Take Control of Your Network

UPDATED: September 8, 2009
PUBLISHED: September 8, 2009

My father was a newspaperman
who headed the Associated Press
in St. Paul, Minn., and his whole
life depended on deadlines and
contacts. When I was 18, he told
me that every time I met someone, their name
should go into my Rolodex, now known as a
contact management system. Write down a
little bit about that person—jobs, hobbies,
interests, family, education and so on—and fi nd
a creative way to stay in touch. I now have more
than 12,000 names in my system, and they have
saved my skin more times than I can count.

If you need a job, money, advice, help,
hope or a means to make a sale, there’s only
one surefire, fail-safe place to find them:
your network. When your superior talent,
enviable experience, guts, hard work and
sparkling personality aren’t enough, you have
to turn somewhere, and that
somewhere is your network.

You need to build a network
of people with a variety of skills
and contacts before you
need to use their particular
talents and abilities. The
corollary is that you will
also become part of
their networks, ready
to be useful when
possible. If I get you in
my network, and you get
me into your network, then
we each have two networks,
because you can then call me and
ask me if I know someone, somewhere,
who can guide you to someone or
something you need.

Mackay’s Moral:
If I had to name the single
characteristic shared by all the
truly successful people I’ve met
over a lifetime, I’d say it is the
ability to create and nurture a
network of contacts.

The first real networking school I signed up for after
college was Toastmasters International, and 40-plus
years later, I am still using the concepts I learned at these
meetings. In addition to developing your speaking skills,
you learn about doing your homework, self-confidence,
appearance, and becoming an interesting person and
valuable resource to others. It can help you gain and
polish the tools to become a successful networker.

A few years later, when I was an inexperienced new
owner of a struggling envelope company, I learned I
needed all the help I could get. I begged for appointments
with people who were doing what I wanted to do, who
could mentor me and teach me a few tricks.

I developed more than a network—I made some
terrific friends. And they were willing to introduce me
to members of their networks. Listen and learn from the
masters, and then when you become a master, pass along the
favor. Your network will either have a member who can help
you or who knows someone else who could be helpful. But
you have to ask! My lifelong philosophy is: Never say no for
the other person.

Networks are important for personal interests as well as
business contacts. Just about every topic you are interested in
probably has some club associated with it, and they are filled
with folks like you who have a day job and a life beyond.

In our global business world, having a network that
extends beyond the city limits is essential. With phone, e-mail
and the Internet, it’s just as easy to build a global network as
a local one.

How do you get started? Begin with your friends and family,
then try your banker, lawyer or accountant. Start a blog.
Twitter, as I do. Check the nearest university, where you’ll find
students and faculty with contacts around the world.

And don’t be afraid to hire a network. If you aren’t an expert
at something, and don’t know an expert, you can always hire
an expert. Your network can help you to know where to look.

My network has been central to my success in business as
well as in my personal life. As the old saying goes, “It’s not
what you know; it’s whom you know!”

Harvey Mackay is a motivational expert and author of five New
York Times Best-Sellers, including Swim with the Sharks
Without Being Eaten Alive. He’s a nationally syndicated columnist
and chairman of the MackayMitchell Envelope Company.

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Take Control of Your Business

Harvey Mackay is a businessman and columnist. Mackay is perhaps best known as the author of five business bestsellers, including Swim With the Sharks, Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt and Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty.