A large group of people as seen from the back, standing side by side with their hands on the shoulders of each person next to them.

Building Connections

The longer I have run Alpha UMi, the more important the role of relationships has become in my view of what is important. And from what I’m seeing in discussions and conference themes, this is a topic that others are talking about now too.

When my children were selecting their colleges, I suggested to them that they choose schools with good football teams, thinking that this would be an advantage for building a network. My experience with the Naval Academy and their alumni network really demonstrated to me how being a ‘ring knocker’ got you access. Of course, both of my daughters picked schools that had NO football teams. But they seem to have fared well ignoring that advice.

In my consulting career, my network was amazingly helpful as I built my client list.

My work all came from word-of-mouth introductions, people who knew of my reputation of figuring things out and not needing to be in the limelight. One of the gifts I gave to my clients was standing back and letting them take credit for our collective achievements, no matter what level of effort it represented of mine. After all, they were smart enough to hire me to get it done.

I find that my growth in business is heavily reliant on building relationships and having people know who you are and what you and your company represent. I do my best to follow through and provide the best customer service that I can. And it pays off with referrals and references, for which I am grateful.

I have a wide network of people I’ve met and have a connection with, across the years and the miles. It takes a lot of energy to maintain those relationships, but it’s always worth putting the time in.

When asked how I built my network, I share that it has come from taking interest in individuals and finding a common link or interest. From there it’s much easier to build a longer-term relationship. And that’s true for business relationships as well as personal ones.

The next question I usually field is what skills are needed to build a network.

That’s an easy question. Active listening is skill #1. After that, it’s meticulous record keeping—which has gotten easier with social media. No longer do I have to chase email addresses and people change jobs or search for phone numbers. LinkedIn is great for professional relationships, and I use Facebook for my personal ones. Oh, and I still send out Christmas cards!

Keeping some friend circles on a text thread is fun, too, as long as it is respected. And for longer messages, I use MailChimp. They have free accounts, too.

When meeting people for the first time, I find it’s helpful to have an ‘elevator pitch’ with a twist. Instead of developing your 20 second summary of who you are, with an intent to get(sell) something, develop it from the perspective of what can I give or share? Offering time and talent, or experience and knowledge, are all things that help build relationships.

It’s okay to not build a network of hundreds or thousands of people.

Judge for yourself how large your network needs to be based on what you use your network for.

One thing I learned from my circle of female friends here in Tarpon Springs is that my knowledge and talents are defined by what my friends know. If you think of your network in terms of reach like that, it’s amazing what you will feel empowered to take on.