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A Strong Network Can Be Your Business’s Best Safety Net

 

This story appears in the
October 2019
issue of
Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In 2018, I had my dream gig: I hosted a podcast that reached millions of listeners and gave me access to the world’s most inspiring entrepreneurs. Then my relationship with my business partners fell apart, and they emailed me to say I was fired. With that, I lost my livelihood, my calling, and my very sense of identity.

For weeks, I sat on my couch dreaming up ways to reclaim my show. But I couldn’t; it was gone. Then I realized there was something I hadn’t lost: my relationships! I’d met incredible people throughout my career. And as I reached out to them, they’d become the insurance policy I didn’t even know I had — an insurance policy that would save me when I needed it most.

In turn, these people made me realize the full power of relationships and the importance of cultivating them.

Related: 6 Easy Steps to Making Connections That Make Money and Create Happiness

At first, after being fired, I didn’t entirely know what to say to my network. I settled on total openness, because what I needed most was guidance. In dozens of emails and phone calls, I told friends and colleagues about my troubles. In return, they gave me support and perspective. One of my mentors, a broadcasting veteran, helped me see that if I’d been successful once, I could do it again — and more quickly this time. Another close friend, a serial entrepreneur, encouraged me to move on rather than spending time and energy recovering what I’d had.

I took their words to heart and decided to launch a new podcast. (It’s called The Jordan Harbinger Show, and it explores psychology, success, and entrepreneurship.) I’d need to rebuild my entire brand, audience, and infrastructure — with no startup capital. So again, I turned to my network. Now I needed their help.

That didn’t come easy; asking for help has always made me feel needy and burdensome. But I came up with specific requests for specific people, and I was blown away The experience made me reflect on something an old colleague said. He described networking as “digging the well before you’re thirsty” — that is, constantly cultivating trust and loyalty with the people around you, with no immediate expectation of return. I’d done a version of this in my career, though never strategically. Now I understood its full value and decided to double down.

Related: How to Be a More Likable and Charismatic Leader

I created a system I call Connect Four. Every day, I text four people from the bottom of my text message inbox to reconnect. “Hey! Been a while,” I’ll write. “What’s the latest with you?” We rekindle our connection, and I try to spot an opportunity to be of service. For example, I recently introduced a talented freelance writer to an investor friend who’s planning a book, and I connected two newly engaged friends to the best wedding planner I know.

To stay on top of my communication, I use a CRM called Contactually. It’s made for real estate agents, but I find it useful. Tools like this help me track my emails, follow-ups, and scheduled conversations, so I can follow through on my commitments over long periods of time. That might sound like overkill, but once I learned how important consistency and breadth were in my relationship building, I realized I’d need to implement strong processes to manage it.

Now, with these habits, I’m constantly engaging and expanding my network. I think of it as a premium I pay (and that I love to pay!) for my insurance policy today. It’ll help me in ways I can’t possibly imagine tomorrow.

 

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