Your Network is Your Net Worth

Lanella Hooper-Williams
LaNella Hooper-Williams
May 20, 2019
Business networking and connecting
Last year I attended the Women Presidents' Education Organization Annual Awards breakfast at the posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Columbus Circle (NYC). The event included hundreds of certified women business owners and corporate representatives and was one of the largest networking events I had been to in a while.

Right before the official program started, a representative from the organization approached me and asked if she could do a quick on-camera interview. I agreed, and as we began the taping, she asked, "What do you think has been the key to your business success?"

After giving it some thought, I replied, "I think the key to my success has been my powerful network."

Building relationships and a strong network are among the key components of personal branding. Your network is your net worth!

When I worked in corporate for 25-plus years, I found that my promotions and opportunities always were a result of my hard work, combined with the individuals who I considered my sponsors. They were the people who vouched for me. And, from the start of my business, my strong, professional network has continued to be instrumental in my ability to secure business. Yes, I've had to be competent. Yes, I've had to deliver on my obligations, but it's been my network that initially opened the doors to get the opportunities.

The truth is, most of my business consulting contracts have resulted from existing relationships and referrals. For instance, a few years ago, I was hired as a consultant for a major food service company based on a referral from a former Johnson & Johnson colleague. Over time, I became a trusted adviser to the North America president and what was supposed to be a three-month assignment continued for three years. More importantly, when the president decided to move on and become the CEO of another company, he asked me if I could continue providing communications support. That engagement lasted another two years.

Another business colleague served on an advisory council for a nonprofit startup organization. One day she reached out to me and asked would I consider responding to an RFP the organization had for communications support. Long story short, I won the contract. Plus, it led to me supporting the statewide efforts of the organization for more than six years.

Below are a few tips to help you build a strong network.
  • Relationships matter. Take time to build relationships before you need them. When you proactively build relationships without any pretense, you will have a better opportunity to sustain the relationship as the person won't feel like you are using them.
  • It's not who you know; it's who knows you. The best exposure is when others vouch for you and acknowledge your contributions. However, remember that people vouch for those they know and trust.
  • Look for ways to help others. Being proactive indicates that you are a person that takes the initiative. Volunteer your time to help others or be the "go to person" when someone needs something done. It usually pays dividends in the future.
Building a strong network of contacts can open doors to new opportunities. So, make sure you take control of your network, as well as proactively work on strengthening your connections and nurturing your relationships. You never know when you will need to tap into your network to speak on your behalf and support your professional advancement.

LaNella Hooper-Williams is a keynote speaker at NAEM's 2019 Women's Leadership Roundtable, which takes place from June 25-27 in Savannah, Ga. Learn more here.


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About the Author

Lanella Hooper-Williams
LaNella Hooper-Williams
Hooper Williams Communications
LaNella Hooper-Williams is president of Hooper Williams Communications, LLC, a strategic communication firm specializing in public/media relations, marketing communications, positioning/brand development, change/organizational communications and personal branding.

A certified women business enterprise, her clients have included well-branded corporations such as ARAMARK, AXA Financial, Johnson & Johnson, Novo Nordisk, The Brickman Group, ABM Janitorial Services, UPMC Medical Center (Pittsburgh, PA) and the Women’s Foodservice Forum (Dallas, TX).

She also is an expert in public health communications supporting organizations focused on building a culture of health, including New Jersey YMCA Alliance, American Heart Association, Trenton Health Team, Live Well New Brunswick, and Project Mercy, an Ethiopian NGO.

LaNella's personal branding blog provides a variety of tips and tools for an authentically empowered career.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., she received a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A. degree in Marketing Communications from Duquesne University. She also participated in an executive leadership program at Harvard Business School and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America.

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