Practice Networking, Not Nepotism

Good business networking is about discovering symbiotic relationships between businesses. The question that good networkers often ask each other is:

“How can I help you?”

Bad business networking is classic nepotism; favoritism granted to friends or relatives regardless of merit. Instead of striving to be the best match for a fellow firm’s needs, parasitic networkers search for the decision-maker of a company and become “friends” with a shallow, tenuous personal connection. Then, they offer a one-sided business relationship with a firm handshake, a few personal perks and a winning smile.

They wander business networking events and offer the same one-size-fits-all routine to everyone, fishing the whole room and hoping for a few bites. If they were truly looking for carefully-chosen, mutually-beneficial business relationships, wouldn’t they be fishing with the precision of a spear instead of a huge, clumsy dragnet?

Poorly-chosen partnerships may not affect your individual productivity right away, but less-than-ideal matchups between businesses will eventually trickle down the food chain, leaving you spinning your wheels with partners that are more interested in using you as a stepping stone than a long-term ally. It can be a productivity killer and a deep frustration, especially if your firm’s decision-maker is happy with the business relationship for the wrong reasons.

The best networked relationships benefit businesses, not individuals. If two networkers earn each other credit at their respective workplaces, the relationship will prove to be far more valuable than a few personal perks exchanged among individuals.

Perhaps to avoid the dark side of networking, the best question to be asking is not “how can I help you?” but rather “how can my business help yours?” That way, we could put fabricated friendships, extravagant lunches, event tickets and other forms of persuasion aside and learn how to network with people as equals.

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Peter is Vice President of Digital Marketing at an investment holdings company in Washington DC and Co-Founder at True North.


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