Be a Boss: Ten Strategies from a Pro (Part 3)

Strategy #7: Prioritize creating good working relationships with your clients and vendors. Misunderstandings and conflicts will happen in business, but if you have a history of working well together, your clients and vendors will be much easier to deal with during difficult times. Your company management and outside consultants will often call your vendors and clients and ask for feedback on the company’s performance and yours. With a strong working relationship, you can count on them to say good things about you. Clients and vendors can be excellent references too!

Strategy #8: Develop good relationships with industry power players and executive search firm contacts. Industry power players are typically the heads of associations and C-suite executives who are industry thought leaders. They are selected to be on industry panels and are consistently in your industry press. They are the people that others turn to for guidance, including their recommendations for filling open positions at companies. Get to know them. Yes, it may sound as though it’s easier said than done. But challenge yourself to get creative with how you find opportunities to interface with them. If they are speaking at a virtual conference, attend and ask a question. Follow up with a brief note. Make an impression, so they’ll remember you, and over time, you can develop a relationship. 

Also, you need contacts at the top industry executive search firms. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson late in my career…but luckily, I get to help ensure that you have the opportunity to apply this lesson early! I changed jobs seldom and only when someone reached out to me directly from a company about an opening. I enjoyed my jobs, and I was not looking to leave before the next opportunity came along. There did not seem to be a reason to develop relationships with executive search firms. In hindsight, that was a mistake. I wish I had nurtured these relationships and regularly reached out to them. Most of the time, I did not know about open roles until I read the announcement of someone hired to fill it. Had I developed these relationships earlier in my career, most likely, I would have changed jobs more often, broadened my skill set, grown my network, and, potentially, had even more senior roles. The lesson for you — know the top three recruiters in your industry and talk with them regularly. They can tell you the best companies and bosses to work with, be on the lookout for the right opportunity for you, and can help you identify the best and brightest employees when you have openings. There is so much consolidation happening now and on the horizon — having recruiter relationships is essential as you grow in your career.

Strategy #9: Build your professional network and actively maintain a relationship with key contacts. What do I mean by that? Create a database of your contacts: name/title/company/email/phone #/how you met them/personal info. Update the database regularly and reach out to everyone on it, at least occasionally. Who knows, these contacts could very well become industry influencers or your boss a few years in the future. I know a woman, Dawna Stone, that is incredible at building and maintaining her network. She won Martha Stewart’s Apprentice, and we met at an event and eventually worked on video content together. She is one of the best at maintaining relationships. She still calls/emails me about every six months, and we met well over ten years ago. She shared this database tip with me. Dawna is a woman that people don’t forget, and in part, because she won’t let them! Nurture your network and believe me, it will pay off!

To emphasize the value of building your network and maintaining it, think about this phrase: hard workers work hard, and networkers get promoted.

Consider this pie chart based on the research carried out by Harvey Coleman, author, and consultant to Fortune 100 companies. It’s a pie chart showing what role Performance, Image, and Exposure play in receiving promotions and career opportunities.  He calls it his P.I.E. Chart…clever, huh? Your Performance (hard work) accounts for 10%, and Image (your personal brand) is 30%, and the big winner is Exposure; that’s your network, at 60%. Of course, all three spheres of how you shape your career should be maintained, but the real takeaway is the lasting value of creating, building, and sustaining a robust professional network. Work it grrrl — you can have the career of your dreams!

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Kim Martin