Saturday, January 04, 2014

Maximizing Value In The Alfidi Capital Network

The new year gives me an excuse to review the connections in my network.  I decided who's worth keeping and who no longer suits my professional needs.  I used to be a compulsive networker when I had no network at all.  I can afford to be more selective now.  I just dropped quite a few LinkedIn connections that I've had for years.  They've proven to be disappointments by not advancing their own careers and not helping me advance mine.  Good riddance.  

Porter Gale's Your Network Is Your Net Worth describes one way of viewing a professional network.  Anecdotes about building a brand and finding sweet spots are just the beginning.  A professional network grows over time and needs management.  I like a garden analogy to visualize my network.  Food-bearing plants require water, sunlight, and nutrients to add value to a diet.  The gardener must also pull weeds periodically.  I cultivate my network pretty much the same way.  I plant people in my garden because I think they'll yield me some nutrition, and I pull the idiots who turn out to be weeds.  

I have little patience for networking self-help books that are heavy on motivation but light on bottom-line justification.  A garden has an ROI because it should yield produce (or at least pretty flowers) that have market value after investing time and resources.  Spending my time cultivating people who won't help me grow is a waste, and if they're not growing themselves then they beg to be trimmed out of my life.  My totally subjective ROI for a professional network starts with the monetary value of my time, which increases with more web traffic I attract and speaking engagements I obtain.  It ends with the income my network yields for me personally.  

There are ways to add objective criteria to my subjective network analysis, and they should improve my ROI.  Value network analysis assigns financial values to connections and the transactions between them.  I cannot conduct transactions with the Alfidi Capital business model so my network will never add value to that business.  It can only prove useful to me as a starting database for analysis, and some metrics from social network analysis may prove useful.  This might make a decent research report.  

Some clueless networkers still insist on connecting with anyone and everyone on the theory that numbers are all that matters.  They don't understand that virtual relationships must have real-world depth to matter.  LinkedIn admonishes its members to keep it real and declines to endorse LION behavior.  I do not believe a typical LION can evaluate their network's ROI but it gives them bragging rights among other cubicle dwellers and satisfies their immature egos.  Good luck adding another thousand idiots to a network.  

I would rather have a network of ten high-performing geniuses than a network of 1000 duds.  I disconnected my LinkedIn connections who had never contacted me with business offers and were not advancing into high-powered phases of their own careers.  I'm less interested in a long-ago contact who is a junior supervisor in retail than I am in a serial entrepreneur or professional investor.  I decline a lot of invitations to connect, both in person and online, because I must have some way to judge someone's character and abilities first.  I am going to make it more difficult for people to get to know me.  My network reflects me.  It has to be top-notch.