Diversify your network

By Brynna Leslie | October 1, 2013 | Last updated on October 1, 2013
3 min read

Your network probably includes advisors and professionals who share your investment and client service philosophy. While it’s easier to meet and connect with these people, there’s one big drawback.

“The information that circulates in such networks tends to be stale or redundant,” says Bill McEvily, professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “Everybody talks to everybody else about the same stuff, including gossip, information about job opportunities, and information about investment opportunities or new clients.”

So, seek diverse groups of people and aim to become what McEvily calls “the network broker.”

“Network brokers have lots of connections to different, disconnected clusters of people,” he says. “They are the ones bridging ties.”

They also have distinct advantages—access to more information and the ability to hear things before everyone else. What’s more, they can choose how, when and if they share that information, adds McEvily.

Follow these tips to become a network broker.

Seek opportunities to meet people outside your usual circle

Try volunteering in the community, joining a board or taking on a new assignment at work. Welcome newcomers at cocktail parties, industry conferences and other events. Find out what you have in common with these strangers by researching the guest list ahead of time. This will help you start a conversation, and build a relationship that’ll give you access to information, says McEvily.

Four questions to ask yourself

  • How often do you review your professional network?

  • How active or inactive is your network?

  • How much time per week do you spend on network-building activities or in networking events?

  • How does your network allow you to build your business, overcome internal constraints or strengthen your personal brand?

View events as an opportunity to bridge gaps

“Maybe you’re not sure whether or not to go to the wedding of a university classmate,” says McEvily. “Think about it from a networking perspective, rather than just on a personal level, and you may see an opportunity there.”

For instance, if she’s an engineer and your practice focuses on professional clients, attending her wedding may lead you to prospects. Or the bride may be a well-regarded estate lawyer who could become a centre of influence.

Fix client problems

“Advisors know details [about] their clients’ lives,” explains McEvily. So use this information to help clients solve issues that go above and beyond the scope of investing. For instance, if you learn a client is booking a vacation, tell him about websites that offer the best deals.

He’ll be thankful for this tip, and the next time a friend is looking for an advisor he may refer you. McEvily adds that a person who earns a reputation as a problem solver is held in high respect and has more influence.

Be viewed as an expert

Address a critical financial issue for an organization that you already work with. For instance, if your place of worship is struggling with paying the bills, offer your services.

Tech thought

Twitter allows you to interact with people you’ve never met. These online conversations could turn into real-life meetings.

Brynna Leslie is an Ottawa-based financial writer.

Brynna Leslie