By Penny Power, Founder of Ecademy.com, Social Business network supporting Business People

I wasn't aware that I was a networker when I was in business in my 20's. In fact it was well into my 30's that I realised what I was doing when I was out and about meeting people. I never put 'networking' into a box, I just liked meeting people and connecting them to one another if they needed help with a problem or an opportunity. The term 'networking' sounded clinical and task orientated, 'making friends' with people was my goal and intention.

Networking is now seen as a core business skill. Not just a skill for sales and marketing people but also a skill for everyone in whatever line of business they are in. Since it has become a 'must-do' part of business it has however been adopted by people who actually see it as 'selling'. They hand out their business card as though they are on a mission to 'work the room'. A numbers game for many, 'networking' is now a functional task, not a joy for some. The other day, at 7.15am in the morning on my train to London I had someone selling me 'CRM Software', he launched straight into his pitch, silently being mocked by onlookers. He excused himself by saying to me 'you're a networker aren't you, you know what it is all about!'.

That sad little man with his sad little view of life was actually trying to transact, not network.

So what is networking? It is relationship building. It is being friendly, it is being open to people and listening and chatting about random events and thoughts. It is not a transactional opportunity. May I add, you cannot dress yourself up as a sheep and really be a wolf either; any experienced networker can spot the wolf from 5 steps. The skill of networking is to have no agenda at all. The only motive should be to listen and learn from the person you are meeting and listen out for aspects of their life that you identify with or know someone who would.

Since the advent of Social Media I have seen many people reduce their online skills to broadcasting though various tools and once again people are forgetting that it is relationships and 'networking' that makes the difference to business growth. Shallow connecting is not enough. The word 'social' in front of Social Media and Social Networking is there for a reason and the fact that the 'business world' has chosen to hijack the social networks and turn them into transactional machines is a sad indictment of the lack of future thinking and awareness of the baby-boomers compared to those 'born digital' and born to be social and supportive of one another.

There are many evils in the world that could be cured if more people valued 'relationships', in the context of this article, may I leave you with one ideal and request —

'Start to build relationships around you, give it time and then look back and see the difference that philosophy made to your life, I am sure it will be financial, but perhaps the greatest learning will be the emotional impact it has on your life too'.

Penny Power is a published author, a highly engaging speaker and one of the UK’s most inspirational female entrepreneurs. In 1998, Penny founded Ecademy, the UK’s first social network for business, with her husband Thomas. Ecademy is now a global operation with members in over 200 countries. Her ]i]latest book, ‘Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me’ is an exceptional help to anyone wanting to learn how to future-proof themselves and their business.[/i]

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