Networking Secrets From Master Mackay

Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You'll Ever Need

By Harvey Mackay

Currency/Doubleday, 310 pp., $24.95

When Harvey Mackay started writing his newest book on the art of networking, he wanted to include a personal anecdote from Muhammad Ali.

The only problem was, he'd never met him.

But for the guru of networking - whose own Rolodex bulges with some 6,500 names - that was a minor roadblock.

After some research, he found a friend of a friend who was best friends with Mr. Ali's photographer. "I sent him part of my manuscript," Mackay said in a recent phone interview. "He later called Muhammad's wife, who called me. Bang, six hours straight with Muhammad Ali."

The example illustrates what Mackay has been preaching for 30 years: With a strong network of personal contacts, we are each six phone calls away from anyone we want to reach. (He calls it the "six degrees of separation" theory.)

Networking has become one of the buzzwords of the '90s.

And it's no surprise. In today's world, where the pink slip often replaces the gold watch as a reward for service, it takes more than smarts, talent, and ambition to succeed. It takes contacts.

Most jobs found through contacts

Mackay says 67 percent of workers got their current job through networks.

"If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I've met ... it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts," he writes in his new book titled, "Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty."

For those who think networking means attending a dinner party and schmoozing with everyone who walks through the door, think again.

Networking means targeting the people you need or want to meet, then researching that person to find a common interest, says Mackay, founder of Mackay Envelope Minneapolis, a stationery supplier.

Heading to a convention with 50,000 people, he says, "In three days, I will pick out four or five people who I would like to spend time with, and that's it."

Network maintenance

But simply gathering names doesn't constitute a network. You've got to keep up your contacts. "Not maintaining a network," he says, "is the most important mistake people make aside from not having one at all."

Mackay's secret: "The way I maintained my network is that I would be in touch with 35, 50, 60 people ... almost religiously every Sunday for a quarter century."

Other tips:

* Be a differentiater. Don't send Christmas cards. Instead, Mackay sends Thanksgiving cards with a handwritten note. "When was the last time a customer called you and said, 'Gosh is that a gorgeous Christmas card you sent me'?"

* Clip and ship. Clip and send articles or quotes of interest. "The saying, 'Little things mean a lot,' is not true," Mackay says. "Little things mean everything."

* Take notes. "Anytime I have a conversation with someone, I'll ... jot down a note about the conversation."

* Remember to call people when they're down. "People remember two things," Mackay says, "who kicked them when they were down and who helped them up."

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