As a business professional, you need a constant supply of information to achieve success. It is important to stay aware of issues and trends, and to keep up with technological and economic changes, all of which help you stay competitive. Perhaps you have already discovered that it is nearly impossible to keep up with all this information on your own. There is simply too much of it.
Your “knowledge network”, which is what I call the information component of your network, is made up of your most knowledgeable sources. These are the people who can provide you with the knowledge and expertise for success and business growth.
Fortunately, the knowledge you may lack is always someone else’s specialty, allowing you to turn to others for the help you need. That is why you want to set up your network’s information component with a group of contacts who know and understand what you must do to achieve success in your business, AND who have the experience to help you achieve your goals.
Categorize Your Knowledge Network Members
It is paramount to know in advance whom to contact and where to go to get the information you need. Here are suggestions for the types of people to include in your information network:
- People like you: There are some distinct advantages to seeking out people who have the same goals and interests as you, and who are also striving to achieve the same thing you want to achieve. They are collecting the type of information you need, and vice versa. Partnering with them can help you both get the information faster by sharing the research efforts.
- People who ARE in your profession: As a rule, your best information sources will be people who are successfully doing what you want to do (perhaps in a different location or serving a different clientele). They will know about the trends and issues in your field and may have experienced some of the challenges you are now facing. They will have current directories, and information about upcoming events related to your profession, as well as relationships with vendors you may need to hire.
- People who WERE in your profession: Find out why they are no longer in that field. What happened to their business? What are they doing now? Did they make the right decision to leave the profession? Talk with those who were successful and those who were not. This information may be valuable in helping your future business planning.
- Authors: People who write or produce books, articles, audio, and video about your profession are key subject experts. They usually have broad and deep knowledge about procedures, systems, technologies, tactics, and developments in your field. A few tips from these individuals could save you money and time.
- Regulators: People who regulate, audit, or monitor professionals in your field can certainly tell you stories about the legal, procedural, and operational pitfalls that you might run into. Additionally, they probably know how to survive those pitfalls. You may even discover legal loopholes that can make life and business easier.
- Trainers: The wonderful thing about trainers is that they specialize in imparting knowledge. They help people understand the basics; they introduce new technologies, procedures, and techniques. It is beneficial to gain access to their training materials; if necessary, sign up for training sessions.
- Consultants: Business professionals use advisors and consultants to help them solve problems that they find difficult to handle alone. Some consultants are generalists, while others are specialists. Most are skilled in assessing problems.
- Members of professional organizations: People who are active members of trade, business, and professional groups are prolific sources of information. Their membership gives them access to directories, newsletters, seminars, presentations, calendars of events and more. By networking, they stay in touch with current developments in their industry. Spending time with them will help you discover new ways to do things.
Identify Your Knowledge Network Members
Begin by writing the names of people that you know, or that you know of, who fit into each of these eight categories. List as many names as you can think of before you do anything else. Aim to identify at least three people in each category.
If necessary, you can use a name in more than one category, but it’s better to come up with as many individuals as possible. Remember, it is information that you want from your knowledge network, more people = more information. Once you have as many names as you can think of for each category, go back and fill in the contact information for each one.
When you have a full list of people in each of the categories, start connecting with these people to enhance and improve your knowledge network. Connect with them on social media platforms. Attend the same networking and business meetings that they do so you can make an introduction and start a conversation with them. Begin the process to build a professional relationship. AVOID selling to them and asking for help before you establish the relationship.
You can build an effective knowledge network, your own ‘think tank’, by following these steps and using your existing contacts, along with making new ones. By doing so, your network and the information you need to build your business will expand and grow.