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The Proper Care and Feeding of the Network

March 9, 2008

When starting both PayCycle and, I shared the business ideas with associates and colleagues— people that I knew—and ended each conversation by asking: “Who else do you know that could help me shape and grow the business?” This eventually led to me having an expanding list of contacts willing to help support, invest, and work with in first, PayCycle, and later,

I attribute the ongoing success of these companies to years of cultivating and nurturing what I call The Network.

I understand all too well the value, potential size and ultimate power of The Network. And, if you know me at all, you know how important The Network is to me. Whether you realize it or not, The Network—your network—is just as important to you, too, especially if you are in the business of starting up a company.

In the beginning, I was relentless. I got names and feedback from anyone who would talk to me. When they said they weren’t interested, I would ask “why not?” so I would be better prepared for the next person. This approach also provided invaluable information as to what the recruit, the investor or the business partner might think.

When you are starting a company, there are no early adopters for what you are building, so most of the feedback will be negative. That’s okay. That, in fact, is more important than the positive feedback.

What did I hear after my snooping around for feedback on PayCycle? Primarily, there was concern about a first time CEO (me), but they really liked the product and the strength of the team. Both of these tidbits were very valuable for me to understand in order to get future support and in crafting—and revising—my pitch (which we’ll get to next week) as I continued to build The Network.

Most of the deals that we got in those early days came through the network. To this day, the best people I’ve worked with have come through the network, and will continue to, as long as I continue to care and feed it (figuratively speaking, of course).

A lot of people choose not to develop a network, but it’s a shortsighted approach to doing business. It takes time to build a successful network. It doesn’t happen overnight. Feed it take care of it, nurture it. It’s important to maintain your relationships over time. When you are just too busy, you can pull back, but at some point, you will have to nurture it again.

If you are just starting off, it’s important to take certain steps to build your own network. Ask people that you know—your friends and colleagues—if they can give you one or two names of people who can help you, either in the market or industry you are interested in developing.

Be open to every opportunity and run it down. Be relentless, asking everyone you know, telling everyone what you are doing, using a concise pitch, and not being shy or bashful. I talked about passion for your business in the first post of this blog. You can’t be shy and still be passionate about whatever you are doing.

You can benefit from the The Network in so many ways. Here are some of the ones that have helped me the most

• Raising money
• Refining the business model/go to market strategy
• Getting amazing employees
• Finding the best business partners
• Attracting early customers
• Generating interest from the press

Caring for The Network is easy. It is all about giving. When you give, you receive and as Paul McCartney said: "And, in the end, the love you take/ Is equal to the love you make." This has always been my philosophy. So, when it comes to The Network, the more love you make, the more love you get. If you haven’t already, try it. You might be surprised.


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