Buddy Up!

My company, Kauffman FastTrac, is a stand-alone, 501(c)3, not-for-profit educational organization affiliated with the Kauffman Foundation, the Foundation of Entrepreneurship.  We offer current and aspiring business owners a portal to the entrepreneurial ecosystem before, during and after the startup process through a variety of courseware.  Since 1993, Kauffman FastTrac has been proud to have played some small part in the decision making process, skill development, and network building of more than 300,000 people engaged in the entrepreneurial process.  I, too, am a FastTrac grad.  Now, when I have the good fortune to interact directly with the entrepreneurs who enroll in our courses, I share with them the same thing that I learned as a FastTrac student and later as an entrepreneur myself:  Don’t go it alone.  Starting up firms and ensuring their growth is best played as a team sport.  The same applies in effective networking.

When I first started toying with the idea of leaving Sprint, I signed up for TheLadders; it’s a membership driven jobs board that aims to connect job seekers with relevant opportunities.  In addition to its work as a matchmaker, TheLadders puts out weekly e-blasts and newsletters with tips and advice for interviewing, resume writing, working with recruiters and the like.  One article (well, only a few sentences, really), published on January 22, 2008, stuck with me all these years:

Buddy up during your job search! Having a friend who is also seeking employment can provide great benefits to both parties involved. You and your buddy can express similar concerns, boost each other’s morale, and empathize with one another as you share advice and success.  
– Barbara Safani, Career Solvers

My #1 networking buddy was Scott C.  Truly, Scott is the best networker I know.  I remain grateful to him for teaching me about effective networking and for supporting me in the true spirit of partnership.  Each of you should find a networking buddy – hopefully one like Scott. 

Here’s the deal… during our first discussion about potentially “buddying up,” Scott opened his virtual Rolodex (aka, Blackberry) to me and started sharing names and contact details for several potential networking prospects for me.  He even seemed to have a handle on my networking calendar better than I did; each time I finished up Coffee, Lunch or Coffee, I would get a call or an email from Scott asking how my meeting went – he’d ask about the person by name, what I learned about the company, who else they connected me with, etc… it was amazing.  Beyond that, each time he finished a networking discussion himself, he’d proactively tell me about the highs and lows and, when appropriate, he’d suggest that I meet with the person next!  Oh, there was certainly quid pro quo… I shared a lot of contacts with Scott, too, but he was the one showed me by example the meaning of teamwork in terms of networking.  And, just to add to the idol worship, you need to know that Scott landed a position a few weeks before I did, but he didn’t forget about his little networking buddy… he contacted me several times per week just to check in and see how my networking was going and, of course, to give me more contact prospects.  Wow!

Oh, yes, there was even one time when Scott and I inadvertently ended up in contention for the same gig.  And, yes, it was awkward… I suggest you avoid that with your buddy.  But Scott and I both seemed to handle it like adults and, to this day, we are friends and he will forever set the standard in my mind for the ideal networking buddy.

Take this away for yourself:

  • Don’t go it alone.
  • Find a friend, a networking buddy, to partner with during the networking process.
  • Rely on that buddy, share information about when things go well and when they go less well.  Ask for feedback.  Heed his/her advice.
  • Be there for your buddy – even after one of you lands a position.

So, go grab a cup ‘o joe… I’ll be back tomorrow with a few thoughts on the power of the media.

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