““Never refuse any advance of friendship for if nine out of ten bring you nothing, one already may repay you.”” – Madame de Tencin

In Message #170, we talked about the importance of establishing a network of contacts. Whether your objective is to start your own business or climb to the top of the one you are employed in, there is nothing better you can do for yourself than build a Rolodex or e-mail list of people who can help you.

You need all kinds of people – technical and creative, from clerks to CEOs – and you need them to like you well enough to answer the phone when you call.

Here’s a great suggestion from JT, a publisher whose career has been (to use a useful cliché) meteoric. To make contact with industry experts, JT reads the trade journals and when she sees a story bylined by someone she’d like to have in her network, she writes him a personal note complimenting him on the article.

It’s amazing how often you’ll get a reply, she notes. And what better way is there to start a relationship than by complimenting an expert on his industry knowledge. He likes you because you have admired him and he thinks you’re smart because you were smart enough to compliment him. (I’m paraphrasing.)

In my experience, the deepest friendships often begin in contention, but you don’t have to squabble with your target expert to win his respect. Flattery works. So does asking provocative questions.

This is really a clever tactic. I used it unwittingly during the time I was retired and writing fiction. I’d write authors of short stories I admired. Well-known authors like John Updike and Charles Baxter. As JT noted, the response rate was amazingly good.

Why I haven’t done this so far in business I can’t tell you, but it is a shortcoming. I’ve got about half a dozen trade magazines in a rack next to me. I’m going to go through them as soon as I finish this message and write to someone whose article/opinion genuinely impresses me. Since this is Action Tuesday, you do the same.