While “shelter at home” brings a fair amount of down time, it also proves an ideal time to begin strengthening your network. In my view, networking is not about how many connections you can make, but rather about what you do with those connections.
One of my early mentors who passed away several years ago taught me an amazingly simple networking strategy. In fact, he attributed that system to his generating exceptional wealth from his many entrepreneurial endeavors. In his memory, I call it the Fred Factor.
Fred’s networking strategy comprised subscribing to dozens of magazines, journals and newspapers—professional and consumer. A couple times each week he would spend a few hours religiously paging through the magazines—not for articles that would interest him, but rather for articles that would interest those in his network. Then, he would mail or email those articles individually with a short note: “Thought you might find this interesting, Fred.” And that was that. Fred sent these missives not only to people he knew well, but also those he may have met only in passing. As one of those in Fred’s network, almost every other month I’d get a “thought you might find this interesting” note from him.
Fred’s vast network included lawyers, bankers, venture capitalists, publishers, authors, artists, scientists, doctors, entertainers, etc., etc., and he was always willing to share his “social capital” when asked. The reason he sent all those notes was to remain top of mind so that when he eventually called upon someone in his network—whether to help others, or because he needed a favor himself, that person would feel a connection to him. After all, it was very likely they received a missive from him within the prior couple of months.
In the race to build our number of Linkedin connections (akin to collecting business cards in the past), we sometimes need to remind ourselves how valuable one-to-one interactions are when it comes to networking. Posts, likes, comments and articles all serve a purpose, but they aren’t the only “arrows in the quiver.”
Here’s 4-steps to help make the Fred Factor work for you:
Not too long ago, an investment banker I know mentioned in passing that he was looking for an attorney for one of his portfolio clients. I offered to help. As a legal recruiter, there was this one particular partner in my network to whom I had been sending articles. I called him and left a message saying, “Hi John, I may have a client for you. Call me back at your convenience.” Within minutes my phone rang, and the first thing John said was, “thanks for the articles.” And, yes, he ended up with a new client, and I ended up with a candidate who will always call me back.