You have big dreams. Great, now who do you need to know to make them happen?

Networking - Who do you need to know?
Three reasons most people won’t build their network and how to overcome them (Tweet That)

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Success almost always starts with who. Rarely does it start with what.

Too often, when we set on a course of achievement, the first thing we do is look up how-tos on Google or buy a book on the subject. Very rarely do people think of or look up who they need to know.

Why who trumps what

When you read a book or a how-to, the conversation stops. You now have some information (all that the author was able/willing to give for free or $19.95), but you are missing tons.

But when you spend time with an expert or even just someone who is trying to do the same thing you are, you now have someone who can tailor the information to your exact needs. You also have the beginning of a powerful network. Experts hang out with other experts. Experts know other people that can help you. And, generally, they are very willing to introduce you to them.

Five people

Years ago, 2002 to be exact, while I was attending the Institute of Political Leadership at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC, I met a man named Chip Scholz. Chip gave the class some of the best and most practical advice I have ever received. He said that when you move to a new town (or start a new job, go to a new school, enter a new industry, etc.) ask someone who the five people you need to know are.

Then try to meet with those five people. Even if you only get to meet with one of them, you get to ask him or her the same question, “who are five people I need to know?”

And a cycle is born. Before long, you will have a list into the hundreds. You will have a powerful network and practically limitless information at your disposal.

Why most people won’t do this

Chip’s advice is fail-proof. There is literally no way that you would meet with ten or more leaders in your area, whether it be your city, business, school, or industry, and you would find the meetings to be a waste of time. It’s impossible.

But most people won’t do it.


Three reasons most people won’t build their network and how to overcome them:

  1. Fear. For many of you, it’s scary to reach out to someone you “need to know,” because generally they are more successful than you. They intimidate you. You fear rejection. I wish I had a secret to overcoming this fear, but I don’t. The key is to reach out to the first one. And then the second. And realize that it does get easier. Learn how to overcome fear.
  2. Time. For some of you, you just won’t make time to do it. It is very time consuming. You have to craft a message for each individual (please do not send out a blanket email or a copy/paste one…don’t bother), often you have to get past their gatekeepers, and then you have to actually meet. It can take a lot of time to meet with even just twenty people. But the key is to make the time. It really is that simple. Put an hour each week in your calendar to work on crafting the messages and start sending them. Talk to the gatekeepers and be persistent. One meeting could change your life. Do you have fifty-two hours a year to change your life? Or would you rather be up-to-date on the latest reality TV show?
  3. Expectations. Yes, one meeting could change your life…but it might not be the first. Some people do try this. Once. And then they quit. Because the first meeting didn’t lead to an epiphany or make them rich overnight. The first meeting was a bust. And they give up on the whole idea. If this happens to you, please don’t quit. Analyze what you did wrong, because that might be it. Did you let them do 80% of the talking? If not, do it next time. Did you prepare a list of questions? If not, do it next time. There is also a chance that the interviewee just stinks at this sort of thing. So find your next person. Now.

Ask yourself now: Who do I need to know to make my dreams a reality?

Who is going to help your career? Your family? Your education? Your spiritual walk?

Now, make a list and start reaching out. It truly is that simple.

Are you placing enough value on WHO you know?


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20 thoughts on “Who do you Need to Know? | Networking Tips for a New City or Industry

  1. Jon Stolpe says:

    I could definitely be more intentional with plugging into upper management in my office. They have much to offer from their experience, their knowledge, and their network.

    1. Brett Thompson says:

      In the same boat Jon.

  2. David Mike says:

    Dolly Parton used the advice of the Disney theme park people to create her Dollywood amusement park in Pigeon Forge, TN. I have been other twice and it is amazing. When you want to be the best, you align yourself with the best. Great advice!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Nice. Never knew that. I went there when I was like 7 years old and it was still Silver Dollar City…crap, that was 27 years ago. Yikes.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Dang you’re old bro!

      2. Jana Botkin says:

        Children, children, let’s not quibble about age. Signed, the Old Woman

      3. David Mike says:

        You should go if you get the chance, they have some rides like you’ve never seen before. Also the Titanic museum is in Pigeon Forge. But this was not a travel and tourism post. Find who is awesome and make them your new friend. That is why I read this blog!

  3. Travis Scott says:

    This is great b/c I am reading War of Art right now and I think one of the reasons we fail to do this is due to resistance.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      All three of those could fall under the Resistance. They keep us from improving ourselves.

    2. Brett Thompson says:

      Great book! Resistance holds us back from every good thing, like meeting the right people.

  4. Zech Newman says:

    Far to easy to get into the what then the who. In owning a business I’m fully aware I’m in the people business. Still I struggle at letting tasks consume me. Great advice, I think your three things can stop all of us from anything new. Keep up the good work.
    Be Blessed Matt.

    1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      You’re right Zech! And the same three things have certainly stopped (or slowed) my networking as well at times!

      I’ve taken this advice of Matt’s (he passed it to me several months back..) at times and it’s amazing how many people will give you 5 names! I need to use it more!

  5. Katherine Leicester says:

    Sure trying to do as you suggest, Matt. It’s a whole different way to live, and it is terrific, and hugely uncomfortable. Until it’s not uncomfortable anymore.

    Kind of like success. Weird stuff, till you get used to it. 🙂

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      So true. Eventually you settle into it and it becomes second nature. But those first few steps can be scary.

  6. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    This may come as a surprise to you Matt, but I love this post!! I’ve had a blast working on building and expanding my network! I’m far from perfect at it and some weeks I feel like I don’t do much–but I’m still doing way more than I was a year ago!

    Thanks for the great advice and suggestions! It truly is who you know!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      My only advice then is to keep it up!

  7. Charles Hutchinson says:

    Thanks for this great advice. I’m doing this. Yes, there is fear but, I’ve found that action overcomes fear pretty quickly. Also, I need to be intentional about getting away from the comfort and familiarity of my desk and busy work.

    Thanks again!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Keep it up Charles!

  8. Jana Botkin says:

    “Who you know” is common wisdom but How To Know is a brand new idea. Thanks, Matt!

    Will there be posts about how to craft these invitations to The Ones To Know? A few examples would be helpful and interesting.

    “Dear Important Person, Another Important Person said you are someone worth knowing. Want to meet for coffee?” Sincerely, Someone Who Wants to Meet Important People

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good idea. I’ve added it to the list.

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