Through the years I’ve brought a lot of promising young companies (primarily tech start-ups) to the attention of angel investors and VC funds, and one of the first questions I ask entrepreneurs is, “What’s your business plan?” Before they risk investing in a company, funders want to see a strong, concise, detailed description of exactly how and when the business will turn a profit.
My question to you is, do you have a business relationship plan—a strategy for developing the connections that will help you succeed?
The right network can represent significant value for you and your business, because the people in it can provide connections, opportunities, funding, and support. But to build a strong network will require an investment of your time and effort. That’s why I believe you must have a plan for finding and building the relationships that can mean the most for your success, and a system for deepening those relationships over time.
Developing a valuable network starts by assessing your current one. Here are a few questions to get you thinking.
- How many of your current relationships would you consider strategic—meaning, you know exactly the value they can provide you, and that you can provide them? What is your network’s strategic quotient (SQ)?
- How many different professions, industries, and communities are represented in your network? Do you have connections with people who are “higher up” than you as well as those who are just starting out?
- How much do you know about the people in your network? Do you know what’s important to them in their lives and businesses?
- How much do you know about the networks of the people in your network? How connected are they?
- In how many relationships are you actively providing value at least once a week, month, or quarter?
As you know, a business plan doesn’t just assess the current state of the business. Its most important aspects outline a strategic plan for building the business in the years ahead. I believe that you have to do the same with your business relationships: you need to think strategically about the relationships you need to develop to reach your goals. Ask yourself these questions.
- How many people do you feel you need to have in your network? (Remember, the goal is quality, not quantity.)
- Which ecosystems (professions, industries, locations, etc.) need to be represented?
- Do you have a list of high-value connections with whom you would like to develop strategic relationships? Why would these people be of value to you? If they were in your network, how would you add value to them consistently so they would be eager to help when you need it?
- Do you have a system for managing your strategic relationships so that you can stay connected with these people easily and frequently?
A healthy network of strong connections is one of your most valuable personal and professional assets. That’s why you should assess your network’s current health while you create a solid plan for its future growth and development.