Finding your role as a Portfolio Executive is a different kind of journey than finding your next job and often if we have been in corporate life for a long time, our network can be very limited in scope. Our network tends to be within the organisations in which we work and sometimes with our suppliers and with our clients. But as a Portfolio Executive that network is not really the network that you need to go forward. You need to start thinking about your network in a different way. I would suggest that there are three different things that you can start to draw from a network, and this should guide the way that you build the network.

Building a Network of Trusted Advisors to your Target Market

The first, and most obvious, is a network that will bring you introductions that bring you into a Portfolio Executive role. So, let us say for the sake of argument, that you want to take on a role as a Portfolio Executive marketing director. Then your target market will be CEOs of small and medium size businesses. The people who could make referrals for you are not likely to be the suppliers of marketing services to your current or previous employer, nor are they likely to be the clients of your current employer.  

They will be a new group of people: the CEOs of those SME’s and their trusted advisors.  Their accountant, sales director, lawyer, independent financial advisor or finance provider. You may be able to think of others.

But beyond that you also want to find people who can help you find opportunities for your portfolio executive proposition. These maybe include members of your professional institute, because there will be rising marketing managers in that institute who are working for smaller businesses that could benefit from a marketing director.

So, you are going to be building a network that reaches down as well as reaches up.

Practical Support for Delivery

Introductions and referrals are important, but you will also need a virtual team of suppliers in order to be successful.  Finding trusted suppliers who will help your business is not straightforward.  As your business grows you are going to want somebody who will look after your website, somebody who will look after your appointments, someone to look after your bookkeeping.  As somebody running a small business, the traditional suppliers that you may have seen in the corporate environment, will not necessarily be a good fit.  I recommend that you trial suppliers or part-time assistants for a limited period of time:  what is the trade-off between price, experience and quality you want to make.  Recognise that just suppliers or associates need managing – will you invest to build a long-term trusted relationship?  Or should you cut them loose because they disappointed you early in the first two or three weeks?

Building a Reputation

The third thing is a network that can project your influence into your marketplace.  You may be wanting to project your influence through speaking engagements, through sector networking, through conferences or events, or you may want to be projecting your influence through writing, blogging, and posting.  All these forms of influence require networking by you. Your local chamber of commerce could be looking for speakers to talk to their members. This can be a great opportunity for you to bring your story to an appropriate marketplace.  Often professional services firms, or HR consultants are looking for speakers to come to their events to add value for their clients.  Maybe you want to create a specific story, that you develop around a specialist topic and you will work with the Professional Speakers Association to hone and develop your craft. They will guide on how to find opportunities to take that story to keynotes or workshops within the community. One of the people who has been very successful in using this technique is the founder of Watertight Marketing.   She started out looking to provide marketing consultancy services and then she developed a keynote and then she built a three-hour workshop. On the back of that she built a really interesting franchise called Watertight Marketing.

Renewing Relationships

But the most important thing is to revive old contacts. Those people who have already moved out from corporate life that you used to work with, 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago.  Those people in your University Alumni Association or even perhaps your old school association or the sports club you joined.   Extended family and friends from where you have lived before.  Revive those older contacts because they already know you and they have all sorts of different connections.

Conclusion

The Portfolio Executive workstyle relies on you working the networking game.  The networking game you were playing has changed. You need to build a different, richer network, more sophisticated network than you used for career advancement within a corporate setting. Re-think your approach and get the help you need.

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.