Networking Investment Strategy

Growing InvestmentA recent Wall Street Journal article, “Lessons from a Buffett Believer,” by The Intelligent Investor, Jason Zweig, told the story of the humble and very successful, Thomas Gayner, co-president and chief investment officer of Markel Corp.  The piece highlights Gayner’s outstanding investment results over the last 15 years and notes some of the company’s largest holdings in firms such as Berkshire Hathaway, Disney and Marriott International.  That was all very interesting to me, but what caught my attention were the relatively small holdings (e.g. in one company, Rush Enterprises, Markel has a less than $300,000 position) coupled with this comment from Gayner:

I think about something more if I own a little of it than if I own none of it.

According to Gayner, by investing a little bit in various companies, the investments stay top of mind and he can watch to see which blossom into something greater.  As the investments deliver results, he has the opportunity to invest more in the strongest among them.  What an awesome concept!

In addition to the small investments, it should be noted, with some of Markel’s larger holdings, Gayner bought and held positions with solid organizations for decades; and, those organizations continue to deliver stellar returns.

This approach has direct applicability to Networking.  The investment, instead of financial in nature, is based on contributions – big or small – of time, information and resources as put into the building of relationships.  Even a little bit of a commitment shows your interest, brings the contact to top of mind and enables you to watch the relationship grow and determine how much more to put into building it beyond its current state.

To test this theory, think about your own relationship base.  It’s likely you’ll find that relationships in which you invested decades ago and continue to hold connections, are stronger than ever.  And, no doubt, if you make small investments – say a discussion over coffee or a quick interaction at a networking event – and keep those conversations going over time, you will discover which you wish to continue to build on and, thus, build on your results.

In the article, Gayner went on to say, “I’m scattering seeds, seeing which become seedlings.”  Like Gayner, as you plant seeds with your connections, when done in an authentic manner, I believe you will reap success over time by minding your connections, keeping in touch with people and building your relationship base for the long-term.  Happy Investing!

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