Q. I am an accomplished CEO with 20+ years of international software industry experience and find myself unemployed for the first time in my career. The majority of my business contacts are in Europe, and I’m uncertain how to develop a network the U.S. Can you help?
A. Developing a network takes time and does not transpire overnight. Network development is a lot like planting a garden. What is the goal, to plant flowers, grow vegetable or both? Every great gardener knows that gardens are seasonal; one must take the time to prepare and enrich the soil, plant the appropriate seeds, provide the right amount of sunshine and water and keep out the pests in order to have a thriving garden.
Before you commence on the path to developing a network you must develop a strong business value proposition. Before you start pitching you, identify what you have to offer. This is a great exercise to go through at least once a year whether you’re employed or not. Professionals need to start thinking about themselves as a business entity not just a resource. This can be a tough exercise to engage solo. I recommend that you get help to guide you through the process.
Strong business value propositions deliver tangible results like:
Faster time to market
Increased market share
Improved operational efficiency
Improved customer retention levels
Decreased employee turnover
Keep it simple; pare your message down to the essential core of what you do, who you do it for and the results they can expect. Your goal is to get the attention of your audience and to get them to ask you for more information. Below is a great example from an accomplished CFO that you can use to develop your audio message:
What do you do?
I work with (target market) who (have this challenge).
Example: I work with entrepreneurs who have compelling business opportunities.
How do you do that?
I help them get (ultimate outcome, the results).
Example: Leveraging off my professional skills as a CPA, attorney and merchant banker, I help them clean up a cute baby, put it into the right carriage and take an engaging concept through appropriate funding channels then liquidation.
Tell me more (a story about who you worked with, their challenges, the results produced).
Example: In a CFO role, a good example is with my current company. I identified, negotiated, financed, procured, documented and monitored worldwide investment opportunities in real estate, business acquisitions and economical applications for environmentally sensitive technology in the Pacific Rim, Australia, China, Canada, Mexico and Europe with transaction value in excess of $100 million.
I suggest that you start by re-connecting with your European contacts and build from there. Everyone knows at least three business contacts that they can reference. Be very specific with your current contacts – I am looking for introductions to U.S. business contacts. If you have 100 people in your current network and each person has 1 U.S. contact, that turns into 300 U.S. contacts, which is a great base to start from. The world is a much smaller place than it was 20 years ago.