Everyone in business knows that successful networking is essential to business growth. Achieving our goals is a lot more difficult when we lack the right tribes and communities to support us.

Networking expert Derek Coburn, founder of the high-impact business community CADRE, and author of "Networking is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections," stresses the importance of quality relationships over quantity.

"Your level of success when it comes to networking and relationship-building will be directly tied to your ability to interact with others who have a similar approach. You can show up genuinely looking to contribute, but it will be a waste of time if you are engaging with those who are only focused on themselves," says Coburn.

As a 20-year business owner, I pride myself on having a top-caliber networking community comprised of leaders that share my values, are committed to mentoring the generations of leaders following behind us, and that understand the importance of being part of something bigger than ourselves. Simply stated, my networking community consists of leaders that lead from the heart.

Recently, a personal experience led me to an epiphany about the single most important tenet of successful networking.

A very close personal friend recently passed away from Stage 4 Adrenal Cancer after being diagnosed only 3 1/2 months ago. He and his wife of 20 years are the parents of three children, ages 18, 16, and 14. My friend was to start chemotherapy in early May. Prior to his treatment, he desperately wanted to travel with his wife for one last getaway, to a location about 5 hours flight time from home.

Shortly after their arrival at the resort, he became gravely ill, and required hospitalization. While hospitalized, he deteriorated rapidly, to the point where doctors doubted his ability to travel back home. My close friend (his wife) kept me apprised, and said to me, "it's highly unlikely we will be able to get him home."

The entrepreneur in me refused to accept that. Where others see obstacles,  entrepreneurs see possibility.

I immediately reached out to my network. One of my professional friends, a fellow Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) member, is a pilot, and is quite active in the aviation community. I shared with him the urgency of transporting my friend home via an air ambulance. I took a chance that perhaps he knew someone who could make this happen.

My friend immediately stepped up. He did this for two reasons:

  1. He genuinely thinks I am a good person, and wanted to go above and beyond to help me.
  2. He is genuinely a good person.

He reached out to the owner of Angel Med Flight, a provider of Air Ambulance services. They provide air-based Intensive Care Units. This proved to be the only way  to transport my friend home so that he could be surrounded by his loved ones during his last days of life. 

My friend thought nothing of stepping up to help me. It didn't occur to him to not help me. He runs multiple companies, and easily could have dismissed my request for help because of his busy schedule. He then continued to follow up to check on my friend, and on me.

His commitment to helping me may have been the difference between life and death for my friend at that moment in time. He downplayed his efforts, and I reminded him that small stones often cast big ripples.  

It is indisputable that bringing my friend home to be among friends and family in the comfort of his own home, temporarily extended his life.

It is not the size of the effort that matters. Rather, it is the effort itself that matters.

This experience caused me to reflect upon the tremendous value of my relationships, and led me to a realization.

The value of your network is tied to how likeable you are as a person.

  • Are you someone that others genuinely want to help? Are you someone that, when your back is against the wall, they will go above and beyond to save you?
  • Are you seen as someone who would do that for others?

Basically, are you perceived in your networking community as a decent human being?

This is the most important rule of success for networking, and for life in general. How would others answer these questions about you? What adjectives will they use to describe you?

The answers to these questions will determine how your network - whether large or small - will show up for you when you need them.

This column is dedicated to my friend and personal Air Angel, Rob Pollin.