In my professional life, I’ve come to be known as an avid networker. I am also strongly active in the LDS Church. For me, these two facets of my life are strongly intertwined. There is never a question for me as to whether I’m wearing my businessman’s hat or my “church hat”. My religious beliefs are at the very foundation of who I am as a person. So the hats will always be one and the same.
I have come to be known as someone with a strong professional and personal network. (Some have even referred to my connections as a “billion dollar network”.) My wife, Linda, refers to be as “the human Internet”.
I take great happiness in the amazing connections I’ve gained over the past 40-plus years. My ability to network has become a strong skill, to the point that I’ve been acknowledged in the press and am even in the process of writing a book.
But here’s the secret to my networking success, that I’d like to share with others, and particularly with my fellow LDS members who are reading Meridian Magazine: The single biggest secret to my networking success is that I have never gone into a business or a social setting with an agenda or a strategy to gain something for myself. To this day, every time I enter a discussion, it’s with the desire to find somebody I would be able to help. As I’ve done that, the rest of the equation has naturally flowed.
There’s a second secret that I talk about in my book. I talk about my “UP” principles; StartUP, FollowUP, StandUP, etc. In short, the time to think about building connections and credibility is long before the need arises. It’s your own job security you’re building.
For example, I received an email from a brilliant guy-a real estate investor and analyst who’d worked at the high end of the industry for Lehman Brothers. He came to me looking for a job. The first thing I did was to look at his list of connections in LinkedIn. He had less than 100 contacts. It was sad to me, and even stunning. He should have been reaching out and engaging his connections for years.
In my case, I know I will never be out of a job for the long term, because my network of connections is strong. I’ve been building connections for years, and when the time should come that I need a connection or a favor, there are hundreds (and even thousands) of people I can easily call upon.
But in every connection I make, I’m looking to help others – not looking to determine what’s in the equation for me.
Here’s a great example. I met a great guy during a casual business event as we had worked together while merging two companies many years ago. I’ll call him “Paul”.
To Paul’s credit, he had sent an invitation to me to connect with me through our social networks. “Sure,” I thought. “I’ll connect.” He wasn’t someone I knew well-but now we had a connection. Some years later, in 2011, as I was winding down my CEO role at Fusion-IO, I had begun the process of working with sports marketing leader David Checketts to raise a substantial fund to invest in international sports franchises.
As I was working on that project and generating the manuscript for my book I got a note from Paul. “I lost my job. I’m looking for a job in sales in the IT industry. Can you help?” My first thought was “I just don’t have the time.” Then-“well, I could do lunch tomorrow.”
So Paul and I met up at Magleby’s Fresh in Provo. We sat down for an hour and during our discussion I gave him the name of four CEOs that I knew were hiring. (One of the four ended up hiring Paul-a wonderful outcome.)
But as we were leaving the restaurant and Paul was thanking me for the names, he offered to follow up and asked “Now what can I do for you?” I said “Nothing” and began rushing off. Paul grabbed my arm. “No, I’m serious. What can I do for you?”
Offhandedly I remarked, “Well, do you know any high net worth individuals who love sports?”
I didn’t expect a response. But Paul said, “Yes, I do.” When he had worked in Saudi Arabia one of his close contacts had been the advisor to the royal family’s Prince Abdullah, who has an avid interest in sports. Paul reached out to the advisor who interviewed me on the phone. That night I jumped on a plane to Beverly Hills and the next day I met with Prince Abdullah in his Beverly Hills home about a $10 million investment in the sports fund. He was enthusiastic about the possibility.
As it turned out, David Checketts took a roll with the NY Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys so we never actually started the fund. As crazy as it seems, from that simple courtesy I’d extended, expecting nothing in return, I received a referral to a potential $10 million investment from a Saudi Prince.
You never know where the courtesies you extend will take you. So you should extend them freely. The principle is so powerful it prompted me to create a social and professional network specifically for the global LDS community. It’s called LDS.biz, and it’s free of charge to all who choose to participate (in fact, I’ve recently revamped it to make the technology robust enough to manage the traffic of all who would like to join in.)
There are ample opportunities to help and to serve, and in giving freely in service to others through your expanding professional and personal network, you will benefit profoundly as well. I hope that you will take advantage of this principle. It will serve you well.