The person who first said, “It’s not who you know, but what you know”, was obviously never forced to market an idea or look for an investor. This particular individual must have been fortunate in his dealings because in today’s market economy, using contacts as a resource is an indispensable practice of business.

People of importance always have a barrage of less prominent individuals circling around trying to benefit from their knowledge and networking ties. Your objective is to track the person with the most influential alliance to the center and make the exchange needed. One rarely receives a second chance, so the first opportunity to “do business” with the key player or even the network as a whole, will be closely scrutinized and dictate your ability to re-enter that network. Make the first encounter a positive experience that clearly shows what you have to offer.

As a professional, you can develop a substantial network of influential individuals in different areas of the markets you work in. The most effective network, which is always the underlying goal, is created when there exists the greatest span of contact from the fewest number of individuals. This requires the careful selection of those individuals who, for your particular needs, open the greatest number of doors to those areas that most affect your needs. In the end, the goal of this network is to further your needs and create opportunities that you could never have achieved.

For many years, there has been a negative connotation attributed to the use of networking as an unfair answer to a difficult situation.

Remember, no one will help you if you have nothing to offer them. Your abilities will be used in return for the use of someone else’s; it is a simple quid pro quo exchange. The advantage comes from your ability to locate those individuals who are able to influence your business in the future. This process is not as simple as it may seem because it requires a great deal of time, thinking and foresight.

Foresight is a result of one’s ability to be proactive. Recognizing the need for a greater network of associates after a crisis arises is of little use to your business. Networking is a constant process that demands time and effort prior to needing access to those individuals. Relationship of familiarity and trust that are of any value to difficult situations are of the type that takes months and sometimes years to develop

Maintaining a financial liaison within your personal network that links you to an even larger network of individuals is indispensable. In order for the establishment of such an inner-community to be accomplished one does not have the luxury of wasting precious hours with those that cannot help your situation now or in the future. There is little room for those who are superfluous.

Industrial alliances should be forged with those who create a value-added relationship with your own. There are many market niches that when combined create a more beneficial whole.

The location of value added individuals is dependent on having a good idea of what your particular needs may be at any given time. The most effective method of scanning for the people you want is to be active within the your industry, consistently looking at trade publications, and making a point of attending as many trade shows and conferences as possible.

Besides keeping you abreast of the newest technological advances, it soon becomes apparent who those individuals are who are most attuned to the pulse of the industry. These are the types of people crucial to any network. Networking is about expanding your personal and business reach.

Start the process today rather than tomorrow. The crucial step requires the identification of your needs, your businesses’ needs, and your particular industry needs. Once these needs are identified, proceed by making an effort to identify these individuals in their particular arenas. Identifying becomes only the first step in the process of befriending these key players and convincing them to become part of your network.

The process does not explicitly make someone a member of a network; however, the increase of familiarity and trust, one becomes a party by association. These associations grow exponentially and soon you have a strong foothold in other influential networks that continually increase the number of opportunities available to you and your business. Although time consuming, a solid network at work can pay massive dividends.

Opportunities are the key to success. This success, that everyone in business wishes to become a part of, requires an exposure to situations that no one single individual could discover working as one single individual. As the size and quality of your network grows, your ability to access the most critical prospects to your business grow at a rate exceeding your wildest expectations.

 BY: Mark Borkowski is president of Toronto based Mercantile Mergers & Acquisitions Corporation, a mergers & acquisitions brokerage firm. He can be reached at or