What Is the Optimum Size of Your Business Network?

by Rob Brown on October 15, 2012 · 0 comments

“The worst time to think of the best thing to say is when you’re saying it!”

Rob Brown

Just been reading a great blog post The Most Valuable People in Your Network by Rob Cross. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, he talks about the critical number of 150.

When companies, churches, gatherings, networks and communities expand beyond that point, it takes a different level of managing to make things run smoothly. But with technology, online social networking and mobile tools, the networking landscape is changing. So in 21st century networking, what is the optimum size of your business network?

Gone are the days when people like you needed educating on the benefits of networking and the power of a networkYou get it now!

If your network is strong, accessible and willing to help you, then you’ll have many advantages in the job market, in sourcing new business opportunities, in referral generation and in the resources you can draw on. You’ll receive greater perks, rewards and privileges. You’ll open doors, cut corners and tap veins of opportunities.

So you go to networking events and you join networking groups and organisations. That results in lots of business cards and a whole heap of networking follow up calls, mugs of tea, cups of coffee and one to one meetings.

You also spend unbelievable amounts of time on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook cultivating your online network. That means tweeting and retweeting, recommending, connecting, initiating and replying, posting and commenting, questioning and answering.

It’s relentless.

But the good news is that as you do all of this, your network grows.

In diversity (width) and influence (depth).

My life is spent training companies how to network profitably, and mentoring one to one with individuals who want ’go to’ status and a formidable network. All the time I get asked “who should we be networking with? And how many of them do we need?”

The who is easy, and I’ll cover that another time. Let’s focus on that second question. Rob Cross states that a larger network is actually a bad thing that can hinder your effectiveness. Large becomes unmanageable, unfocused and too time-consuming. He’s right to an extent.

Social media tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have meant that you can build a formidable business network of thousands of people without even meeting any of them. Can you actually HAVE relationships with that many? If so, HOW?

Speaking from my personal experience (70,000 Twitter followers, 5000 Facebook ‘friends’, 11,000 LinkedIn connections PLUS other lists and databases), you cannot engage in this many relationships. But you CAN manage that many contacts.

Most of them you’d play reactively. You’d engage with them if they engage with you. You’re listening but not talking. Watching but not engaging. Monitoring but not contributing.

With the many lists, folders and apps available, you can and must segment your network into various groups of sector, relevance, geography and profitability.

Personalize the high touch contacts. Automate the low touch contacts.

My network is pretty powerful. More than most. But not as powerful as some. There’s always someone who has a greater reach and depth than you. Your job is to manage, build and leverage what you’ve got.

A network in and of itself is useless. It’s just a bunch of names. It doesn’t become valuable until you can leverage it to fulfil your commercial objectives or personal goals.

In the end, the size of your network doesn’t actually matter. As long as it serves your purpose. As long as you can serve those in it in a way that adds value and makes a difference.

It could be 150 or 150,000. Remember your network is who you know. Your reputation is who knows youYour reputation is always bigger than your networkThere will always be more people who know you than you know.

When you grow your network, you’ll develop your reputation. If you can master the tools and technology available, and master your own time and schedule, you can have any size of network you like. The optimum is what you’ve got right now.

But the network you currently have is probably not enough to get you to where you want to be. So keep building it, growing it, pruning it, serving it and leveraging it. Contact me if you want to explore some coaching to do this better and faster. You can add me to your ever-growing network!

Rob Brown
Rob Brown is an expert on making more money from business networking, online and face to face. He loves working with people who want to network for more sales, referrals or career opportunities, Rob’s books, coaching and dynamic talks have helped clients such as GE, HSBC and a range of speakers, leaders and business owners. A regular media contributor, Rob is founder of the Global Networking Council (the world’s top 200 networking thought leaders, authors and gurus) and author of the bestselling book How to Build Your Reputation. For a free copy of Rob’s Networking Follow Up Checklist – 45 tips to Turn Your Business Cards into Business, go to www.therobbrown.com/nwfu-check-signup

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