Networking: Everybody Knows Somebody
When I first moved to Alberta in high school, a girl I met here told me “Edmonton is a town of six hundred.” Actually, at the time it was a small city of about 700,000 people, but right away I picked up what she really meant: Everyone knows everyone else. And she was right.
Later on, I learned that’s true of not just cities but industries. Every industry or channel is in some ways a small town, and everyone knows everyone else. That has both its upsides and its downsides.
Last fall, I was working with my contact at one of my vendors on a big deal for one of my dealers when he stopped answering his emails. Total radio silence. After a couple of days, I reached out to my director to ask if he knew what was going on, and he didn’t either. Well, a few weeks later, all became clear. He had been let go by that brand.
We all found that out because he’d been hired by another brand, and was now our new vendor contact for them! It was actually good news for us because the brand that hired him is our biggest vendor, and the good personal relationship we already had with him definitely doesn’t hurt with having him move into a bigger role in his career.
Conversely, many years ago one of my friends quit his department manager job at the now-defunct retailer Future Shop. In doing so, my friend burned his bridges with his store manager as spectacularly as possible. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Time passed, and my friend ended up as the Canadian channel manager for a major audio manufacturer. One of that brand’s major retail accounts was Future Shop, and my friend was responsible for managing that relationship. Imagine his surprise when the buyer for home audio at Future Shop was his old store manager. Awkward!
I’ve carried that story he told me around with me for years, and I’ve always used it as a very useful reminder: Don’t burn bridges, and don’t make enemies. That person you alienate today may be someone you need a favor from tomorrow. I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve never made any enemies on the job, but I do try my best not to.
Knowing that there are fewer than six degrees of separation can be helpful. More than once when I’ve wanted to make new contact at a business I’ve gone through my contacts and found a mutual connection who’s been able to make an introduction for me, turning a cold call into a warm call.
I’ve called this business the “Hotel California” before; people never seem to leave. And the ones that do and head off into other industries often come back eventually. Knowing that it’s always a good idea to keep track of where people you know end up.