There are “open marriages” and “open doors,” and this is the story of an “open network.” It is not about the networks that send bits back and forth — but the ones used for business connections. I have an open network on LinkedIn with over 6,500 connections and followers at this point. But this is a recent happening, and it only started about a year ago. I had a major change of mind about how I should be connecting with good folks like you.
Here is how it happened and what the results have been so far.
It should have never taken me so long to figure out that it would better to be like the internet than like AOL. For the longest time, I tried to hand-select who I connected with, and I would only accept invitations to connect if I knew of you or would take your call.
I foolishly thought that a small list of well-known connections was better than a large network of loose relationships.
As often happens when people change their views, an external event forced me to rethink my perspective. It was actually a friend of a friend who I invited to connect with via LinkedIn who forced me to pause. Here is what she wrote back to my invitation to connect.
I have a policy of making sure I’ve met all the people I’m connected to on LinkedIn, so to that end, I’d love to meet you in person, and hear more about what you are doing at Aha! for product roadmaps.
What? You need to meet every person you connect with? Why?
Her response made it painfully clear that my somewhat similar stance was constraining my network, which limited my opportunities and mutually beneficial chance interactions. This was when the epiphany smacked me, and I started to think about business relationships differently. From that moment forward, LinkedIn became my tool to dramatically expand who I had access to and to make myself more useful to more people.
If you are not useful, you will not be used. That is right — I was worried about being used, but I should have been trying to be used.
The results of my openness have been terrific. I now have an extended business network of nearly 20 million people. That’s huge and has delivered the following benefits:
Exposure to great opportunities
I have the best job in the world as CEO of Aha!, so I am not looking, but I have been approached about numerous CEO and GM roles in the last few months. I have also been contacted in regards to taking board and advisory seats at promising companies. And all of these contacts were through folks who I recently connected with.
Increased readership and feedback for my blogs
I like to write blog posts like this one and am always looking for greater distribution and a broader set of readers to comment and provide feedback. I appreciate the diverse perspectives, and an extended network is a great way to interact with more people with unique ideas that I might have been blind to.
Access to talented candidates
Our business is growing like crazy, and we have been busy expanding the team. We now have a constant stream of high-quality candidates who reach out directly to me or refer colleagues or friends for our open roles.
I strongly suggest that you revisit how you think about your own network and start with a position of openness. And if my experience does not convince you — try it for 30 days and see if it works for you.
Let me know what you think of my networking wake-up call. Have you come to a similar conclusion?