Networking on rails

First build the tracks (relationships), before trying to move freight on them (getting referrals).


Norfolk Southern rails in Roanoke, VA. Courtesy: B. AlcornYou climb straight up the 8-ft ladder and are now sitting in the locomotive engineer’s seat. You complete your operational checks, prime the diesel, and all 3,200 hp is now purring and ready to go.  You’ve got hundreds of loaded freight cars connected behind you. About 64,000 lbs of thrust ready to get you rolling. You blow the air horn twice, release the brakes, and move the throttle to the first notch. But wait a minute! You realize you’re not moving. How can that be? Why are we not getting any traction? You hang your head way out of the window and look straight down and realize what the problem is: There aren’t any rails underneath the wheels! Norfolk, we have a problem…

And since I brought up the subject of locomotives, why DOES the general public still think we engineers, all drive locomotives, anyway?!? Don’t a few of us design bridges, stealth aircraft, and nuclear propulsion systems? Hmmmmm...  Oops got “derailed” there for a moment...

Something else to ponder for those of us who are owners of consulting engineering firms and/or are in a business development role in engineering or any other field, is why do we still believe that consistently getting referrals for our company is almost entirely dependent on what our company itself is doing , e.g. “excellent customer service” or “always on-time delivery” or “the lowest cost provider.”  That’s kind of like thinking that a locomotive (the company) is all that is needed to get freight (referrals) moving from point A to point B. Don’t we need some tracks, too? You know tracks: the positive constraints that hold that locomotive up, allow it to get some traction and consistently get to a destination, fast? Wouldn’t that help us to get rolling, just a bit?

In the world of business by referral, I look at the tracks as the actions we take to develop our strategic referral partnerships. When we develop our relationships don’t the referrals we start to receive hold up our locomotive (our company), and allow our company to get “traction” in the market, and most importantly allow us to consistently get more steady and profitable new business when all is said and done?

So if you want to network like you are on rails, I recommend that you first set the tracks (relationships), before trying to move freight on them (getting referrals). Over the next four blog posts, I will be breaking this down into four topics:

1.            Where to build the tracks to: how to choose strategic referral partners.

2.            The tracks: the constraints (actions) to keep the freight (referrals) moving.

3.            Time and schedule: keeping a large volume of freight (referrals) consistently moving along the tracks.

4.            Rail maintenance: the importance of maintaining your tracks (relationships).

Between now and then, your homework is to educate the general public that most engineers actually don’t drive those crazy trains! We will leave that to Ozzy Osbourne. But I guess we can drive the general public crazy by “train”ing them on differential equations or Fourier Transforms, for sure!

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