Few professionals truly believe that they can "go it alone." They know that success depends on finding the right support and strong connections. They understand the critical value of a strong network. Unfortunately for many, their understanding stops at acknowledging the need. They have no idea how to go about building the right network that will help them achieve their goals.
Entrepreneur Miguel Bichara has made networking an art. His resume includes successful real estate and restaurant ventures. An active member of YPO, and former professor of economics, Bichara has successfully leveraged his network for successful endeavors in business, politics and education.
Bichara realized that his initial philosophy of making connections--active, but very broad and generalized--was not going to work in the marketplace. "I learned that you don't go out and simply start networking with no orientation or sense of purpose. That will get you nowhere. You need to be clear that there are different kinds of what I call 'Business Networks of Help', and that each of them helps you accomplish different purposes."
Having studied business philosophy, Bichara now takes a more deliberate and focused approach to networking. He has developed four basic types of networks:
Professional - the interactions that help you achieve your executive and strategic business goals;
Discursive-- social interactions that allow you to find mentoring and education to develop professional knowledge;
Tactical - the help you need to execute on business strategies (from marketers to strategic customers); and
Use - help you use to accomplish practical tasks in and out of the office (repair shops, office suppliers, etc.)
Once identified, Bichara says there are four steps creating the robust and deep connections you need in each network:
A network begins with clear intentions about your current goals. Once you have that set, Bichara advises, "make a list of who can be in it to accomplish your purpose and organize them accordingly. The result is a list of names with specific, unique skills to integrate into that network. Make sure you categorize individuals according to the network you are designing."
Bichara continues, "After the basic design, I start to connect each individual and their skill to the area or domain of help I have in mind. My banker, for example, will be in the category of Finance and his skill might be identified as " 'Capital Investment Planning'."
This phase is like growing a crop, says Bichara. "You start by seeding, that is, connecting with each individual, offering your help, and making sure you are valuable to them. Frequent lunch meetings will be a kind of nurturing. Exchanging your knowledge and value with theirs will be a process of cultivating the relationship. It takes this process to build a strong network from which you can harvest great help."
"Like any other business structure," Bichara cautions, "networks of help require you maintain them by building trust along the way." The people in your networks should value your help as much as you value theirs, and business opportunities can scale up in both directions.
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