As a VC networking is a large part of what I do, and a couple of things have got me thinking recently.
- Firstly this blog has already had a big impact on my network.
- Secondly I read Christian Mayaud’s posts on high performance networking – a bit long, but worth reading if networking is core to what you do, and if you are a VC or entrepreneur then it probably is.
- Thirdly I noticed a recurring pattern in the behaviour of power networkers. When I first met them there would be a flurry of activity which stretched beyond the reason we had met, and then things would go quiet (at least for a while).
Christian’s analysis breaks down our networks into three parts – our potential network, our current network and our former network. He describes the natural flow from potential, through current to former and how people in former become current again when the need arises. He also says that there is a natural limit to the size of a person’s current network, even if they really work it – 150-300 people. This makes great sense to me, I struggle to keep up with my old friends, let alone all the new ones I make.
Because the size of the current network is limited, I think this means that having a good network is all about having a big former network. The power networkers who come into your life with a flurry of activity and then go relatively quiet understand this intuitively. They are cycling people through their current networks to their former ones. Crucially, they quickly build the relationship to critical mass so there is enough substance to it that when the relationship moves to the former network it is strong enough that it can be reactivated.
This blog reaches out into my potential network and forms weak relationships with lots of people, but doesn’t bring them into my current (or former) network. It takes physical meetings, (or a lot of online interaction) to change that, and as Alan Patrick points out beer can help!
There is an important general point here about the limitations of online interaction – my gut says it generally needs to be underpinned at some stage, somehow with real physical activity. I need to think some more about this.