Summary : How to be a Power Connector - The 5+50+100 Rule by Judy Robinett

1. “We give people bachelor’s degrees in marketing, business, and even entrepreneurship, but we teach them hardly anything about the one subject that virtually every entrepreneur says is critically important: networking and social capital. Judy Robinett’s How to Be a Power Connector is like an MBA in networking: an advanced course in finding and developing quality relationships with the people who can make the biggest difference in your professional success.” —Ivan Misner, founder and chairman of BNI

2. Harvard Business School (where I received my MBA) is all about networking and connecting people

3. Building a network isn’t simply exchanging business cards and eventually picking up the phone and calling people when you need them. Today I think of networking as getting to know people that I enjoy and genuinely taking an interest in them.

4. A more effective way is to put yourself in places where you can get to know people personally and figure out how to help them before you ask them for something.

5. The more people you know, the easier it is for you to access circles that you may not be able to reach otherwise.

6. You build a strong network by investing in it over a lot of years, helping people and connecting them with each other.

7. If you continue to invest in your network, it will grow exponentially; however, if you think of your network as only useful to you, then your network will eventually become weaker. 

8. You always should be thinking, How can I put two people together in a way that’s beneficial to both?

9. Your network only expands and gets deeper the more you use it.

10. A few years ago I joined the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), which is networking on steroids. With YPO, I can call anyone, in any country, and say, “I’m with YPO, Utah Chapter; can you help me with X?” and 24 hours later, he or she will put me in front of the right person.

11. Skill is fine, and genius is splendid, but the right contacts are more valuable than either. —SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE

12. If you want to achieve any goal, you need other people to help you do it—and your chances of success are far greater if you can help other people achieve their goals as well.

13. Every person has a gift to give and receive, and every person has problems that he or she needs help to solve.

14. You need to (1) pinpoint the relationships you will pursue and nurture; (2) reach beyond just friends, family, and profession and build a wide network of connections; (3) use a system for adding value to those contacts regularly; and (4) become the connector between connections—the person who can help people reach a resource they would never know about and could never reach if it weren’t for you.

15. In fact, recent research stated that over 89 percent of senior executives (vice president and above) at companies with revenues of more than $100 million annually say that the strength of their personal and professional relationships has a highly significant impact on their ability to deliver business results.

16. All too often we fail to think strategically about the kinds of connections we need to make—who those people are, where they can be found, and how best to connect deeply with them, quickly and over the long term.

17. The question for most businesspeople today is not “How can I be more connected?” but “How can I identify and nurture the important connections that will accelerate my success?” And equally important, “How can I connect with people in such a way that they will take my calls and help me when I need it?”

18.Here are the five major mistakes I see people make when they try to network:

  • They network in the wrong places for what they need.
  • They network at the wrong level for their goals.
  • They have no way to assess the relative value of the connections they make.
  • They have no system for optimizing their networking efforts.
  • They fail to network in the best way to create high-value, long-term connections.

19. The key isn’t the number of contacts you make. It is the number of those contacts you turn into lasting relationships.

20. You need a plan for connecting and adding value to your network regularly. Value comes in many forms, and it is determined by the needs of the situation and the individual, but I’ve found that nearly everyone needs more and better information, income, key contacts, favors, and introductions.

21. Let’s start by defining a strategic relationship as a connection between individuals that takes into account the value that each party can provide to the other—through their contacts, introductions, information, and other forms of support.

22. You must assess the potential value of the people who come into your professional life not only from the perspective of “Do I want to know this person?” but also “Do I need to know this person?” or “Does this person need to know me?”

23. Strategic relationships must be built on a foundation of generosity, value creation, and ultimately, friendship. Your time, energy, and efforts are precious—why spend them on people whom you wouldn’t want as friends?

24. A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship. —JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER

25. A study in 2001 of Fortune 1000 companies by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University revealed that the top 25 percent of those companies focused more on relationship building than they did on sales.

26. When companies actively seek to develop, nurture, and manage a wide network of strategic relationships, they will accrue the kind of relational capital that can lead to more referrals, customer satisfaction, and success.

27. You can develop social capital in three ways. First, you can build it yourself by doing the things that insiders do—going to the same schools, joining the same professions, applying to the same clubs, and so on. The problem is that being an outsider trying to do all those things can be extraordinarily difficult.

28. Second, you can buy it. If you have the money and are willing to invest in the businesses, philanthropies, and interests of insiders, many doors will open to you.

29. Third, you can borrow it by developing informal relationships with those who already have the social capital you want to acquire. You are “sponsored” by an insider who then gives you entry to his or her world. Being mentored by someone is a classic method of borrowing social capital, as is volunteering to serve on committees and boards.

30. In my experience, the third way is the most effective because it is based on developing a strong, trusted, and robust network of connections that will help you and that you can help as well.

31. Do you think being on a first-name basis with your manager’s boss might give you an increased status? One of the reasons I suggest that people join volunteer organizations, sports teams, and cultural institutions is that it allows individuals of many different levels to meet and develop relationships that have the potential to elevate their status.

32. Professor Burt puts it simply: people who are better connected have more power and reap the higher rewards.

33. Today there are more ways to access public information than ever before—and this means that public information provides much less of a competitive advantage to individuals and businesses. However, strategic relationships can give you access to private information (often before others receive it) that can be a significant competitive advantage.

34. There is also significant research showing that strategic relationships can increase your creativity. Scientists, philosophers, artists, and creative thinkers from antiquity to the present day benefited from interacting with strong strategic networks.

35. Here are a few questions to answer about your current network: 

  • How many of your current relationships would you consider strategic? In other words, in how many of your relationships do you focus on giving and receiving value that improves both parties’ lives and businesses? What is your network’s strategic quotient (SQ)? 
  • How many people do you consistently communicate with? In how many relationships are you actively providing value at least once a week, month, or quarter?
  • How much do you know about the networks of the people in your network? Can you draw a picture of the spheres of influence of your strategic relationships? 
  • If you needed to reach a top professional, financial, and/or political figure, how long would it take? And would that person respond to your request within 24 hours? 
  • Do you have a list of high-value connections with whom you would like to develop a strategic relationship? If so, do you have a clear and written plan for reaching them?
  • Do you have a plan for managing your strategic relationships so that you can stay connected easily and frequently? If so, how is it working?

36. Strong links are the friends, family, and business associates you see almost every day. They are the closest members of your social network, and they usually have a lot in common with you.

37. But there are others in your network that are defined as weak links: friends of friends, someone at work you might chat with on the elevator, a neighbor down the street whom you wave to as she walks her dog, a fellow alumnus of your university that you don’t actually know but whom you see at a reunion, the people on Facebook or LinkedIn whom you don’t actually know. Weak links are acquaintances, likely to know you by name and perhaps what you do for a living, but nothing of the details of your life. They may be distant from you because of geographical location, life circumstances, or philosophical differences.

38. But strangely enough, weak links are actually the strongest and most important connections in your network. In a study published in 1974, sociologist Mark Granovetter asked businesspeople who had recently changed jobs how they had found their new positions. You would think that the strong links in their networks would have been most useful. Instead, five out of six people had learned about the job openings through acquaintances and individuals that they knew casually through work.

39. Granovetter describes a weak link as “a crucial bridge between two densely knit clumps of close friends.”

40. People who act as bridges between groups can become central to the overall network and so are more likely to be rewarded financially and otherwise. —RONALD BURT

41. More connections . . . are less important than the right connections. —RICHARD KOCH AND GREG LOCKWOOD, SUPERCONNECT

42. I’m known as the woman with the titanium digital Rolodex, but truthfully, what I really have are three concentric “power circles” that add up to a little more than 150 people. They are categorized as follows:

  • Top 5. The 5 people closest to me. I connect with these people almost daily. These are the people I would trust with my life. 
  • Key 50. The 50 important relationships that represent significant value to my life and business. I tend these connections carefully, and I am always looking for ways to add value to them. 
  • Vital 100. The 100 people I touch base with at least once a month. Both the human touch and added value are critical to my keeping these relationships fresh.

43. The first step, however, is to evaluate your current relationships and choose who will go in which circle. 

44. I hope that you know exactly who your Top 5 are immediately. For the Key 50 and Vital 100, however, you may need to do some thinking. You want to ensure that you are selecting the best people for your power circles and eliminating anyone who may cause you harm.

45. People who create successful strategic relationships demonstrate 10 essential character traits:Authentic

  1. Authentic
  2. Trustworthy
  3. Respectful
  4. Caring
  5. Listening
  6. Engaged
  7. Patient
  8. Intelligent
  9. Sociable
  10. Connected

46. Leeches are those who take but never give.

47.If you know of any leeches in your network, the only way to get rid of them is to cut them off completely. 

48. Unlike leeches, who quickly reveal themselves as being consumed with the need to take from you, psychopaths can pour on the charm, get you to like them, and cleverly manipulate you into giving them whatever they want.

49. Trust is the currency of power connecting. Your ability to screen your connections and pass along only the best to your network is the hallmark of a true power connector.

50. Make Your Network Wide, Deep, and Robust.

51. Businesses with more diverse social networks encouraged innovation at a rate almost three times greater than businesses with homogenous (only strong ties) networks. Diversity in social networks was a key factor in producing greater innovation.

52. To be a true power connector, however, diversity isn’t enough; your network also needs to be deep in three different ways. First, you need multiple connections in different industries, companies, interests, and so on. Say you need to reach a top official in Washington, DC; wouldn’t it be better to have three or more possible contacts rather than just one? In computer network architecture, this kind of “redundancy” makes it possible for a system to function even if one or two connections go down. You want the same for your own network. Don’t be one person away from power: be one by a factor of three. That way, if one link isn’t available, odds are the others will work.

53. Second, each person you meet has an entire network of his or her own. To deepen your network, get to know the people he or she knows.

54. One of the clearest indications of the robustness of your network is its responsiveness. Do people return your calls or e-mails promptly? Do they listen to what you say? Are they helpful?

55. A responsive network is a strong indication of the amount of value you have provided to its members over the years, and your status in their eyes. And naturally, you need to be just as responsive when someone in your network makes a request of you.

56. When you become part of an ecosystem, you have four vital advantages: knowledge, connections, resources, and opportunities.

57. Anything you want to achieve—start a business, write a book, raise money, find the best preschool for your child, and so on—has an ecosystem, and you have to know how it works.

58. I once heard someone say that you can learn more by talking to someone for an hour than by reading books for a month.

59. You must actively seek to develop trustworthy relationships with the people in the ecosystem by adding value and keeping your word.

60. Whenever I moved to a new city, I would seek to make friends with the editor of the paper, county commissioners, investors, and local businesspeople. That way I could source any knowledge, influence, money, and connections that I might need. That’s the power of connections in a wide range of ecosystems.

61. “Wealthy people follow their passions—be it the arts, social causes, politics, whatever. You need to find out what this couple is passionate about, and if you can share their passion, you need to enter that ecosystem by adding value with your time, money, or connections.”

62. “Do you like Scrabble? Table tennis? Wine tasting? Cooking? Tea? Bill Murray?” asks the founder of Concept Modeling, Winston Perez. Attending and/or creating events around the things that interest you personally are better ways to network than going to so-called networking events.” When you connect with someone over a passion, it’s a far more natural and authentic relationship.

63. In business, the people you know, the people who refer you, and the people you’ve done business with consistently will often open more doors than your pitch, idea, story, or business plan.

64. Bill Gates’s rival, Steve Jobs, also wrote a blog that said, donate to the charity of the person you want to meet, or volunteer for his or her favorite cause.

65. A friend who is a networking expert and very savvy about volunteering suggests, “Select one group and become active in it. Go to meetings regularly, and take a position on the board of directors. By doing this, you create visibility within the organization and you have the opportunity to show people what a good leader you are. When you deliver first-class work as a volunteer, people will assume you deliver the same high-quality work in your professional life.”

66. “Birds of a feather flock together.” The same is true in each ecosystem: those with power tend to go to the same meetings, belong to the same clubs, and be invited to the same events.For example, there are clubs of every kind in every major city in the world.

67. Finally, within each ecosystem you must do what you can to add value, and not just upwards but sideways and downwards as well.

68. You need to build your relationships early, and you need to base them on the same criteria as every other relationship: respect, mutual values, and a desire to benefit all parties. These fundamentals are the foundation of the power connector mindset.

69. To create your list of experiences and qualities, come up with what I call a victory log: write down 50 things you have accomplished in your life.

70. “I try to make a practice of always asking new people what they are working on, what they are looking for, and what they need. And if I encounter opportunities for someone else, I pass it along,”

71. “Every time I share an opportunity, I build a connection and a friendship.”

72. Seeking to add value first is a prominent feature of all power connector relationships.

73. “When you come from a place of service (instead of thinking of ‘me, me, me’), help and support is returned to you a hundredfold.”

74. Power connection can be broken down into four phases:

  • Phase 1, you prepare to connect by analyzing yourself and your current network and determining the people you need to add
  • Phase 2, you plan your first contact with new individuals by preparing a share, value-add, and ask. Then you ready yourself to connect immediately with the people you meet. Finally, you add value quickly and strengthen the relationship from the start.
  • Phase 3 is about assessment and consolidation: you do something to reconnect within 24 hours, evaluate the connection and place it within your 5+50+100 circles, then deepen the relationship by continuing to add value.
  • Phase 4 is where the real power of power connecting resides: connecting people within your network for their (and your) greater success.

75. Make a list of your current connections. This list includes everyone in your phone, in your Rolodex, in your Outlook program, or anywhere else that you keep contact information. Look at your LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends—anyone with whom you are currently connected in any way—and his or her role in your life. Make this list comprehensive: everyone from your local Starbucks barista to your dry cleaner, children’s babysitter, the IT consultant for your firm, mechanic, accountant, minister, printer, and the attendant at the golf club or health spa who knows your name.

76. Once you have this list, divide your contacts into personal, professional, or both. Then rate each connection as to importance and/or closeness to you by using a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being closest and 5 being just a casual acquaintance.

77. Next. put a note next to each person’s name to indicate the context of this connection: business, politics, charity, social friend, club, school, and so on. (You’ll use this information to place each connection in the proper ecosystem.) Finally, note where each individual lives and/or works. Eventually you’ll use these notes to assemble your 5+50+100 power circles.

78. When you look at your list of connections, your Top 5 should be easy to identify: they are usually close family and friends, including business associates whom you consider close friends.

79. Your Key 50 are friends and associates whom you know you can call upon for all kinds of help and advice, and vice versa. Stephen R. Covey calls this group your “circle of influence”; if your Key 50 is solid, you will have access to many of the resources you need. Usually these people would be ranked a 2 or 3 in terms of closeness, but they can have different roles and be from different contexts in your life.

80. Your Vital 100 are often the relationships that you ranked 4 in closeness (some of them may be a 5, but it’s unlikely that you’d put casual acquaintances in your Vital 100). This group should represent a wide diversity of locations, contexts, and roles. I’d suggest you see your Vital 100 as akin to athletes on the bench: you pay attention to them, add value to them, and regard them as important members of your team.

81. Your goal is to create a streamlined group of 155 key relationships—people who share your values, with whom you will consistently connect, and to whom you will add value.

82. Add two columns to your power circles chart. In the first, write the resources this connection can access. In the second, on a scale of 1 to 5, rank the level of influence this connection has within his or her ecosystems. Influence can be everything from a position, a title, a network, a level of experience, or access.

83. List three to five of your professional goals for the next three months, six months, and one year. If you don’t know where you’re going, a million contacts (or a million dollars) won’t help. Truly successful people have specific targets targets they want to attain and actionable plans to achieve those goals. Then they can approach their connections with a specific, clear, and succinct “ask.” Take a few minutes to write your top three to five goals for the next three months, six months, and one year in a new chart

84. What help do you need to accomplish these goals? What people? Opportunities? Knowledge? Funding? What ecosystems do you need to access?

85. For each of your professional goals, you are going to create what I call a CRM—a critical resource map. (You can do this on a chart, or you can use a whiteboard and Post-it notes.) Put your goal at the top, and underneath it put four categories: key people, opportunities, knowledge, and funding sources.

86. Whom do you need to add to your power circles to accomplish your short- and long-term goals?

87. Make a plan to reach out to new connections during the next three to six months.

88. Being introduced by people who already have credibility in a particular ecosystem will help you be taken seriously. It’s essentially “borrowing” their credibility in order to open the door.

89. Remember that one of the easiest ways to enter many ecosystems is by joining key groups within it. Many industries have professional associations; communities have different interest groups that support things like community planning for safer neighborhoods, after-school programs, and so on.

90. As the quality of the groups you join goes up, so does the quality of the opportunities provided. Often one of your power circle members may clue you in to a particular group where movers and shakers congregate.

91.Now you need to discover as much as possible about their interests, professional credentials, hobbies and charities, association memberships, marital status, and number of children—anything that will help you build a connection and, eventually, a relationship.

92. However, before you actually meet these people, you must answer three essential questions: Who are you? What are you ready to give? And what are you looking for? You must develop what I call your share, your value-add, and your ask.

93. I believe that you need to give people a sense of who you are before you tell them what you do, and that’s what your share is designed to do. It is a way of telling your story that educates others about your heart, head, and gut.

94. Your share should include who you are, what you’re about, and what you’re interested in. Start with personal details; talk about your family, your hobbies, and your civic or community involvements.

95. Next, include a few sentences about your business or profession that reflect your energy and passion about what you do.

96. If you doubt your ability to add value, keep these questions in mind: “How can I help?” and “Can any of my contacts be of assistance?”

97. For people to help you, they need to know what you are doing and what you need. That’s where your ask comes in. This is not a direct request—“Can you fund my start-up?”—but a clear delineation of your endeavors and whatever assistance would be of benefit, no matter who or where it comes from.

98. Do your research to find the right room and then make sure your request is appropriate for the people you’re asking?

99. Inappropriate asks indicate that you haven’t done your research, and you will be labeled an amateur.

100. Through years of doing a lot of asking, as well as helping others to ask appropriately, I’ve come up with the six secrets of a great ask:

  1. Start small. Once granted, a small request opens the door to other requests and favors. Your first ask might be for a moment of a person’s time, or a short meeting, or a referral. Small, easily satisfied requests allow you to build the relationship one step at a time.
  2. Make your ask specific.
  3. Make your ask appropriate to the person, room, and ecosystem.
  4. Build your ask around a story that expresses your passion. People buy with emotion and justify with logic, and the same is true when it comes to “selling” your ask.
  5. Be willing to ask for help. “Help” is not a word many people use easily. We are taught that we should be self-sufficient and make our own way.
  6. Whether or not people are able to fulfill your ask, express your gratitude for their time and ask them to keep you in mind.

101. Often the best thing to ask for first is advice. It puts the giver in a position of knowledge and power, and the receiver may learn something or gain a new and valuable perspective. Studies show that those who seek advice from others at work are regarded more favorably than colleagues who don’t.

102. All are appropriate depending on the individual and your particular circumstances, but the best way to connect with anyone is with a personal introduction from a mutual connection.

103. You may have heard about the Marriott “15/5 rule”: whenever an employee comes within 15 feet of anyone in a Marriott hotel, the employee acknowledges the guest with eye contact or a friendly nod. If the guest comes within 5 feet, the employee smiles and says hello. Take on the Marriott rule for yourself, and be the first to reach out.

104. Start a conversation by asking a question. Offer a sincere compliment if appropriate.

105. McCrea and Walker suggest what they call the SIM test. At the end of any conversation ask, “What surprised me? What inspired me? What moved me?” If you can’t answer at least one, you probably weren’t listening.

106. Find something in common: a person, location, experience, or point of view. When marketing and branding consultant Dorie Clark interviewed Robert Cialdini, he gave her some excellent advice: The way to get someone to like you immediately is to find a commonality.

107. Financier and philanthropist Michael Milken once said that everyone is trying to be successful, loved, and healthy, and that’s why the three things that are important to most people are their money, their children, and their health.

108. When you understand what people are passionate about and/or proud of in their careers, their families, and their lives, you open the door to the potential for lasting connection.

109. Think of value-adds as anything that can (1) save time, (2) save money, (3) save someone’s sanity, (4) eliminate stress, or (5) bring more fun to someone’s life.

110. Mention your ask, but don’t “sell” it. Only after you’ve added value should you talk about your own needs and wants.

111. “No matter what the rate, you can’t write good contracts with bad people.”

112. However, for your power circles you want a group of like-minded people, with compatible values, interested in adding value to others, knowing that their success will come from mutual assistance offered in both the short and long term. In other words, you want people who have a good head, a good heart, and who are a good bet.

113. You may already have an instinctive sense whether these individuals should be in your Key 50 or Vital 100. (Rarely do people go straight into your Top 5, as these are your closest relationships.

114. Power circles are fluid and will change over time as you grow and change, and you must be willing for members to change levels or to leave altogether.

115. I have found that slow follow-up is one of the three major places people fail when it comes to building strong relationships.

116. Once a week. Within seven days of contacts reaching out to you, you should send something of value. This can be an article, an introduction, a resource, an opportunity—it doesn’t have to be large, but it needs to show them that you (1) have them in mind, (2) understand their goals, and (3) are committed to adding value to them consistently.

117. Once a month. Every month you should reach out and add value to your Vital 100. (I do this with 25 members per week—certainly a less daunting task than all 100 at once.) If you have organized your power circles by ecosystem, it’s easy to send e-mails to groups,

118. Secret 5: Always do what you say you will. While this is a fundamental requirement of any authentic connection in business and in life, it’s absolutely vital when it comes to multiplying value. If you say you will do something, do it, and do it by the time you say you will.

119. One of the keys to success is to join groups that will provide access to whatever people might need—contacts, resources, opportunities, funding, and so on.

120. Keep in mind the fundamental principle of power connecting: add value first, add value consistently, and make sure the value you add is appropriate for the other person.

121. Conferences are excellent places to meet new people in specific ecosystems.

122. For example, the annual BIO-Europe conference is the largest life sciences meeting in the world. It’s said that more deals are made in the halls and over coffee and meals there than are made in an entire year for some companies.

123. Go where people congregate. Meeting new people is a combination of luck and synchronicity, but you can make yourself “luckier” by positioning yourself where they gather. David Bradford is a master connector, and one of his tips is, “Stand in high-traffic areas where you can be seen and heard.” At conferences, that often means by the coffee or other food service areas. Other good places to meet people include by the registration tables and by the doorways of conference sessions—anywhere people are waiting.

124. Top 10 Tips from the Titanium Rolodex:

  1. Start with the Three Golden Questions: “How can I help you?” “What ideas do you have for me?” “Who else do you know that I should talk to?”
  2.  If you’re not succeeding, you’re in the wrong room. Most people get stuck looking for love in all the wrong places. 
  3. For every tough problem, there is a match with the solution. Critical resources are attached to people. 
  4. Measure the value of your contacts not by their net worth but by whether they have a good head, heart, and gut. 
  5. Stranger danger is a fallacy. You’re an adult. 
  6. People must know, like, and trust you before sharing valuable social capital.
  7. Don’t get lost in a crowd. Create a wide, deep, and robust network of your Key 50 that you carefully water, bathe in sunshine, and fertilize to grow—and that you prune as needed. 
  8. Keep the rule of two: give two favors before asking. 
  9. Introductions are your most valuable commodities, so only curate win-win connections: What is the value proposition for both parties? 
  10. If you can remember only one tip, make it this one: engage in random acts of kindness. You never know how one small act can tip the scales.