How many Facebook friends do you have? It’s usually a pretty good indicator of how well connected you are. Now, how many of those are people who you can count as real connections, people you can actually talk to when you need a reference or information? Apparently, most people know between 200 and 300 people well enough to be able to communicate with them.
You may ask, “Isn’t that enough for my network?”
Well, as BNI founder Ivan Misner says, a major key to success in building a strong business network is diversity. It’s natural for us to be attracted to people who are much like ourselves. They share the same interests, professional status and other characteristics. They tend to be in the same age range because that makes it easier to relate to one another. They probably share many of the same life experiences. This is natural!
The problem is that when you surround yourself with people who have similar contacts, you’ll find it hard to connect with new people or companies with whom you want to do business. Limiting yourself to one circle of friends and colleagues — no matter how large — can be a recipe for slow growth or even the death of a business.
What you need to do is find connections who can act as the bridge between you and those other diverse groups.
What business opportunities might be out there beyond your circle of contacts? What if you reach out to people way outside your age group, or your comfort zone? Younger and older, from different life experiences, you’ll start to find yourself connected to a vastly different group. What you need to do is find connections who can act as the bridge between you and those other diverse groups. Make them part of your network and you’ll dramatically expand your reach and the influence you have.
The best way to increase the number of these special connections in your network is to develop a diverse network. The more diverse it is, the more likely that it will include overlapping connector linchpins that link people together in ways you might never have imagined.
Remember that you never know who people know.
A real-world example
Ivan Misner recalls an example of how this works in the book The 29% Solution. A Mary Kay consultant was giving a facial at someone’s home when the customer’s husband walked by, clearly agitated about something. His wife asked what was wrong and he explained that he had to fire a graphic designer but needed someone to take over the project quickly. The Mary Kay consultant, a BNI member, pulled out a card from her card caddy and explained that she knew a good graphic designer. The graphic designer got the project. It turned out that the husband was a movie producer and the work was for a new movie. The job ultimately turned into a six-figure contract and the designer did such a good job he got the next movie project as well.
Someone you don’t have a lot in common with could be a connector between you and a whole world of people you might not otherwise be able to meet. This is the power of a diverse network, where the people we know are well outside the people we normally connect with. That’s also what makes the BNI concept so effective compared to other networking groups.
Branch out. Build a diverse network of professional contacts who don’t look like you, talk like you, have the same background or education or like the same things you do. Create a network like that and you’ll have one that can help you succeed at anything.