrating as I guess I expected the world to come to me and discover my hitherto unnoticed genius (unnoticed to me also I might add) but I now realise that this is cowardly and dangerously wrong. Give me bumbling honesty over slick presentation any day of the week – at least then you can have a conversation, and who knows where that might lead.

“Don’t just be a leader. They’re for yesterday’s bureaucracies. Be a steward, a shepherd, and a builder. Of tomorrow’s institutions.” Umair Haque

I appreciate that my musings here are rather specific to me and 100%Open but all of the organisations I work with want a lively and engaged network but often can’t justify building one. This catch 22 situation can only be tackled through experience. My advise, for what it’s worth is talk to someone you don’t know today, and you never know what might happen.

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this post. It corresponds with my experience. It’s an exciting process. You never know who is going to turn up, what connections will be made, and what kinds of collaborations will result.

    I have ‘kissed a lot of frogs’ to find that one contact. I find networking energizing and exciting. I love the synergy that occurs when there is that linking together of minds and projects.

    It can be such a hit and miss process though. I wish there were some way to better discern which networking events to attend and which ones not to. However, I have often found some of the most interesting and valuable connections at events I was ‘dragged’ to by someone else and where I had no expectations. Conversely, some of the meetings I was most hopeful about, were not ‘fruitful’ or if they were, it was something that came about long after the meeting was over.

    You just never know. I call it ‘casting your bread upon the water’ and seeing what comes back. It’s an adventure!

  2. Hi Roland: In my business, who you know is important and has value. The trust and goodwill that I’ve built over years is important to me, so I don’t make referrals casually. I don’t want to waste my contact’s time, and don’t want a questionable referral to reflect poorly on me. So, while I will network colleagues and friends, I do show some discretion.

    Also, if I act as a representative to facilitate introduction and to help support the sales process (i.e. more than just a “handoff”), I will typically negotiate compensation.

    My point is: who you know has value, what you know has more value, and how you utilize and leverage this information can vary widely. I don’t consider it poor form to seek compensation in certain instances (as mentioned). But I do know people who toss around business cards like confetti and expect compensation for simple connections without any substance or added-value. This doesn’t make any sense, and is a turn-off.

    Best regards,

    Michael

  3. Hi Nanci – it certainly is an adventure and I too have had similar experiences of making the most valuable connections at the most unexpected times.

    Michael – you clearly have this down to a fine art and I appreciate you sharing how you work. I agree that it is foolish to make 2nd rate introductions. And yes quality definitey trumps quantity.

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