What sort of business owner are you – the complete extrovert? Do you have hundreds of people in your network with whom you only have a passing knowledge? There is nothing wrong with developing a broad network of contacts. However, it is often more beneficial to develop a sound relationship with a group of individuals.
Generally speaking, a network is a one way operation. You make contact with a wide range of individuals in the hope that one day they could be of help to you. A relationship is a two way operation. You’re there to help them when required, and they are there to help you when required. Networks are easy to develop. You can do a little research, discover all the movers and shakers who could be of use to you, and you add them to your list of contacts. You may even add them to your social media accounts.
Relationships require work. They don’t happen overnight. In many cases, relationships are one sided – you’re doing all the helping, promoting their cause, even through social media. Relationship builders are by no means selfless. In fact, the art of building relationships still revolves around promoting yourself and building your business. The difference between a relationship builder and a networker is longevity – relationship builders are looking at the long term benefit to their business.
In the long term, relationships will survive the ups and downs of the business world. People in a network will come and go whenever it suits them. They generally don’t stick by you during troubled times, or help repair your reputation when a dissatisfied worker or customer goes on a social media rant. Those you have built up a relationship will, and where possible, help you to negate the effects of that hit to your reputation. Why? Because they know you, and they care – as you would if the same happened to them.
There is room for both, and it’s certainly a good idea having a strong network of people who could be of use to you. While networking, consider taking the next step and developing a strong relationship with those who really matter – it may only be a handful, however, the benefits will far outweigh a hundred in a network.