Take it from an old grizzly who’s been there and done that. We like to think that with age comes vast experience. Guess where that vast experience came from? That’s right. Until someone invents a Teflon-coated suit, the most penetrating insights come from hindsight.

Is there a bright side? Sure. The more you learn from every one else’s mistakes, the fewer you have to make yourself.
Here are a few goodies:

1. Don’t assume the credentials are the power.
As every salesperson knows, the key to the sale is knowing who’s got the hammer. Every outfit is different. No organizational chart can tell you who the real decision maker is. The most important decision maker often can be found lurking behind the most inconsequential or incongruent title. You need a network to find out where the power is.

2. Don’t confuse visibility with credibility.
Don’t join any organization, particularly a religious organization, solely to advance your own interests. Your motives will be as painfully obvious as a deathbed conversation.

3. Don’t be a schnorrer.
That’s Yiddish for people who constantly take a little bit more than they are entitled to. (That’s as opposed to a goniff, who is an outright thief, and a nudge, who is merely annoying. Yiddish provides endless gradations for defining difficult people.)
Save your big favor request for the big issues. Keep a running balance in your mind of what you have asked for and what you’ve delivered, and don’t overdraw your account.

4. Don’t say “no” for the other guy.
Use common sense. It’s one thing to make a pest of yourself or to overreach. It’s quite another to be afraid to reach out for help when you really need it.

5. Dance with the one that brung you.
When someone in your network comes through, don’t be a stiff. Dinner, flowers, a box of candy, a bottle of Old Faithful, a card, or even a phone call is called for. Remember, these people didn’t have to extend themselves for you. But they did. And here’s a tip: Be sure to thank the person at the top. No one ever does, because they think he or she hears all they long what a super job their company is doing. A heartfelt “thank you” will be music to their ears. Do it and you’ll be remembered.

6. Don’t mistake the company’s network for your network.
If you’re going to keep your job, your network has to be as good as or better than your own company’s.
You need:
a. Support and sponsorship in other departments besides your own, so that you’re able to jump to another department if yours is downsized or jettisoned.
b. Lines of communication that tell you what’s happening in other parts of the company— who’s growing, who’s shrinking.
c. An outsider’s objective view of your company and how industry-wide trends are affecting your role in it.
d. Foreknowledge of what skills are going to be in demand at your company.
e. A backup strategy in case you are let go, i.e., a career network outside the company.

7. Don’t be slow to answer the call.
There’s a call on your answering machine. You know that it’s a request for help, and that it’s going to take some time and trouble on your part to respond satisfactorily. Do you stall? Do you ignore it? Don’t.

8. It probably isn’t just your network that’s aging; it’s you.
Times change.
Your network is only as good as the knowledge and information you can bring to it.

9. Don’t underestimate the value of the personal touch.
Small businesses that survive and prosper know how to network with their customers and prospects by emphasizing a level of personal service and attention that the big businesses can’t.

10. If you don’t know, ask. Even if you do know, ask.
Draft a questionnaire and put it where customers can pick it up. Suppliers are also a great source of information. You are their customer, so they have a vested interest in your success. You’d be surprise at the wealth of information they have, if you just tap it.

A small business can develop a network of epic proportions. The small business person can be more creative than a national chain and tailor-make promotions to their target audience.

Author's Bio: 

Harvey Mackay has redesigned the concept of business networking. Author of the New York Times #1 bestsellers Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, he is no stranger to the challenges encompassing the business world. His books are among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. Mackay’s books have sold 10 million copies in 80 countries and have been translated into 37 languages.

Walk with Mackay as he discusses the secrets to constructing and upholding a network that will yield exciting new experiences, increased job security, and an expanded financial reach. Harvey Mackay believes most people make the crucial mistake of only turning to their network when the need it.

Harvey Mackay’s website, www.harveymackay.com, along with his book, The Harvey Mackay Rolodex Network Builder, reveal secrets for network building as a lifelong practice and emphasize taking business relations to a personal level.

Mackay is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Executive Program. Mackay is a nationally syndicated columnist for United Feature Syndicate, whose weekly articles appear in 52 newspapers around the country including: the Chicago Sun Times, Rocky Mountain News, Orange County Register, Minneapolis Star Tribune and Arizona Republic. Harvey Mackay is also one of America's most popular business speakers and was named by Toastmasters International as one of the top five speakers in the world.