Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

David Hassell – Entrepreneur

David Hassell is President of the San Francisco chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), an International network of entrepreneurs who each have businesses with annual revenues in excess of $1mil. He is presently engaged in launching a new software startup that provides organizations with better visibility into their operations.

He is also a co-founder of Kite Adventures, offering guided downwind adventure tours and pro-coached kiteboarding camps in northeast Brazil. Furthermore he is also the co-founder of Endai Worldwide, a NYC-based Internet marketing and services firm founded in 1999, and served as the company’s CTO through 2006. Endai has been recognized on the Inc 5000 list of fastest growing private companies in America.

Josh: David, how do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

David Hassell: You can easily infer the importance of a business network by comparing someone with a weak network to someone with a more powerful one. While people have the same amount of time and roughly the same amount of energy, all other factors being equal, the person with the more powerful network will consistently outperform the other in business.

Ultimately the person with the more powerful network has the opportunity to improve their quality of life. It does so by giving them the capacity to produce equal outcomes with much less time and energy that they can now choose to use elsewhere.

The way I define business networking is somewhat different from how I commonly hear it described. A metaphor I often use compares a powerful network to a very large bank account. Both a large bank account and a powerful network give you the ability to access what you need, when you need it, while paying you passive dividends all the while.

Just as having a large bank account allows you to get whatever products and services you want or need when you choose, your network represents your capacity to access the advice, knowledge, expertise or connections you need in any given situation. You can think of the dividends your network pays as unsolicited opportunities that naturally flow your way as a result of that balance.

Similar to the time and energy it takes to earn, save and invest to produce a large bank account, it takes time, energy and investment to create a powerful network, more so than most people realize. Just as you can’t spend money before you have it (at least not without going into debt), you also can’t call upon your network for any meaningful help until after you have invested in building it, so you’d better start building it now.

One pitfall I often see ambitious networkers fall into, is confusing the practice of accumulating a large stack of business cards or hundreds of LinkedIn connections with the way a strong network is really created. The measure of a powerful a network is not so much the number of people you’ve met or know, but the quality of the help you can get when you need it, and how many real opportunities present themselves to you naturally as a result of having invested in that network.

That brings me to my next point. Building a network is about investing in the success of the people around you by providing help, and producing trusted relationships in the process.

I once heard LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman give a talk to a group of member-leaders of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) where he said that the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know” was trite and incomplete, and missing a some key elements. He said that instead it should really be “It’s not just what you know, but who you know that trusts you.” I think that Reid was spot on.

If you don’t have you anything to offer, you can’t give powerful help to people who may be able to reciprocate in the future. And, if someone doesn’t already know and trust you, why would they be willing to stake their reputation on introducing you to an important connection, or providing you with access the knowledge and help you really need?

Josh: Can you share one idea that a person could put into practice which would help them to improve their business networking skills?

David Hassell: Remember what J.F.K. said. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Remember this when you’re out meeting new people, or getting involved in a community of your peers. Focus more on offering help than seeking it initially. Learn about who each person is, what they care about, and what they’re trying to accomplish. If you meet someone that you would like to attract into your network, think about both what you know, and who you know.

Can you make an introduction that might help this person? Do you have some skill or guidance you could offer to help them make progress on one of their goals? Don’t give with the expectation of getting something in return. You will make a lasting impression if you can help someone in a meaningful way that contributes to their success. They too will likely want to know what you are trying to accomplish, and you may soon find unsolicited opportunities coming your way. Furthermore, some day you may find yourself in a situation where they might just be the one person who can really help you (and will be willing to help).

Josh: Can you share a personal “networking” success story with us?

David Hassell: When I moved to San Francisco two and a half years ago, I had already been a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization in NY for three years. I’d also gotten a lot of value from my membership due to the fantastic education and networking opportunities accessible to me as a member of that community.

I decided to get involved and volunteer on the Board in San Francisco recruiting new members as a way to give back for what I’d received, and as a way to start building my network in a new city. I spent two years working with an incredibly high-caliber group of people, growing the chapter by nearly 50% and putting on some tremendous learning events all the while. I couldn’t have imagined at the the time that two years later my latest business opportunity would come as a direct result of the work I was doing on the Board, and the relationships I was building.

I learned that one of my fellow board members had built some software for his company that I thought had broad commercial viability. I acquired the software making him my first customer and a member of my advisory board. Furthermore, one of the other members of the board who owns a legal firm represented me in the transaction. Had I not invested in those relationships, I would not have even known about this opportunity, and without the trust-based relationship we built over time, I would not have been able to complete the deal.

– Happy Networking, Josh Hinds
(Btw. you connect with me on Facebook or Twitter)

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