On a recent call with my business mastermind group, one member shared how quickly he was able to overcome a challenge in his company by tapping into his network for suggestions. He summed up the process with, “Your network is your net worth.”
He’s absolutely right — success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
What Does Your Network Mean to You?
When I look at my own journey as a lawyer and business owner, much of my success can be attributed, in part, to working with amazing lawyers; using a skilled accountant, bookkeeper, graphic designer, business coach and marketers; and being part of local, national and international communities. I’m part of a cadre of phenomenal people I can turn to when I need help and to whom I can refer others who need them. Even when I was a solo practitioner, I never felt like I was alone.
I kicked the quote from my mastermind group out to some of the people in my network and asked for their feedback. The diversity and thoughtfulness of their responses was inspiring. They gave me the warm fuzzies, and made me proud to know so many amazing people.
Networking is more than going to events and exchanging cards with people. It’s about relationships, real relationships. Everyone in your network should be someone you’d want to share a meal with. Hopefully, you can make it a priority to see them in person, or at least to talk by phone or via Skype. Rackham Karlsson, owner of Zephyr Legal Services in Cambridge, Mass., shared:
Anytime you’re building your career, there’s no substitute for personal connections. That’s true whether you’re a rainmaker looking for clients or an employee searching for the right job. Someone who knows you is in a much better position to send you a solid referral or connect you with an opportunity that might not have been available to you otherwise.
His sentiment was echoed by Mitch Jackson, a California personal injury lawyer and founder of Legal Minds:
Networking isn’t about keeping score. It’s about helping others, adding value, and building relationships. Networking is one of the most important things we do each day.
Start by Being Human
Getting business is a byproduct of being active in a strong network. Relationships only develop over time, and connections need to be nurtured if they’re going to be beneficial. It’s not just about promoting yourself as an attorney. Be a person first. When people connect with and like you, they’ll send you their business. Former securities lawyer Katy Goshtasbi is the founder of Puris Personal Branding, a global brand development company for lawyers. In her own words:
I always tell my lawyer clients that their brand is made up of so many different factors, stemming first from being an authentic human. Once you realize that it’s all about you the person, not you the lawyer, then you can start to choose to see your network differently. Your network is not just fellow lawyers who can send you business. Your network is very vast and rich. It’s made up of humans that can support you and receive support from you — both on a personal and professional level.
I shut a guy down during a networking coffee when he tried to give me his pitch about his company. I wanted to know who he was as a person. I was going to remember that much more than his investment company’s services — and friends don’t give friends bad referrals.
How to Improve Your Network
Michelle Ogborne, a family law and estate planning lawyer in Phoenix, is one of the most well-connected lawyers I know. And she does a phenomenal job of keeping up with everyone and facilitating connections. If you think you need to put more energy into developing your network, she suggests this course of action:
- Make a list of the professions that complement but do not compete with yours (remember to think outside the box).
- Call two professionals today and set up meetings to discuss ways to collaborate.
- Start every networking meeting by asking what you can do to help that person build their business (if they are a good referral partner, they should ask you the same question).
Your main network should consist of people whose company you enjoy and with whom you can have a strategic relationship where you support each other. This is one of the reasons I love being in a mastermind group of all types of entrepreneurs — photographers, lawyers, graphic designers, marketers. Everyone brings something of value to the table, and we benefit from learning from one another’s experiences as business owners.
Five Simple Words
The value of a network is not limited to lawyers. It can help any entrepreneur or professional. Any person, really. But remember, having a network is a privilege, contingent on reciprocation and trying to give more than you hope to get. Keynote speaker, author and entrepreneur Peter Shankman stated it eloquently:
The goal of a network is to figure out what YOU can provide to IT, and not the other way around. Do that, and everything you want will come to you. Why? Because people tend to distribute opportunities to people they trust, and the best way to be trusted starts with five simple words: How can I help you?
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