Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes we get to a point where we have to call in a favour. Whether it is for personal reasons or business reasons, we all need a helping hand from time to time.

It is at these times that the value of a strong and supportive network cannot be underestimated.

Think about the last time you had to ask for help. How did it feel? Who did you ask? Was it the person you have met a few times at an event? Or was it a family member or someone you have known for a while and feel very connected to?
Without exception I would guess that it was the latter. We all feel more comfortable asking for help from someone we have helped in the past or have a strong relationship with.

That help may be a business referral, new staff member, new job, supplier or any number of other things, or it could be help of a more personal nature. Whichever it is, creating strong networks is immensely valuable. It makes sense to nurture those connections with whom you feel a connection.

How do you do that? Here are some ideas:

1. Keep in touch and stand out from the tech clutter
There is no point building a connection with someone and then forgetting about them. Stay in touch with people you meet. Invite them to events, catch up for coffee, send them articles of interest and refer your contacts to others. Staying in touch with people and seeing them regularly is the best way to build and sustain the relationship. You cannot do that by sitting behind a computer screen. While you can use social media and email as additional ways to keep it touch, always remember technology’s not the only way. If your contact is geographically distant consider Skype or go back to snail mail once in a while.

2. Be of service with a mindset to match
What can you do for the people you know? Imagine a fire that radiates heat outwards and lights up everything around it as opposed to a block of dry ice that burns everything it touches. Create a mindset of generosity rather than competitiveness and your network will flourish.

3. Be reliable
This is pretty obvious: if you commit to doing something, always do it. Everyone knows there are things that come up and on rare occasions to prevent you from fulfilling your promises. If this happens just be upfront and honest and explain the situation. If you don’t think you can’t honour an obligation, don’t offer it in the first place.

4. Be a conduit
Think of your network as a pool of talent and you as the recruiter. Who can you refer? Who should meet? Who would get along well? Refer people generously and put groups together. Others will be grateful for the introduction and will feel comfortable doing the same. Don’t worry if you haven’t worked together just go with your instincts and refer those who you like and trust. Tell the person you are referring them to that you haven’t worked with them but like what you see, so it’s up to them to decide. Just make the introduction.

5. Follow up
People get busy. We’re all overwhelmed. Be prepared to be the driver of the relationship until it is solid. It is very easy to forget to catch up and many times it can be a very long time between coffees. Build catch-ups into your routine. If someone tells about a project they are working on, put it into your diary to follow up with them and see how it went. You will be reminded and they will be flattered you cared enough to follow up.

6. Don’t gossip
Another obvious one, but a rule that’s often ignored. Be very careful about with whom and how you discuss bad experiences. Feedback is one thing, gossip is another. Maintain your integrity. Always.

You never know when you will need to call in a favour but trust me, when you do, you will be forever grateful that you have a strong network. I was.