The Network Reaches Completion

In any given day, I spend in excess of an hour working on my networks. Some of that time is spent on this site – writing articles, responding to comments. Other time is spent talking to colleagues to keep up-to-date on what’s happening around me. I visit a variety of sites (see my list of sites for more information about which sites I visit and why).

I’m constantly reaching out to others, probing for information and strengthening ties.

Then I met the right person, and suddenly, I truly understood why I put in all this effort into growing and maintaining my network.

I’m jumping ahead of myself.

I’ve been consciously networking for a little over a year. When I went to my first event, I was excited about developing new relationships, and wrote an article describing the experience. Since then, I’ve attended several other networking events, and pretty soon, the novelty began to wear off. I still thought I understood why I was putting in the effort, but I wasn’t seeing the rewards. I started getting discouraged, that my efforts were for naught.

Perseverance is one of the keys.

Knowing what you’re looking for is another.

Fortunately for me, I did persevere, continuing to reach out despite not seeing the hoped for results. I wasn’t being called after each event with requests for my time. New clients were hearing about me from old clients. My referral network was strong, but my new network? Silent.

Then, late in 2009, I started getting contacted randomly from readers of my site. I then understood why it took so long to hear from them – it took almost a year to establish credibility. The comments of Chris Brogan and Julien Smith in their book Trust Agents (link to review) were started to set in.

My site was starting to pay off, but what about the hours spent on LinkedIn? What about the time spent meeting other consultants? When would those start to pay off?

I met Susan Varty, the most recent piece of the puzzle.

After being featured in the AdviceTap newsletter, Susan reached out to me to connect, and a few days later, we were sitting down to discuss our businesses over coffee. Susan is a writer, and as her site says, she helps you finish your writing projects. While her actual business has diversified from there, it still remains her core focus.

The conversation we had gave me a lot to think about, from adjusting my consulting rates (Susan felt that I could easily double my rates) to potential sources of new clients. As I left the meeting, though, I continued to think about what we had discussed – how our business constantly evolves, how we recognize new opportunities. Tied in with this was the work I’m doing for one of my clients, assisting in developing a complete technology infrastructure for his business, and which I had been mulling over for the last few days.

I put the two together, and am now working on a new direction for my business. I’m developing what I’ve tentatively called the Small Business Technology Kit which will contain the various hardware, software, systems and processes that small businesses need to grow and expand.

Susan provided me with the target market. Jeremy warned me about the limitations. Ron gave me a concrete example of the applications.

It was my network that provided all the pieces. I just put them together.

It took over a year to get the right set of connections to figure out where I want to take my business. It took people I met in a variety of places – family, friend, networking sites, events, bloggers. But when all the people were there, I knew what it was I was trying to find, and it appeared.

Sometimes the answer to what are you looking for? stays hidden until you find that something, and then you know that you were looking for that all along. But the sooner you recognize what you’re looking for, the easier the search will be.