by Falon Fatemi
After one session of sit-ups or push-ups, you don’t expect to wake up with a magazine-worthy six-pack or bulging biceps. But you also know that overworking your muscles can lead to serious injury, so you try to strike a balance between pushing your body and resting so that when you need it to perform, it’s ready.
Just as building muscle takes time, consistent effort, and periodic rest, maintaining your professional network is a balancing act in its own right. You can’t engage with people in your network once and expect them to bend over backward for you, and you can’t bombard them with requests without coming off as selfish and annoying.
When you find the right balance in your relationships, you’ll be able to get some help promoting your business endeavors, score advice from people who’ve been where you are, meet potential investors, partners, or new hires, and uncover opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
Here are a few tips for building a network that will support you when you need it:
1. Target specific individuals.
If you have a project that requires the support of people in your network, don’t reach out to everyone you know; only contact those with the specific knowledge or experience you need for that particular endeavor. Organizing your network is very helpful when choosing the best person to reach out to. Put all your contacts into a spreadsheet with information about their skill sets and how many times you’ve reached out to them already. This will help you keep track of people you’ve contacted in the past so you don’t strain the relationship with too many requests.
2. Always give before you ask.
You should never ask for a favor from someone in your network before asking what you can do for that person first. Offer to make introductions to key individuals in your network, provide mentorship, or spread the word about that person’s latest project. It’s important to show your connections that your relationship is a two-way street and you can add value for them.
3. Show respect by considering others’ needs.
Your professional circle is full of busy people, and nobody likes having their time wasted. Before you reach out to make an introduction, take time to consider whether both people will actually benefit from knowing each other. Carefully consider your connections’ true needs and what you can do to enrich their networks.
4. Get social on social media.
As an entrepreneur, you need to become a pro at keeping up with your network. Make it a ritual to connect with people regularly and stay on top of projects they’re working on and what’s happening in their lives. Don’t just stalk them silently on Twitter or LinkedIn — socialize with them to show interest in what they’re doing.
5. Don’t forget about your immediate network.
When it comes to asking for big favors, don’t forget about those connections you have the strongest relationships with: your team, investors, and advisors. These people are already invested in your success, and most of the time, they’ll be happy to help. Just don’t burn them out with too many requests in a short time.
Success in business often boils down to the people you know and the quality of the relationships you’ve built. Make it a priority to support your network, and be strategic about the people you reach out to. When your connections see that you give more than you ask for and are always thoughtful about reaching out, they’ll be more willing to help when it matters most.
Falon Fatemi is founder and CEO of Node, a stealth startup of ex-Googlers backed by NEA, Felicis Ventures, Mark Cuban, Dave McClure, and more. Falon has spent the past four years as a business development executive doing strategy consulting for startups and VCs and advising a variety of companies on everything from infrastructure to drones. Previously, Falon spent six years at Google starting at age 19. As one of the youngest employees in the company, Falon worked on sales strategy and operations focusing on global expansion, Google.org, and business development for YouTube.
Peter Alfred Hess | Courtesy of Falon Fatemi