What is your most valuable asset? Is it your faith, love, family, friends, or customers? A case can be made that it is all of the above and it is called your network.
A dictionary definition of network is: “A group or system of interconnected people or things: a trade network, a group of people who exchange information, contacts, and experience for professional or social purposes: a support network.”
Your network is greater than a business network, but since this is a business column, let’s look at your network and talk about how to build, nurture, and protect it from a business perspective.
One of my favorite sayings is, “It doesn’t make any difference when you start as long as you start now!” Make sure you get proper contact information, telephone number (work and mobile), email address, and address from people you encounter and respect. Both phone numbers are important because people often change work locations but may maintain the same mobile number.
A portable business card scanner is useful to collect this information in an electronic address book. Business cards are easily lost, business card files become unwieldy in time, and any kind of manual system is burdensome, so an electronic address book is a must. Do not limit your entries to people who are friends or people who you know well but include people who will recognize your name and may be in a position to help some day. This sounds a little crass but it is important.
To ensure your network stays current it needs to be nourished. Touch base periodically with information or content, which you think might be relevant and interesting to your contact list. A word of caution is to not become a pest or bore, use good judgment. Direct, one-on-one contact is usually much better than mass distribution. Popular electronic mass software programs are being misused by so many people that key people on your list may be tuning out on them.
Remember this network list is a valued treasure and it must be protected. Make sure you have it backed up, preferably in a separate location so both copies will not be destroyed by an act of nature or other catastrophe. It is important that you maintain your integrity and reputation so people will want to help you when needed. It can be helpful if you help others along the way because those people may be in a position to help you some day. With electronic communications, the world today is becoming very small and news travels fast.
Continue relentlessly, forever to build, nurture, and protect your personal network and it will prove to be your most treasured asset.