I have realized that reward is one of the motivations of man. While growing up, we were often taught that success is the reward of hard work. So, we found ourselves working so hard to achieve success. The same holds true for laziness and complacency. They too have their rewards. Most people, at some point in their lives, realise that they could have been better off if they had taken time earlier to weigh the rewards of excelling in their chosen fields. Many expected success to fall on them in their old age. But it hardly does.

The world only pays back in direct proportion to what you put in. Weak networking efforts result in a below-average network of contacts, while calculated and aggressive networking activities yield tremendous proceeds in a powerful network. I am sure we all desire the latter. Most times the rewards are beyond you, spilling over to your children and loved ones.

Most employees of organizations are often demotivated when the rewards of the job are not commensurate with the efforts expended. Surveys have often revealed that high performing establishments have a reward system in place for their workers. Ironically, most employees do not take time to consider the rewards of excelling at their work. They, thus, fail to keep in view the picture of the reward. Consequently, there is no inspiration to drive them to perform above average or do the extraordinary

Networking is a valuable skill for people across all cadres – from the security personnel to the Chief Executive Officer. I remember often being assisted by a particular security officer to get a good parking space in one of the banks in Lagos. Every time I visited the bank, he quickly stepped up with a smile and gave a helping hand. One day, he boldly walked up to me and said, “Sir, please pardon my disturbance. My son studied Accountancy and has just finished his National Youth Service. I would be happy if you can help him get a job.”

I was stunned. I told him I did not have any vacancy for his son then. But I gave him my card and told him to tell his son to drop his CV at my office. He did. About two weeks later, I was with a friend who needed an accountant in a new firm he just set up. Guess who came to my mind? Of course, the son of that security man! That is the reward of networking in action.

Please note that I am not implying that it works like this all the time. But I am certain that your chances of getting a faster payoff in life will be further brightened by effective networking.

The same holds true for vision-based networking. Once you have a vivid picture of what you stand to gain if you network effectively, your attitude towards networking will be more proactive. Remember the biblical story of David who singlehandedly brought down Goliath, the giant. Before David left for the battlefront to face Goliath, he had gone around the Israelites’ camp to inquire about what the rewards for killing Goliath would be. And the rewards were good enough to motivate him to go for the kill. Same way, you need to see the reward in your mind’s eye. There must be a personal buy in. It has to become a personal passion.

Before I got married, I wrote down what the rewards of getting married would be. I value a productive kitchen and the sight of children running around the house. I value being responsible and having a soul mate. These are a few rewards that motivated me to seek a partner. Seeing the rewards would create the inner inspiration to pursue and acquire the resources necessary to live your dreams.

Many years ago, I wrote down the rewards of networking, and I have ever since inscribed them in my heart to serve as motivation for me whenever a networking moment arises. I clearly remember a one-liner in my list that states, ‘Ferdinand, networking would take you to a place better than where you are.’ So, when a networking opportunity arises, I hear a voice screaming from within me, “Ferdinand, there is a place better than where you are, bigger than where you are, greater than you. You have the chance to move ahead. Take it, take it, and take it!” I call this my networking action-booster.

In my knowledge transfer sessions, I often tell participants that they should avoid complacency in networking and must be passionate about building their networking account. Act as if your networking account is one of your bank accounts, because it truly is. Always improve your networking ability; the fatter the account, the better for you and the better the rewards.

Just as the money in your bank account pays your bills, so the quality of your network creates the opportunities that guarantee you consistent business and income. The same way you ensure your account doesn’t go into debit is the same way you ensure your network account does not go dormant. You have to keep building your account. The dividends can be a lifesaver.

I realize that one key strategy for getting ahead faster in life is to leverage on your contacts and your contacts’ contacts. How many people do you know? How many quality and influential people do you know? Think back to your days in school, how many of your friends do you still have in your network?

It is amazing to find that there are people who attended that same institution but who shy away from alumni meetings. Perhaps, they do not realise the power of such networks. The rewards of active participation in that kind of association cannot be overemphasized. There were job seekers who have become employed, while those hitherto employed have gotten better appointments. The smart networkers have expanded their networks. The thinking networker knows that such associations are needful for advancement in career and business.

It is appalling to find people meandering all year long without a single networking platform which is meant to be a river where they fish for business, for opportunities, and for people. I agree that some people have the capacity to fish in several places, but how many do you have? I often ask participants at my seminars how many networking platforms they fish from. You may need to ask yourself that same question regularly.

I remember having lunch with a very aggressive networker one day, and he said to me, “Sir, you may find this funny, but I have three simple networking platforms from which I have always reaped massive rewards. They are receptions, lifts and fast food restaurants. I visit these places every day and I realized that a great deal of good contacts can be harvested there.” I smiled. I told him how impressed I was with his smartness, because we all visit those places too but without the mindset of a savvy networker. Maybe the next time you find yourself in those places, you can think of doing some networking.

Due to my knowledge about the rewards of networking, I was able to design a special-reward marketing approach that has paid off for me. Firstly, I check out my lifestyle or major areas of my life where I require help most times. Let us consider some – medical (a doctor), legal (a lawyer), property (a real estate consultant), and bank charges (a reliable banker).

This is what I do. I create a network plan to know at least 10 experts in all these areas. I take time to meet them one-on-one. I create and sustain all the relationships. So, whenever I have a challenge in any of those fields, I am sure to get the best advice or help, at the best price – and sometimes at no price!

I know the best rates on my funds; I get advice on how to negotiate better rates and the best paying financial investments. The legal network helps me know how to handle my legal obligations. It guides me on how not to get exposed to or entangled in sensitive legal matters. The networks pay off. If I need to buy a house, then I talk to my network on real estate. I know what the industry is paying for a particular real estate; I get the best advice on when to buy or sell and how to get fantastic deals.

Sometimes, my network just shares useful information with me by virtue of my keeping in touch. I have received free newsletters that have helped me to save millions for my clients through shared information that was a guide to their business decisions.

The question now is, “How have you categorized your networks?” Have you taken time to list your contacts? Have you segmented them across their area of operation? Can you structure your expected reward from these network groups?

Our actions are consciously or unconsciously driven and motivated by rewards. We are willing to make sacrifices because of the expectations of rewards. If the prize is not worth it, nobody will pay the price. Let me say upfront that networking requires that you make sacrifices; that you pay the price. Networking will place a lot of demand on you. Demand on your time, demand on your emotion, demand on your finances, demand on your relationships and demand on your patience.

I know that it is not easy to walk up to a complete stranger, especially those of status and initiate a conversation. Sometimes you will be embarrassed, at other times you may be harassed. Networking can be expensive. Joining associations or groups, dressing for the occasion, meeting your financial obligations can put pressure on your finances. Networking can be time consuming. You may need to sacrifice your rest and sleep time. But these are essential sacrifices to make if you must make the contacts and create the connections that will help you fast track the achievement of your goals, dreams and aspirations in life.

If you focus on the price to pay, the sacrifices to make and the demands on you the tendency is very high that you will give up mid-way. And nobody who gives up deserves the benefits of networking. But if you identify and focus on the rewards and benefits of networking even when the challenges show up, you are willing to face them. You will see the demand on your time, money and resources as investments and not as expenses. A networker is like the hurdles runner. He realizes that the only way to win the race is to focus on the tape, not on the hurdles. The hurdles are only ladders to the podium. Without the hurdles, there would be no race; without the race, there would be no medals. Without the price, there would be no prize.

So, the motivation is the prize. If the crown is not worth it, nobody will go to the cross. What then are the rewards, benefits and prizes of networking? Now, let us consider some of the reasons it is so important for you to acquire and use the skills of professional networkers and why it is so important for you to improve on your networking skills.

Reward 1: Knowledge and experiences of other people

The first benefit or reward for business and social networking is that networking exposes you to the knowledge and experiences of other people. Because of networking, you are connected to people and groups with diverse backgrounds and experiences. So here you are with just a few years in your career connecting to people who have invested three quarters of their lifetime acquiring education and working in diverse places.

You can plug in and draw from those years of experience by just connecting with them. You are also able to share your own experiences with those who can benefit from them. Ideas flow freely during networking. Information is freely given during business and social networking. You are able to learn from other people’s success stories and mistakes. Others are also able to learn from yours.

Networking creates a large pool of human resources you can share your ideas, your dreams, plans and aspirations with. Two good heads they say are better than one. Imagine where you have access to hundreds or thousands of good heads.

Reward 2: Massive opportunities are opened

Networking exposes you to potential opportunities. You find yourself centered in the midst of potential opportunities that would ordinarily not have come your way at this point in your life. You have the privilege of joining associations, clubs, gyms, resident associations, religious groups and so on with men and women old enough to be your parents. Peter Drucker once said that more business decisions occur over lunch and dinner than any other place, yet no MBA courses are given on the subject of business and social networking.

You are more likely to know about job and business opportunities if you have a large and robust network. Some companies in Nigeria do not advertise job openings and contracts. Only those who work in those companies get to know. Guess what, only those who know the people that work in those companies also get to know. It is called knowing by knowing those who know. So you can increase your chances of knowing by increasing the number of people who know that you know. That is what networking is all about.

I am of the belief that the more you grow in your careers and business the more the openings and deals you get should come from referrals and advocacy; not from blind prospecting.

Reward 3. Less hard work

The third benefit of networking is that networking is about less hard work. If you are a sales person and you have a target to meet, you have two options. One option is for you to adopt the cold call technique; which is to knock on as many doors as possible or blindly call as many people as possible, attempt to see the decision makers, book appointments, make sales presentations, start following up and hope that some of them will eventually buy from you. But that’s a very laborious way of prospecting and selling. That is called working hard, but hardly working.

The other option open to you as a sales person is to use the contacts of the people you know to secure appointments. In other words, you are exploiting the contacts that people have made over the years. It is called using close contacts to gain access to distant contacts. Only business and social networking offers you this platform. Networking fast tracks the sales process.

Rewards 4: Reap where you did not sow

The fourth benefit of business and social networking is that networking gives you the power to leverage on other people’s network. Networking unconsciously gives you the power to enter other people’s network. People have networked for years and have built very powerful networks in the process. “Can you refer me to five people I can introduce my business to?” could lead to a positive answer that will spiral you into their own bank of network. Your own duty will be to maintain your relationship with such persons and build on the others in their network.

Furthermore, if you understand the principle of compounding relationships, you are able to expand your own network and leverage from other people’s network. Just by joining a group or association, just by introducing yourself to people, establishing a contact and building the relationship, you are now able to leverage on the contacts, networks and relationships that others have acquired over the years.

You didn’t attend the same secondary school or university with me, you are not from my village, you don’t leave in my estate; but just by connecting with me and managing the relationship well, you begin to meet my class and school mates, my neighbours, my relatives and my friends. You also begin to leverage on their contacts, connections and referrals. So if I have a network of successful people, women of influence, consent givers and support team, once you join my network you will be exposed to these people and inevitably expand your own network.

So, you are just 35 years old and you meet a man of 70 years; a retired top professional or public servant who had worked for 35 years; had helped hundreds of people in key positions of authority today, and has built a formidable network of people. Imagine the opportunity that meeting this person offers you! Having him in your network offers you the opportunity to showcase yourself to people who understand what value means and who have the ability to help you achieve your aspiration in life. Networking is the strategy for business and career acceleration. My friends, you need more than yourself to save you.

Reward 5: Strength in number

The fifth reward of business and social networking is that a good network will replace the weakness of an individual with the strength of a group. Alone, I can only achieve little; but with others practically anything is possible. We are all familiar with the story of the tower of babel.

People struggle to achieve lofty dreams and aspirations because of a limited network. Even in physical exercises, you are more likely to stretch yourself when exercising with others than when you are exercising alone. In the gym, you are more likely to lift an extra KG, run five more minutes on the thread mill because of the motivation and challenge from others.

Reward 6: Break barriers and protocol

The sixth reward of business and social networking is that the right network gives you the power to break barriers and open shut doors.

A good network gives you the power to enter places where on your own, you cannot enter. If you are sales person or a business person, I am certain that you will agree with me that the first hurdle you have to cross to make a sale or get business is to get an appointment to see the key decision maker. You might have a fantastic product, a great idea or wonderful service, which will add value to individuals and businesses. But unless the prospects see you, your products, ideas and service are useless.

You might have good qualification, great competence, fantastic pedigree and so on. Unless the head of recruitment or the chief executive of the company you want to work for sees you or hears about you, you will remain unemployed.

There are four ways of getting others see to you, listen to your presentation and evaluate your proposition. One option is for you to first write and send a letter/mail and then either place a call or physically visit the place to secure an appointment or check the status of your proposal. The other option is for you to visit the company without any previous communication and ask to see the decision makers. The third option is to have somebody secure an appointment for you and you now go and show up. The last option is to have someone within or outside of the organization take you by hand to the decision maker and have him or her listen to you. My question is: which do you think offers you better chances of being seen or listened to? I am sure you are torn in-between the third and the fourth options. That is the reward of networking.

How many businesses have you lost because you couldn’t get an appointment to see the decision maker? How many of your ideas are wasting because people who need to listen to you have not listened to you? And they have not listened to you because you haven’t met them. Is it possible that with your qualification, experience and competence that you deserve better than the place you are currently working and more than you are currently earning? But you are chained because nobody can give you access to the companies that need you? Is it possible that your ideas can solve the economic problem of this country if only the president can grant you audience?

Is it possible that you have the potential to win the Grammy awards if only someone can introduce you to a good record label? Is it possible that you would have been playing in the best team in Europe if only someone introduced you the national team coaches? That is the benefit of networking. The more you network, demonstrate value and compound your network, the higher your chances of meeting the people that will open doors for you. Every door has a key and people hold the keys to all the doors. Your responsibility and my responsibility is to keep making contacts and creating connections until we find the people who hold the keys to the doors we want to enter and make them like us enough to open the doors for us. Networking can help you break protocol.

Reward 7: Achieve your goals and aspirations faster

The seventh benefit is that business and social networking can help you reach your goals faster. For most people, the right network is the missing link between their talent, education, experience, product or ideas and accelerated career and business success. A good network is the missing link between a fat pay cheque and a Salvation Army food.

There are countless stories of people who have not and may not reach their goals because they lack networks that can propel them to advance faster. Great networks are, in my view, business catalysts that ensure you reach your goals faster. I know many businesses that came into being because a man with a dream made a presentation to a network group that believed in him.

While people spend all their lives visiting banks for loans to actualize their dreams, the never-say-die networker simply sends out letters to key people in his or her network, sells the idea to them and the funds come rolling in.

Reward 8: Be a blessing to others

The eight benefit of networking is that a good network can help you help others. How many of your siblings have you helped secure employment because of whom you know? What have you attracted to your community because of people in your network? When was the last time you made a phone call to rescue a friend from a desperate situation? These and much more are some of the great things a good well-oiled network can do for you.

How long your younger ones or relatives stay at home after graduating with good grades is to a large extent a function of the quality of your network. How long it takes you to get another job when you lose your job is a function of your network. What have you attracted to your community on account of your network? How many times have you made a call that got someone out of trouble? If your network is not helping you help yourself and others, you either don’t have a network or you have the wrong network.

Reward 9: Platforms for making quality friends

The ninth benefit is that business and social networking gives you the power to make quality friends, can provide you with real job security and gives you the power to become better than yourself. Networking also enhances the number and quality of the referrals and advocates you secure. So even when you are not there and opportunities in your areas of core competence come up you have people in your network speaking for you. Meanwhile, these are businesses you have been struggling to get by prospecting, booking appointments, making presentations, following up, etc. But just on account of advocacy, these businesses practically look and come for you. Most of the businesses and briefs I get today come from people who heard about me from those in my network. So, networking is a strategy for business acceleration.

Reward 10: Helps you monitor and assess the direction of your life

The tenth benefit of business and social networking is that you can also evaluate the direction of your life by looking at your network. Do your friends and colleagues often complain about the barriers they face in life? Do they often gossip about other people? Do they blame everyone but themselves for their status in life? If these are the kind of people you spend your time with, then of course you are in the wrong network. When you begin to network you will start meeting people who think and talk differently from your current friends.

Networking helps you increase your chances of meeting people who take responsibility for their situation; who look for solutions, not problems and who are ambitious and determined. People, who face the same challenges that you face, but have a positive mindset. When you meet such people, they will challenge you to drop the self-limiting beliefs that your negative friends have bombarded your mind with. The more you network, the more you meet people of different idiosyncrasies, beliefs, values and ambition. They help you evaluate yourself and circle of friends. Those who limit themselves to few friends and groups loose this benefit of networking.

If most of your friends have not built or bought their own houses, you would think it’s okay not have built yours. If most of your friends are having issues in their relationships, you would think it’s the norm to have issues; if most of your friends are not meeting their targets at work, you would think that it’s a pervasive situation. But when you begin to expand your network, you will start meeting people of your age or younger who have acquired their own houses; you will meet people who are enjoying their relationships; people in the same industry with you who are meeting and exceeding their targets. Please take critical note of this point. Wood destroys wood. Only iron sharpens a ready iron.

No wonder Sandra Renaux stated, “motivated minds networking together can be a powerful force creating desirable outcomes. So, surround yourself with the best possible influences while you strive to bring out the best of each other in your quest for constant and never ending improvement”.

Reward 11: Do you like the man in the mirror?

The eleventh benefit of business and social networking is that networking will serve as a mirror on the wall for you. When you look in the mirror, the image you see is in the mirror is a reflection of the people you spend your most time with. At this point, permit me to give you this advice on how to allocate your network. I strongly suggest that 50% of your friends, those you spend the most time with and those in your network should be those who are better and more successful than you. They should be those who have achieved most of the things you want to achieve in life. Then, 30% of your friends and in those in your network should be those at the same level with you. And only 20% of the people you spend your most time with should be those that you are better than.

You see, if you spend most of your time with people that you are better than, when you look in the mirror the tendency is to think that you are doing well. When you spend most of your time with people at the same level with you, you would think everybody is facing the same challenges that you are facing. You would think everybody is like you.

However, when you spend more time with people that are better than you, when you look in the mirror, what you will see is what you can become. And that’s because people better than you will directly or indirectly challenge and motivate you. When you spend time with people better than you, you will begin to see how human they are and yet how successful they have become. You begin to learn the principles of success. You see how and why they excel. So you can say to yourself, if these people can do it, I can also succeed if I am willing to pay the price. Before long, you will acquire the traits and habits of people who succeed.

Reward 12: The power to be bigger than yourself

I remember some years ago when I got referred to a millionaire financial expert who became fond of me. I kept in touch, ensuring I sent him weekly text messages. Surprisingly, one day, he invited me to lunch alongside his millionaire friends. I did not take the invitation for granted. I was prepared. I was dressed for the occasion. My business card was there with me. I did not have money, but I had plans. When we arrived at the lunch venue (wow! what a place!) and sat down, he did an introduction. To my utmost surprise, he announced, “Guys, meet my millionaire friend, Ferdinand.” I was not a millionaire yet. I was just a man with a millionaire’s mindset. I shook hands with these people and we exchanged cards. That event made me bigger than myself. Since then, we have remained friends and I have done deals worth millions with them.

Reward 13. A good network can provide you real job security

Some years ago, working in the bank was the in-thing and bankers felt they had job security. Today, many people who relied on such ”prestigious” jobs have lost their positions on the payroll, while those who used the platform of their workplace to network have resumed work in new places. So, one other thing that the right network can do for you is that it can provide you real job security.