Networking: Creating and Maintaining Networks in Business Management

Networking: Creating and Maintaining Networks in Business Management

Mª del Carmen De la Calle-Durán (Rey Juan Carlos University, Spain)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5781-4.ch014
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Within an ever-changing and dynamic setting, managers need to develop new skills to enable them to swiftly respond to changes in the environment. One of the skills required of twenty-first century managers and entrepreneurs is the ability to create and maintain contact networks. Nevertheless, networking is not achieved simply by knowing its key techniques. It requires time, effort, and a great deal of practice. Accordingly, following an analysis of the concept of networking and its different types, this chapter addresses the key aspects for creating and upholding them: the principles of networking, its main obstacles, and the techniques used to facilitate it, such as social networks, visibility and exposure events, and mentoring. A further contribution involves the planning of networking to ensure its specific goals are met. Good network planning will ensure the more efficient achievement of networking skills, experiences, and resources.
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One of the skills required of 21st century managers and entrepreneurs is the ability to create and maintain contact networks. A manager is, par excellence, the person in the company responsible for the achievement of targets whose work would be devoid of meaning without liaising with other employees, their team, top management, shareholders, and other external stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers and social agents, etc.

Managers provide an organization with much more than their knowledge and their everyday work; these are the people that should have a broader perspective of the business, the ability to see that bit further, to pre-empt threats in the environment, and identify the opportunities that lie ahead. This means a manager should have the capability and skill for anticipation and ongoing exploration that should be developed through their professional career. It no longer suffices to have expertise, or teamwork skills, leadership or motivation, as instead there is a need to continuously monitor the environment, which is only achieved by being in contact with other agents (managers or not) that provide a broader view of business reality. New management skills are required, and these include the ability to liaise and interrelate; in short, a capacity for networking.

A network of contacts is one of the most important resources, as an entrepreneur uses networking to build more effective relationships with customers, support organizations, and financial institutions. It is important to develop these contacts through networking not only when the business is launched but also during its subsequent development. Building relationships through networking may help an entrepreneur to gain credibility and legitimacy in the market, and the information shared through networking may lead to the identification of potential opportunities, whereby entrepreneurs will have to continue developing their networks if they want to achieve their short-term financial goals, and the subsequent success of their growth.

In sum, whether it is because someone is in a management position or aspires to hold one, or because someone is an entrepreneur, “networking” is a priority skill for any professional. As Ibarra (2007) reports: “Other things being equal, what is going to give you an edge? It’s the relationships that you have that allow you to augment what you know and allow you to take the ‘what you know’ and actually to translate it into practice, into something the organization can use. It makes all the difference.”

According to Quintas (2017), weaving a network of professional or personal contacts is not easy, yet it is one of the talents required for succeeding in today’s market. Some people lack what is referred to as “relational intelligence”, although as with other kinds of intelligences it may be cultivated and developed. Robert-Ribes (2011, p. 21) concludes: “good networking is not achieved by simply following a recipe. It is a skill that requires practice, and not just theory.”

Yet what is networking, and how can it be created and maintained? Networking is more than a mere term. It is the symbol of social change. Networking differs from “social capital” in that the latter is a noun phrase, while “networking” is a verb, which gives it the nature of continuous flow. The concept of networking was promoted to help business people build their social capital. According to Gibson et al. (2014), social capital is a mechanism of networking. Networking behavior is an individual-level construct that may help build social capital that is operating at a higher level. “Social capital in this sense is viewed as the structure of individuals’ contact networks and operates a mechanism of networking” (p. 157).

The key to success not only involves knowing the techniques of networking, but also having a true sense of engagement and considerable practice. Furthermore, the way in which individuals interact with their actual contact network is more important, as it can only live and grow when it is used (Robert-Ribes, 2011). Along these lines, Crane (2013, p. 10) affirms: “If networking truly is all about relationship, and it is, then to be successful, you must invest time and effort.” According to Quintas (2017, p. 24-25) “I am fully convinced that networking is the most necessary skill not only for being successful in professional circles, but also for our future as a species.”

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