Human Resources

How to Manage Your Business Network Like a Portfolio

Andy Wilson, Founder & CEO of Graphight (www.graphite.com), tells you how to manage your business networks like a portfolio. Keeping a portfolio will let you know where to look in business networking.

  1. Define key categories
  2. Establish importance of relationships
  3. Strategic: networking for the future
  4. Tactical: networking for now

We all know that building a business network is very important and I think many people have asked me, you know, “How do you think about building the ideal network?”

And as a finance guy, I always think about my network as a portfolio. And I think there are some tips that I can share you about how maybe that view of your network as a portfolio could be beneficial to you.

One thing I think about when I meet people is different categories of people. So just like of you’re managing portfolio, you may have bonds and equities and those things. I think when you think about your business network, you may have people who are customers, potential customers, collaborators, board members. So think about groups of people. And you can -- by doing that, as things come along, you know where to look for people who can help you. And you can think about, well, within that group, maybe some people are more important than others.

So if your company needs to raise financing and they have a group of potential venture capitalists and there may be a guy who I have a relationship with but he does Life Sciences and I’m on the technology business. So he could be in the venture capital group but he’s probably not as important as the guy who does tech investing, which is the category of my business. So think about groups and then kind of separating really the A list and the B list and the C list and allocating your time around those people.

Third piece I would mention is that when you think about engaging with your network, I like to differentiate kind of the strategic investment in my network versus the more tactical. So let me tell you what I mean by that.

Strategic would be, I met somebody, I think they’re useful long term and I want to go out and they’re very important, start building a dialog and trust because something big is likely to be relevant to them that’s way down the pike.

Someone else could be more tactical. I’m looking for an engineer. I met the guy at an event, he’s looking for a job so I’m going to quickly take that opportunity and try to reel that in.

So one, it may not be as big of an outcome but I’m kind of working in these kinds of short term projects. So I think those two things work together. Ultimately, hopefully, some of the strategic relationships will make it into the tactical. I’m trying to actually get a deal done. I’ve met the guy, we build a relationship, he understands my company. It’s time to real him in.

Following those guidelines around managing network like a portfolio really will pay off. And so, when you think about how you do that, just think about the portfolio aspects, short and long term and how you’re allocating your time across those various investments.