When I first started my career, my father talked to me about networking and the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. He advised me to make connections in the community, not just for my own benefit, but also to help others with their success. At that time, I thought “networking” meant going to events and handing out cards. However, over the years, I have realized what my father told me was correct; business is about relationships. Success is not defined solely by my own abilities. It is created by the combination of my talents, my drive, and my connections.
I recently encountered a few problems both at work and at a non-profit I run. These issues had the potential to cause real turmoil and possibly a crisis if they went unsolved. Ten years ago, these events would have caused me great stress and feelings of isolation. But today, I am calmer and better able to solve problems. The first thing I did when the issues arose was to determine who in my network could help me solve these problems. My network stepped up and immediately began to offer help and solutions. With a few phone calls, the major problems were reduced to mere challenges which could easily be solved.
5 Ways to Harness the Power of Your Network
Over the years, I have benefited from the power of the people in my network. My father has taught me many lessons which have helped me cultivate these relationships and form new ones. Here are some lessons I’ve learned:
Don’t burn bridges. This adage is worth repeating. The world is small, and connections are bridges. It is important to never sever a connection with people or organizations when your situation changes, such as leaving a job or losing a client. In the future, you may need help from the people or businesses you leave behind, and it's better when their last transaction with you was positive.
Your word is everything. Relationships are built on trust and trust is built by following through with your commitments. My father always emphasizes that a simple handshake can be more powerful than a legal document, and he always taught me that no matter what, you must live up to your word.
Give and Take. You cannot expect to receive something if you don’t offer something in return. All relationships, including business relationships, need a proper balance of give and take.
"Building your network is not just about who can help you but is very much about what you can do to help others."
Show gratitude. In our busy working worlds, it is important to slow down enough and thank those who help us succeed. Whether a shout out on social media or a handwritten note, people have a desire to feel appreciated and a simple “thank you” should never be overlooked.
Never stop connecting. No matter where you are in your career path, building your network is still just as important. Your needs evolve, and your network must as well. Be open to expanding your network in multiple ways. In today’s world, there are many ways to broaden your reach including LinkedIn, business events, and non-work activities. Of course, there is nothing more powerful than sitting down with a new acquaintance and getting to know each other.
The Values of Networking. When I was in my 20’s and my father advised me on the values of networking, I focused on the action of cultivating my network for business purposes rather than focusing on the actual relationships. As I’ve grown older, I appreciate my father’s advice so much more. My network is more than just contacts on my computer. It is a wonderful group of individuals who have helped me throughout my career both professionally and personally. I am grateful for each person and the benefits and lessons I have learned along the way. (Photo: Lee Yarborough and her father, Brax Cutchin)
Lee Yarborough and her father, Braxton Cutchin, founded the company in 1996. She has served on the Board of Directors of NAPEO and currently serves as the Chair for the NAPEO Carolinas Leadership Council. In 2015, she was named a Fellow of the eleventh class of the Liberty Fellowship Program and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Lee also serves on the Executive Board of Public Education Partners and is the founder and director of Read Up Greenville, a young adult and middle grades book festival in downtown Greenville, SC.