Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Put your Network to Work

I have had a fun experience just in the past five days on a new business idea that a partner and I have been kicking around. I can't tell you about it, because this business is (naturally) going to change the world! One really cool observation during that short period of time, however, is the extent to which both of us have been able to put our network to work.

This business idea has technical, operations, marketing, and risk considerations which are not unlike many new ideas. For every area in which we have had a question, we have had someone in our network to leverage. We have also been able to ask a specific set of questions for an area that avoids having to pull back the curtain on the entire idea (given that one potential challenge is low barriers to entry). One positive of being able to focus the questions and align them with the person's area of expertise is that you can really just let them roll and share their experience with you. In each case, this has provided a deeper level of understanding that my partner and I can then roll into our larger strategy. For example, a discussion around the financial risks of the idea lead to strategies for mitigating those risks--all from listening intently to people who know that area really well. We can then put that into the mix and have changed our thinking on the marketing based on that input. Again, all within 5 days.

Some of my other posts address building your network and fostering it. Effective network-ers are able to "tag" people in their network with areas of expertise. (They are also able to use "tags" other than "has money" and "no money.") This allows you to come back to them with opportunities and requests. The more you can make those visits about them, the more you will see that investment in your network pay off.

Understand your network and how you can leverage it. In the end, you will see that it is not a one way street. Your ongoing conversations and fostering of relationships will lead to unforeseen mutual opportunities.

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