Everyone tries to network. But very people do it well.
Why? Because they’re networking.
Hold that thought.
Imagine you’re a student at the University of Michigan. You meet fellow student and football star Brandon Graham. Brandon asks you to be his agent; instead you launch Compass Management Group, a multi-family office for athletes and entertainers, with Brandon as your first client. Later you sell your business, join RSE Ventures, and then become the CEO of Relevent Sports Group.
Plus you’re a partner — along with Maverick Carter, Carmelo Anthony, and Nate Forbes — in Del Toro Shoes, a high-end footwear and apparel brand. You co-own Blink Fitness franchises with Draymond Green and Nate. You’re a founding investor in Mark Wahlberg’s supplement line, Performance Inspired Nutrition. You’re a venture partner at 3L Capital.
You’re Daniel Sillman. You know a lot of people: Smart, talented, successful, influential people.
And you’re only 30.
And even though, as you’ll see from my conversation with Daniel, you never, evernetwork.
You’ve built relationships with so many people. I’m sure you’re constantly asked for networking tips.
“Networking” is a strange term. If you are a person the world perceives as good at networking… all that means is that you have great relationships.
The only way to do that — to build relationships — is to have a genuine desire to learn about someone: What they do, what drives them… some aspect of their life that interests you. Getting relatively close to someone means you know a lot about them, they know a lot about you… and you’re much more inclined to help each other.
I actually think I’m a terrible “networker.” But I do have good relationships.
Yet networking events, in whatever form they take, are extremely popular.
When you go into a meeting or a conference, or approach people with the thought that you’re going to network… it’s transactional. You’re just trying to meet people that can immediately help you. And they want the same thing.
Building relationships is totally different. First you learn about the other person; only then can you start to build a relationship.
Which never happens when you’re networking: People can tell in seconds that you only want to meet them for some kind of surface-level transaction.
Building relationships requires patience, just like any other relationship. Think about your friends: You didn’t go into those relationships looking for something. That’s why they’re your friends.
The same is true for great professional relationships.
What about introductions? I get at least 10 requests a week from people who want to be introduced to someone I know. Many include the words “would be so helpful to me” or “would change my life” or “would really launch my business”…
For a while I would immediately introduce people to each other: Jerry would ask me to introduce him to John, and I would.
What I didn’t take into account was the value of other people’s time is. Time is everything. I realized I needed to do some filtering, determine whether an introduction was really worth the time for the people involved…
Plus, when you make introductions, your credibility is on the line. You shouldn’t vouch for people you don’t really know, don’t have a relationship with, don’t know their interests and goals.
Fortunately, most of the introductions I made worked out and there was a fit… but I’ve become a lot more selective and patient.
Plus, me connecting someone with, say, Richard Branson is never going to work out the way the person hopes. Richard doesn’t know them. (He barely knows me.) And because they don’t have a relationship… he’s not going to make all their entrepreneurial dreams come true.
That’s the difference between wanting something… and having a genuine curiosity to learn about other people.
I met Brandon Graham because I was interested in learning about people who are different from me: Different backgrounds, different perspectives, different experiences… I love finding out how people get to where they are in life.
Through that process, and ultimately through that relationship, I was able to create a business opportunity that benefited both of us. And then meet other people that I was interested in knowing more about.
Building relationships starts with being curious to learn. Otherwise you only know people just like you. Where’s the fun in that? (Laughs.)
Which means a person’s “network” should be the result of building relationships. Not networking.
To say, “If I could only meet this person, it would change my life…” is not an accurate statement.
But when you meet people you’re genuinely interested in knowing… when you’re open-minded and curious about different backgrounds, different industries, different approaches to life and business… that’s how you can build real relationships.
People don’t want to be a transaction. If you aren’t interested in the actual person, if you’re only thinking in terms of a transactional relationship… that relationship will never be fruitful.
But when you build a relationship, everything else follows: You won’t have to ask the other person how you can help them. You’ll know.
And you won’t have to ask for something you might need. The other person will know your interests, your goals… and will offer to help.
You’ll both offer to can help.
And you’ll both mean it.