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INTER -VIEW

Andy Lopata is a leading business networking strategist. He was in Malta as a guest of the UP Academy for Executive Performance, run by Nathan Farrugia, as part of the International Speaker Series.

LET’S WORK TOGETHER

Through networking, we can achieve more together than each of us can do on our own, Andy Lopata says.

What value does networking give to a business? Networking offers far more than purely sales leads. Strong networks can help you build your profile and get out a clear message about you to your target market. Social networking sites make this process so much easier to manage, and more viral, than before – however, traditional networks still play a huge role in developing influence and credibility. Networks also offer huge opportunities to find out key intelligence about your target market, companies you engage with and the sector you work within, as well as your own business. It’s incredible how many businesses still suffer from staff hoarding information and not sharing with their colleagues. Powerful relationships internally can help to overcome this challenge. Finally, there is the sales benefit. People are far more likely to meet with and buy from you if you have met through an introduction than any other connection. Having a strong network to make referrals can strongly impact a business’s ability to engage and close sales with key prospects.

And what does it give to an individual? Much the same as for a business. In his book The Start Up of You, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman talks about the importance of an individual treating their career as they would if they were running an enterprise. So networks can help to build profile to help secure the right job, provide advice, support and information and also make key introductions. Still, networking is frequently put aside and disregarded as a skill. Should organisations and individuals ignore networking at their peril? I agree. Put simply, networking is about sharing experiences, expertise, ideas, worldviews and contacts to enhance our potential. Through those networks we can achieve more together than each of us can do on our own. If you agree with this then surely ignoring networking means making life more difficult.

Making the same mistakes as others have before you, struggling to innovate without fresh ideas, making frustrating cold calls rather than getting warm introductions. Is one born with the skill to network, or can this be learned? Yes and yes! Some people find it much more comfortable talking to people, making connections and asking for help than others. But that doesn’t mean that such skills can’t be developed. Some take longer. I still have to make a conscious attempt not to interrupt people with my point of view and just let them talk. But I’m determined to improve in that area and have explored what I need to do. Traditional perceptions of networking strength can also be misleading. If you’re introverted you’d be inclined to think that networking is not for you. You’d be wrong. Listening skills are far more important than taking centre stage, so introverts often make the best networkers. They may just choose to do more of their networking 1:2:1 or in small groups.

What defines ‘good’ networking? A focus on relationships rather than sales. Showing a genuine interest in other people and taking yourself out of the equation. It’s ‘you’ and ‘us’ rather than ‘me’. Having said that, you do want a return on your networking investment. So clarity about what that return would look like is also key, as well as the ability and confidence to ask for specific help when the time is right. How can networking be translated into added sales, successful recruitment, or simply personal career achievements? By having clear objectives in all of those areas and an understanding of how other people can help you. And then focusing on developing relationships and supporting others to enable you to develop a trusted network who are naturally happy to help you meet all of those objectives as and when they can. It’s a long-term strategy focused mainly on other people, not a short-term game where the only winner is you.

31 - Money / Issue 37

MONEY JULY 2016 ISSUE 37  

A contemporary outlook on business, lifestyle and design. Money brings together Malta’s top business and finance experts and the media exper...

MONEY JULY 2016 ISSUE 37  

A contemporary outlook on business, lifestyle and design. Money brings together Malta’s top business and finance experts and the media exper...

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