Business networking is all about building an extended team of associates who can add value to you in terms of expertise, advice and counsel and access to resources such as financing, channels of distribution and suppliers. As you build this team, you will learn who is more likely to be a productive resource and who focuses on his or her own enrichment. Sometimes these lessons come from the disappointing experiences of unfulfilled promises. Occasionally, the signals were clearly visible at the very first encounter, but you chose to ignore them. If hindsight produces clarity, then foresight must be infinitely more valuable in producing results that are more predictable.
When meeting a new person for the first time, many factors influence your impression and your perception about the value of this person. First, you may have learned of his or her reputation from third party references and/or by reading their online biographies, blog articles and other relevant business information. Based on this preconceived notion, you may be determined to find a way to enlist the support of this person before getting to know them personally and more deeply. The belief that another person’s reputation can be a significant driver of your success can motivate you to want to line up all the superstars to improve your probabilities.
Unfortunately, this search for rock stars can also serve as a dampening effect on your ability to detect important signals that hint at challenges to come in the relationship. How do you know if your intuitive radar is trying to tell you something? If your hair stands on end when you first sit down and begin talking, or if you feel the need to take a shower before they even utter their first sentence, or if you find yourself questioning every other sentence that comes out of his or her mouth. Do not ignore these signals. Everything in your rational, goal-oriented mind has already decided that you want this person on your team. Your immediate response to the shudders and twinges from the radar blips is to consciously shut those ‘feelings’ down in order to rationally and logically justify progressing with the relationship.
That is where the problem begins, not with the other person, but with your own choice to ignore your radar signals. They are very real and they point to a potential issue that you would be well advised to resolve before diving headlong into a relationship. Underlying some of these signals are issues related to greed, ego, power, lack of vision and misaligned purposes. All of these can wreak havoc on a business and may destroy it if allowed to run unfettered for too long. Eventually, this ugly blip will show up when it can do the most damage.
This does not necessarily mean walking away from a potentially valuable resource. Although in some instances, it may mean just that. Don’t invite the fox into the hen house if you are convinced he is a fox. If, on the other hand, something is bothering you about this person and you can’t quite put your finger on it, then take your time to get to know them better. Engage him in small, controlled ways initially to let them earn a trusted place in your business network circle.
A small number of committed, aligned and ethical champions of your cause will do far more to grow your business and your brand in a sustainable manner than hundreds of individuals who are only in it for what they can get out of it, on their terms. Don’t let your business be another notch on the stock of a poorly aimed rifle that celebrates the exploits of its owner. Focus your networking and team building efforts on those who enthusiastically embrace your vision and mission and willingly give their time and energy to accomplishing your goals. If you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to convince someone that your goal is worthy of his or her time, then it may be time to move on and let them try to catch up later when your success is obvious to everyone.