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As a senior executive, you’ll have developed very good networking skills within your corporate environment. You were good at connecting with other senior leaders across your corporate structure, you’ll also have built networks with suppliers and customers. Those networks will have served you very well in your corporate career.
But, if you are building a Second Half Career as a Portfolio Executive, the kind of network you’ll need will be significantly different to the network that you have already got.
This article shares my personal perspectives on how to build those networks that will support your new workstyle. I’ve also used a number of examples to show why the introductions matter and the opportunities they can lead to.
With some lateral thinking your network could introduce you to people and businesses that give your portfolio a huge boost right from the start.
Connecting with your peers and influencers
You’ll need to have relationships with people who will be your peers as a portfolio executive. You are building relationships with CEO’s of the medium sized companies that you are looking to become clients and with their advisors and suppliers. But’s that just the start. As you’ll see, there are a good number of additional networks available expand your connections and influence.
You will want to establish yourself with the influencers for those companies. Often, you will have built your corporate career in a narrow, vertical market, for example within IT services. This is a natural place for you to find CEO’s of smaller businesses, but you may find quite quickly that you need to extend into other related sectors.
Spot the related sectors
Maybe you have had a successful career as a Head of HR in an IT services business. You will have lots of relationships with recruiters in the area. You may have some relationships with senior executives whom you sought to recruit or who moved on. Think wider: start by identifying sectors in your supplier or customer base
Look in the core markets of your clients
For example, if you were in an IT services business that was very good at serving manufacturing businesses, then you are going to be looking to manufacturers as a potential market for your HR services.
Or if you see IT services as a knowledge-based business then look for other knowledge-based companies that have similar issues. What about cyber security? Maybe the skills you have could also be applied to legal or accounting services, or software service business – or any other knowledge-based business. You will want to start building those networks and relationships beyond your corporate boundary and beyond perhaps the narrow segment in which you have been operating.
Build networks with suppliers
The network of other suppliers to your potential market could also be beneficial. Let’s use the example of someone who is moving into other knowledge-based businesses. Who are the people that they are going to engage with, and the people who will be supporting those businesses?
Consider networking with marketing services providers, or those who run events for that sector, or who provide IT systems for that sector, or accounting services. If you’ve worked in an HR role, consider the law firm that were your legal advisors. Can you connect with the law firms of previous customers?
Building networks with suppliers is about thinking creatively. Start to build relationships with other suppliers who are working in that sector and you may want to look through your network to see whether you can get introductions from your former customers who are engaging with those services.
Network with other consultants in different specialisms
Another tactic is for you to position yourself with other people who are in different specialisms and are trying to serve the market in the same way. So, if you are a HR professionals, can you find finance, marketing or IT professionals who are also trying to address the market? An organisation that needs a finance professional or marketing professional may also have a need for an HR professional.
Those needs may not be apparent immediately, but over time as those organisations develop, they will start to see that they need to move from an HR manager to having a part-time HR director.
You are strongly positioned to introduce other portfolio executives into such clients. This increases your perceived value to your client and you can actively encourage those portfolio executives to introduce you to their contacts.
Building the right people around you
The people who are going to be your support system (your own suppliers) can form a powerful part of your network. They may be trying to develop their own portfolio workstyle – so you could help each other. They are having the same conversations and maybe reaching the same kind of people. What’s more, a friendly fellow executive could be a great sounding board.
Ask for advice
When people first make a decision that they are going to leave corporate life, I recommend they go back through past contacts and former colleagues. Asking for advice is a great way of renewing those relationships, better understanding the context in which you are planning to operate and priming people to make valuable introductions.
However well networked you’ll have been in your corporate career, being a portfolio executive calls for broader thinking about who will be in your expanding and highly productive network. A portfolio executive career is often based on what you know – but it thrives on who you know.
Find out more about a future as a Portfolio Executive, and the programmes and support we offer here.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.