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Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto – 1896

In many of my presentations I speak about applying the Pareto Principle (a.k.a. the 80:20 Rule, the Law of the Vital Few, and – most amusing – the Life Isn’t Fair Law). The application of this little axiom suggests a way of being more intentional – and even more persnickety – about how you build, view, leverage, and up the standards of your network and networking activities.

For example, if you have 500 contacts in your address book, database of contacts, or on the list of the people with whom you are connected on social media, it’s highly likely that approximately twenty percent (in this case 100) of those people are the ones helping you to create approximately eighty percent of the positive results in your career or business.  

The next question is: what value are they bringing? It can vary widely. These fine folks can be valuable to you because they are great clients, enthusiastic referral sources, supportive mentors, or even smart, savvy people who know things you don’t know. Or perhaps they are inspiring or trustworthy friends and confidantes.  You get to decide what “valuable” means to you.  (Hint: it’s not always about money and power.)

I generally encourage my audiences and clients to take additional steps, such as jotting down the traits that their Twenty Percenters exude and making a few notes on where, how, and through whom they met these superstars. 

For example, when I look at my Twenty Percenter List, I can see that most, if not all of them are positive, pleasant, intelligent, innovative, interesting, generous, helpful, trustworthy, loyal, and (this one is big) they are big supporters of the work I do. They get me. They are fans. They know, like, and trust me enough to refer me. They believe in me.  They see the value of my work. They want to see me succeed. 

What’s more, I met a lot of them via high quality networking events and conferences — and introductions from other Twenty Percenters.  Hmmmm.  there are patterns here! Patterns worth noting so I know who I want to get to know and how/where to find them.  Priceless information!

Interestingly, as I was updating my Twenty Percenter list from the one I did nearly four years ago, I noticed how much my list had changed. It’s not that I’m kicking people off my Twenty Percenter list or out of my network. (Although occasionally someone deserves the boot for bad behavior!) It’s just that my business has evolved and the people who are most valuable to me has shifted. I’m no longer a business writer / marketing communications consultant / freelance talent agent working primarily with local clients; now I’m an author and speaker/facilitator /coach who is working with and meeting with people from all over the country.  

My world has changed, grown, and expanded. And, frankly, I’ve raised my standards. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Do I still value each and every contact? Absolutely. I am truly blessed to have so many fantastic people in my world. But my business depends on my ability to stay in touch with the people who really support and understand who I am and what I do and – one way or another – help me keep my business profitable and help me continue to learn and grow – and never give up – so the quality and expanse of my work continues to improve.

What about your network? When was the last time you took a close look at your email list, contact database, or social media friends and connections and decided who is worthy of a spot on your high-value Twenty Percenter List? Have you ever thought about the people you know in this way? Do you know what makes people valuable to you?  Ahhhh, I see a little project in your future!

And here’s something even more important; perhaps most important of all:  Are you the person you need to be for others?  Are you doing the things – the acts of service and support – that will help earn you a spot others’ Twenty Percenter lists?  Are you a living example of your standards? Are you walking your talk? Are you a good client, connection, or collaborator?

Practicality says our networks are our net worth. We are the sum of the people with whom we surround ourselves. But real networking and real relationships must begin with being of service and value to others. Are you That Person to someone else?

For more on this important topic check out one of my past posts.  And feel free to offer your thoughts here. Your comments are valuable to me!
Want to learn more about how to up your networking standards and become the person others know, like, trust, value, support, and and refer?  Check out my award-winning book The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business. Available from most online book retailers.