Applying The 80/20 Rule to Remote Network Management, Part 1: The 20%

Today’s approach to satellite employment clearly has its advocates and advantages. A New York Times article indicated last year that 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to a survey of more than 15,000 adults. The ability to work from home, or from anywhere for that matter, can be a gift when it comes to flexibility and productivity. What liberation! However, remote work sure does make managing your network a tough challenge. But tough does not mean impossible! Just like with face-to-face networking, remote networking requires a ranking system, and we need to be thoughtful about it. The truth is, there is a set of parameters that, when adhered to, can add practicality back into network management for the satellite-bound, and for the rest of us as well.

Defining 80/20, and Getting Started.

As you surely realize on some level, not all network contacts are created equally. You’ll need to determine the key contacts you want to be in touch with frequently, which can be accomplished through the Pareto Principle. I first discovered this concept in the wine business, where it was introduced to me by a dear colleague as the 80/20 Rule. In practice, it dictates that you spend 80% of your time and energy on 20% of your accounts. When the same strategy is applied to network management by my clients, it is met with resounding success.

When getting started, keep in mind that your time is finite, and networking is NOT your main professional task. Prepare a list of your key contacts and VIP’s: Your 20%. Then develop a second list of folks you want to check-in with quarterly or semi-annually. Aim for a ratio that tags 20% of your active network as key contacts, and 80% as 2nd and 3rd-tier contacts. You noticed correctly— divide the 80% into two groups: 2nd-tier contacts should be people you have some sort of relationship with, while 3rd-tier contacts are people whom you’ve met and don’t really know, including thought leaders in your area of expertise that you haven’t yet met. Then, get ready to apply some strategies that have worked for DRIVEN’s clients.

The Rules of Engagement

To effectively stay connected with and on the minds of your 20-percenters, it’s wise to give them more than just a two-dimensional version of you. Here are the four rules to apply to these contacts:

  1. Actively schedule 30-minute phone calls to catch up. Have a coffee meeting over the phone, or more intimately, a Skype session. Keep a running agenda or continual commentary with these folks about what you’ve touched upon, so you can make your time spent more meaningful and aimed in the right direction. Remember to inquire about topics that matter to them, and ask for status updates about topics you’ve covered in the past.
  2. Find reasons to reach out via email. Legitimate business reasons are the most authentic. For instance, sign up for their distribution list and forward them any newsletter that has details of interest to you with a comment about what’s going on in their firm. You could also set up a Google Alert so when something comes through that warrants a congratulation or an inquiry, you can forward the article with your thoughts. On the more manufactured but fun side of outreach, consider birthdays, half-birthdays, and the anniversary of your first meeting or phone call.
  3. Leverage snail mail. Send your contact a book you think they’ll enjoy, a printout of an article, or something torn from a good old-fashioned magazine with a brief handwritten comment. Just think of their glee when they open their mailbox and find something addressed to them that’s not a bill!
  4. When you ARE in proximity. Go ahead and meet for coffee or a bite. You can even arrange a lunch to introduce contacts to each other.

The #1 rule of remote networking is to commit to it! It’s even more important for you to block out time, schedule-in your networking outreach, and ignore your brain when it says “do it later”. As a follow-up to these rules, my next article will explore managing the 80-percenters.

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