This week I've had some tough conversations with some businesses that I care deeply about. They know that I care because I've taken them to task and am holding them accountable. My network is my investment and where I get the most return on investment.
- Technology firms I work with always get an earful from me. I always report problems, ideas and kudos to their teams. For every person that complains, there are hundreds of others who will simply leave you and find another vendor. It's critical that, if you care about your solutions providers, you have the difficult conversations with them on what went wrong or why.
- There are several network tools and communities I belong to. Networking is exhilarating and exhausting. As a small business, my network is key to my success. Who I surround myself with reflects on my business and also brings in business. Some of my networks are selfless – always doing their best to push business into my lap. I feel indebted and always take opportunities to return the favor. Some are selfish, though, and only measure our relationship by what I've provided them.
Social media casts a huge net. I'm constantly evaluating where I should speak next, whether or not it should pay, or whether I should take the time and money out of my schedule to be there. I review platforms to write and promote on. I think about blogging versus video versus podcasting. I think about commenting on other sites and connecting with industry leaders. It's a lot of work.
As a consultant, I have very little ‘recurring revenue', so the majority of my income is accrued through selling my time. That means that every cup of coffee, phone call or email I'm responding to risks me losing income.
Curious: How productive might we be if we had to pay each other for every meeting we have with one another. If I call you up to have coffee, what if I had to pay your hourly rate. Would I still call you for coffee?
It's important that you evaluate your network on a constant basis to find out where you're investing and whether or not it will pay off. Business is business, of course. Be selfish about finding a selfless network. I would not be successful if it weren't for my key clients – Compendium, ChaCha, Webtrends and Walker Information are on that list. By “key”, I do mean revenue ;).
As I think about those relationships and how they evolved, they all evolved from my relationship with a single entrepreneur – Chris Baggott. Those of you who know Chris and me know that we have great respect for one another – and we both are very honest with each other. Chris is the consumate evangelist – always pushing hard to get his companies in the spotlight… that may appear selfish. As I look at my success and my list of clients, though, they all evolved through my relationship with Chris over the years.
Where do you get clients from? Where are you generating your leads for your business from? Who do you owe your success to? Are you returning the favor? You might be surprised when you figure it out.
One last note: This post is not meant to slight any of the other folks that are so critical to my business' success and growth. You know who you are! I only mean to shed some light that some of us don't truly evaluate and value the folks in our network for the actual business they provide. I think I've taken my relationship with Chris for granted and didn't recognize how important he was to me.