Volume 46, Issue 4 - May 2007
In the news
ROI: Return on Information
Secondary Networks Are Vital to Your Business
Last fall I walked the exhibit hall of the Association of Millwork Distributors’ (AMD) convention in Dallas and I realized how much I had missed the 2005 convention scheduled for New Orleans (cancelled as a result of Hurricane Katrina’s assault on the city).
At the Dallas convention, I enjoyed seeing friends and business associates who I had not seen in more than 24 months. I was pleased to get reconnected with the millwork industry’s network and get feedback from others on how the economy is affecting their businesses.
The AMD has always been a great avenue for establishing networking relationships for me on both a national and global level and an opportunity to expand upon my current “primary contacts” in the Northwest. I view the contacts I make at the convention as “secondary contacts,” and ones that would not be available to me if I were to stay in my office and never venture to a convention.
Beyond Primary Contacts
The primary contacts that I have established in my local business environment are a great source of information and allow me to see what is happening in the millwork industry close to home. But because these primary network contacts and I live and operate in the same area of the country and communicate within similar circles, the information we share with each other becomes redundant unless we build secondary networks of business associates. The information both these network groups generate are not only important to you but also the people who work for you. Your staff is dependent on the information your contact base can provide.
Secondary network contacts are, in a sense, the bridges from your group of contacts or organizations to another group of contacts or organizations. Bridging two or more completely different network groups will provide you with new information to digest and help your own organization grow and succeed.
Some Quick Research
How many people are you connected to in your current network? I did some quick research to answer this question. According to the “Reverse Small World Experiment” conducted by Cornell professors P. Killworth and H. Bernard, the typical middle or upper manager has a network of contacts between 3,000 and 10,000 based on years of experience. Killworth and Bernard are the professors who developed the theory that we are only separated by six individual contacts.
If you went to a gathering of professionals and you made one new secondary network contact who had 3,000 contacts and you had 3,000 contacts, the bridge between the two network worlds could yield access to 93,000 potential contacts (30,000 x 30 plus 3,000). Of course, you probably will not contact and may not need all these individuals in your new expanded network, but at some point in the future, these contacts may be able to give you options when it is time to make a decision regarding your business that you otherwise would not have in your current primary network.
Both primary and secondary contacts are essential to staying on top of what is going on in the millwork industry. In a year of potentially flat sales and tight budgets, it might seem easier to stay close to home and manage your existing primary network of contacts. I would argue that the secondary contacts established at the AMD Convention are also essential to keeping your finger on the pulse of the millwork industry and would yield a solid “return on information” for your travel investment.
by Jeff Johnson, president of Western Pacific Building Materials in Portland, Ore., and the second vice president of the Association of Millwork Distributors. Mr. Johnson’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.
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