with my son Gauthier Le Meur at the South by Southwest conference 2016

The Art of Networking

At the World Economic Forum this year I was discussing with a very successful friend who asked me to not mention his name on our conversation about networking and how he manages his network. 
I think he doesn’t want to know he’s tracking so much information about everybody that gets close to him in a way or another. He’s a master of networking (answer in comments, who am I talking about?). He knows everyone and he’s at all the top events I go to (Davos, TED, Re/Code, etc etc) and more events that I don’t go to.

Today I was talking to my 18 years old son Gauthier (here is Gauthier on Facebook and on LinkedIn he says he doesn’t need Twitter…) who went to his first conference (in his life, that’s special) and it was South by Southwest. Let me be a proud father for a minute as I saw Gauthier connect with tens of successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists as all private events I got invited to let me bring him (thanks, guys, that meant a lot!). I think he got 6 internship offers in 48 hours.

Gauthier started a little google spreadsheet with everyone he talked to and tried to sort them, take a few notes. Gauthier also did some basic CRM writing down who he should follow-up for an internship.

So I remembered my conversation with my friend in Davos and asking him how he does it.

He maintains a simple spreadsheet with thousands (probably more than 10,000) names he encountered in his life. Here are a few things I recall from our conversation.

-Most important is to remember how that person made it to the list. Who introduced him or her to you?

-Where did you meet him first? If it’s an event, what event?

-What is the category of that person: entrepreneur, corporate, social entrepreneur, artist, politician….

-An idea of importance of that person in general. Wold influence (Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Richard Branson…), network node (one of the most connected person in Germany or say in the hardware field), on-line influencer, very influential journalist, etc. Or “not sure yet”.

-The importance of that person to YOU, probably the second most important column here. How did that person help you? How did that person hurt you or created problems? How many times? There are friends in my life I can never give them back how much they helped me. It’s inspiring. I generally time permitting always try to help.

Helping others is the best way to progress in general and in business for sure. Don’t expect anything in return, if you like someone or what that person is working on and want to support him, just help. It’s business karma.

Working long term is also the way to go. You will always have an opportunity to make short term revenue or get a benefit from someone or a corporation. Will they be happy about it long term? If the answer is no don’t do it. Don’t take the business. It will come and bite you in the future, sometimes ten years after.

For example at my conference LeWeb I never lied on who were the speakers coming to speak. Many other conferences do that. They pretend a very famous speaker who might have spoken years ago is coming to sell more tickets. I have even seen some events with terrible business habits run ads online and in the press featuring those speakers as if they were coming and it’s all a lie. The result is people who bought tickets are disappointed and those speakers are upset. It might work for a few years but will fail for sure on the long run.

This is obvious but if someone repeatedly help you year after year you should consider helping back as much as you can. If someone keeps hurting you or proved unreliable, did not honor his commitment, lied or other nice behaviors you will encounter in your career why would you care? I would never answer by behaving the same way of course but it’s important to remember that.

There are a few people in my business life who deliberately screwed me, lied to me or did not honor a personal commitment last minute while I had worked hard to make something happen based on that commitment. Why would I bother inviting them to anything or helping them? Life is too short. To be clear I’m not perfect and I also make mistakes but try to have a really high bar in my personal ethics and if I make a mistake I learn from it. 
Let’s get back to the spreadsheet. I forgot what were the other columns actually. But I remember it was a really interesting conversation. 
I have never created or managed such a list. Looking back in the past I kinda wish I did. I also wish there would be a simple app for that. I have never been able to use LinkedIn or Google Contacts for “personal CRM”. Maybe I never invested the time for it. I remember asking a few years ago if there was a good app for personal CRM and never found a good one. Is there one today?

To steal the very good title of Porter Gale’s book (that I have not read) “Your Network is your Networth”, I think it’s a really good idea to start such a spreadsheet. Especially if you are at the beginning of your career like my son Gauthier, but you can start anytime. I might finally start one with Leade.rs allowing anyone creating new entries to write some notes on them and more. We will see.

What do you guys do to manage your network if anything?

If you liked reading this post, you might also enjoy my weekly newsletter where I describe my journey building my new startup.