Successful Business Networking

Michael Enright (Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




Enright, M. (2000), "Successful Business Networking", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 73-87.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The years since the appearance of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People have not stemmed the tide of works on self‐improvement that reach the booksellers. This is another one. In their book, de Raffele and Hendricks seek to explore the field of networking “with the sole purpose of helping people become more successful at their business now and over the long term”(p. xxxix). The authors attempt this by establishing a systematised approach to networking, involving a complex set of inventory sheets that progressively evolve into a cross between an organiser and a diary.

The first chapter discusses why you should read the book and explains the fundamentals of networking as the authors understand it. Chapter Two, depending on one’s point of view, refines the definition or essentially repeats it. This is the start of a repetitive pattern in the book. If reinforcement of points appeals then this is a worthwhile approach. If reading it once is enough, then a long and arduous slog awaits. Chapter Three reiterates the salient points that came before: networking works, time is valuable. It is four pages long. The main theme of Chapter Four is that a good start to networking is to model oneself on others. This is interplayed with the concept of five network categories: primary, secondary, dormant and so on. This area is well handled. It is good material for the practitioner who needs to rank the standing of their contacts. It has a definite potential benefit for general and key account sales managers in particular. It is an area where the authors’ contention that networking can be structured through conscious thought and priority setting is well put and well conveyed.

Chapter Five introduces the use of the computer as an aid to establishing networking records. In the main, the suggested worksheets reinforce the authors’ line that to effectively and efficiently develop and maintain a network, one needs to create lists – lots of lists – based on the grading system introduced in Chapter Four. The authors invite the reader to make copies of their networking spreadsheets if they are unable or unwilling to generate them on a personal computer. Other options are offered: the reader can contact the publisher to purchase a disk with the forms already on it or purchase hard copies. For those who feel they want to more deeply commit to the networking/spreadsheet/organizer/diary approach which they recommend, the reader is invited to purchase the complete diary by contacting the publisher.

Perhaps predictably, and in addition to the grading guidelines and the spreadsheets, a number of “secrets” are revealed progressively. The first appears at the commencement of Chapter Four, the second in Chapter Six, and so on. In subsequent chapters, a series of checklist and self‐test devices are employed to assist the would‐be networker to ascertain the extent to which he or she is an introvert or extrovert. A list of seven preferred habits of successful networkers is also given. This is reinforced in Chapter Nine, entitled, as it is, “The traits of successful networkers”.

And on it goes. Chapter 18 stands out as being practical. It broadens the field by discussing chambers and associations, how to choose the most appropriate one and how to work one’s membership to best advantage. However by now the point is being laboured. Chapter 19, on “intra‐networking”, is over before it starts, being barely two pages long. The next chapter is just as brief, Chapter 21 is no better and the 22nd chapter does not extend to two pages. This is a dubious approach, unless a manual is being written, where tacit sections can be very brief. Perhaps this was a manual that has been “booked‐up”. By the second half of the book, it is certainly beginning to feel like it.

This work could have been a lot shorter. Some of the very brief chapters could easily have been absorbed into others and treated as sub‐sections. The acid test for manuscript length is the sense the reader gains of having been informed by the text upon completion. It is difficult to see many practising managers reaching this point. Indeed, the very device they have used, the reinforcement approach, obscures the authors’ message. Although not uncommon in works of this kind, it has been less successfully employed here. The seemingly endless charts, checklists, secrets, inventories and reminders end up more as repetition than reinforcement. It is sometimes very difficult to see the point that is being made. If they had written less, perhaps the reader would have gained more.

The authors give little evidence for their claim that a structured approach to networking will yield the positive results. Much of what is put forward as evidence is anecdotal and is mostly at the beginning. The book opens with a collage of dedications, forewords, acknowledgments, a testimonial, a preface and introductions from each author. The tone of these sets the scene for what follows. The authors are well connected – to each other, to their families and their respective business communities. They recall their formative years, regaling the reader with vivid accounts of how their values were received from parents and mentors. De Raffele decided to “re‐invest”(p. xxviii) in himself. He has been “networking my whole life. It was taught to me by watching my parents”(p. xxix). Hendricks fought to “break out of my shell”(p. xxxi). A haze between what is “personal” and what is “business” settles over the book. Goodness and money hold hands. “If you give of yourself to others, that positive energy will be returned back to you many times over and, as this book will show, in dollars”(pp. xxv‐xxvi). The common, identifying threads are the authors’ association with each other, their deeply‐entrenched middle‐class values and, well, their empathy with networking, the means by which both authors attained substantial personal and professional success. Now they want to pass these experiences on as a series of lessons, in such forms as their seven secrets of successful business networking and the like. There is a glibness here that business practitioners could probably better do without, and it makes for the second major shortcoming (after that of excessive length) in the book. This is its intertwining of good deeds and personal material gain. It is done so deftly, that one may wonder if it is perhaps done unconsciously. This kind of posturing detracts from the work at hand.

In summary, the book represents poorly rationalised material, unevenly presented and entirely overwritten, over‐long and over the top. Save for two chapters, the authors have not related the topic to the practising businessperson, and therein lies a failure to network with that most important contact for such a product – the reader.

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