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Jon Baker

A Tale Of Two Networks

Six business networking tips ...

Posted on: 04/04/2013   By: Jon Baker

Long ago Dickens showed us that business networking is crucial to success, but 4N and BNI are not all there is to networking! In Dickens' classic tale, Nicholas Nickleby battled with his evil uncle Ralph, but the tale really is about their two networks ...

Nicholas spent time doing things for others, before asking anything in return

Nicholas spent time doing things for others, before asking anything in return

We'll get to the business networking lesson for you in a moment, but first, let's look a little further at the story of Nicholas and how it plays out through the book. Consider this:

  • Destitute Nicholas managed to get a job as his uncle Ralph used his network to find somebody that could help (doesn't make Ralph sound evil does it).

  • Nicholas immediately began building his network, initially with Noggs, then Smike (the beaten poor boy) and later Browdie.

  • Examples of people using their contacts exist from the beginning to the end of the book.

Ralph has a network of people with similar values to himself (Wackford Squeers was not exactly the nicest of people). Nicholas' network has totally different characters. However we do see that Nicholas spent lots of time maintaining his network, helping poor Smike for no immediate return being a good example.

So here are 6 Networking tips for your business:

  1. Networking groups are not networking: Networking is far, far more than networking events. BNI, 4N et al didn't get a mention by Dickens.

  2. Who are in your network: Your network is made up of various groups of people; family, work colleagues, social contacts or from networking groups. In fact networking groups are simply a way of introducing you to people that you may choose to put into your network.

  3. Values are key: Build a network with those that have similar values to yourself, trying to do otherwise will waste your time. Nicholas and Ralph Nickleby have the most opposite of values. Both use their networks to support them throughout the story, but those networks each contain totally different people!

  4. Givers Gain: Nicholas spent time doing things for Smike and Noggs, before asking things in return. Even the evil Ralph helped his networking contacts, sending young Nicholas to Squeers was something that all three gained from. Some giving often needs to precede receiving, but only if they share your values.

  5. Maintain your network: Keep in touch with those that are important to you, or their value will disappear. This needs planning, list those most important and how, when you will or when did you get in touch last.

  6. It's not what they do, it's who they know: The book is full of people helping each other getting their contacts to help others, rather than directly doing so. So expecting to sell to your network isn't going to give you the largest benefit, using their contacts will be more beneficial.

It certainly worked for Nicholas Nickleby and networking can work for you too. What other networking tips would you share with people? Why not leave a comment below?

Until next time ...


More about Jon Baker ...

After 25 successful years in blue chip companies, Jon left corporate life to focus on the needs of the small business community. Since 2006 he has trained and coached nearly a thousand professionals and business owners, from a wide range of firms.

Jon helps the professionals with 5 to 50 staff improve their performance and grow their firm sustainably and profitably whilst having fun.


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