ROR Essential Elements - 3 Invest Your Time Wisely

 

Return on Relationships is about Return on Investment, where your investment is in the time and energy it takes to build a network of positive advocates - people who like, trust and respect you, and you them.

Previous articles have discussed the first two Essential Elements (see below), your Personal Proposition and your Business Proposition.

This article looks at the key activities needed to build an effective trusted network of people - the guardians of your Reputation in the Marketplace - and how to ensure that your Reputation is promoted in the way you would like it to be.

The caveat on this article is common sense - what represents a wise investment of your time will vary from person to person and depend on your Business Proposition. It goes without saying that time is a finite commodity and that if you are going to build an effective network, you must use your time as efficiently as possible, bearing in mind that you must also earn a living whilst doing so and, to some degree, what efficiency means is a personal thing, depending on your business proposition, your objectives, location, how you schedule your working day and social time, etc.

Probably the biggest single mistake is to think that opportunities will just come from your business and professional contacts, they could come from absolutely anywhere in your network - this is a very common mistake and I have often heard people dismiss investing time to connect with someone properly simply because they don't fit into their personal pigeon-hole of what a "prospect" looks like in terms of job, location, or whatever!

The fact is this - the people you meet are NOT YOUR MARKET, they are your route to market and everyone who likes, trusts and respects you will advocate you if they feel it's appropriate. But this can only happen if people understand what you do and they Like, Trust and Respect you enough to recommend you…….

A network is most simply viewed as a series of concentric circles around you: At the centre is you, immediately outside of this are your closest friends and family, outside this are people you know well, but not as well. Then you have people you know of and then people you're connected to more tenuously, probably through the people in the inner circles. Linkedin (http://www.linkedin.com) broadly follows this model with 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections, although you may well have first degree connections that you have never met and don't really know beyond what it says in their profile.

If you've already built an effective network, it's likely that it will comprise the following elements and different kinds of network:
- Business Network - people you know directly (or indirectly) through your career and have accumulated over the years
- Professional Network - people who work in the same, similar, or complimentary areas to your own core area(s) of specialisation
- Social Network - Friends and people you've met through sites like Ecademy (http://www.ecademy.com/) or Business-Scene (http://www.business-scene.com/) or randomly as you travel through life.

A stranger is simply a friend you haven't met yet.

In terms of investing time wisely, the main objective is to increase the number of relationships which are mutually based on "Like, Trust and Respect" from each of these networks and move the maximum number of people towards your "inner circle(s)".

The key to success is that you invest your time in a balanced way between- "recruitment", i.e. increasing the size of your network and - "development", i.e. nurturing the relationships and building the critical understanding of each-others Personal and Business Propositions.

Having a huge network of contacts is little better than owning a copy of the yellow Pages - it won't get you business until your network understands what you do. Likewise, having a small, static network of people who Like, Trust and Respect you and have a strong understanding of what you do, is unlikely to achieve much either, so the balance is critical to mutual success for you and your network. (The management and maintenance of your network will be covered in a future article in this series.)

So far, a lot of the focus in these articles has been on you and your network, but it must be remembered that this is a two-way street and a very big part of your value to your network is the quality and number of your connections - the more high-quality connections you have, the more likely you are to be able to help other people inside and outside your network. Moreover, as your network grows in size and strength, and your Reputation in the Marketplace increases as the reach of your network increases, it becomes self-perpetuating, because people approach you to connect and become part of the value that you represent - ask anyone with a large Linkedin network how often they are contacted by people who want to connect with them.

Being "highly connected" is one thing, building a relationship with each of these people is something completely different, but, for some strange reason, many people don't approach their business relationships and networking in the same way they would approach their social lives…….. IT'S THE SAME THING! Or it should be!

Probably the most important aspect that will help to ensure your reputation and the integrity of your network is the people you choose to invest time in and how you approach this should be the same way you approach any potential friendship - you meet someone you like, you invest time in getting to know them and you develop the relationship, over time, according to the degree to which you Like, Trust and Respect them - you wouldn't trust someone with a personal secret (your personal reputation) unless you knew you could trust them. Likewise, you wouldn't trust someone with your professional reputation unless you knew you could trust them and this takes time to achieve.

The specifics of making the effort with the people you meet is covered in the next ROR blog in this series.