“It’s not about what you know — it’s about who you know.”
Monday and Tuesday this week, I attended Opal Exchange Monaco, an invitation only event held annually at Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo. I have attended the event before, but this year the arranger Opal had outdone themselves. The quality and level of people attending was very good. This type of top level networking events can be very useful when the right people are there.
By using a sophisticated interface, the Opal Exchange event provided a platform to schedule private and purposeful meetings between top level Board members, Consultants and Executives in the investment industry.
There was also a set of panel discussions and QA sessions. On the second day, I was speaking on a panel about strategic versus opportunistic investments where I made the point that strategic investment is about following a plan within a structure where we have capabilities to analyse, invest and follow up. That is, finding the investments pro-actively.
Opportunistic investments on the other hand, is when we come across opportunities that may not entirely fit strategy or allocation space and where we do not have competence or capabilities to analyse and follow up on them, but where the opportunity anyway is apparently good and tempting.
The panel was asked where one might find good opportunistic investment opportunities at the moment and I made the point that in our consulting work, we often come across such opportunities in East Europe and Africa, where the price of assets are so much lower than elsewhere that it is obvious that values will increase through arbitrage.
Harvard business review published a classic article by Herminia Ibarra and Mark Hunter in 2007, about how leaders create and use personal networks. According to the authors, successful leaders have a nose for opportunity and a talent for knowing whom to tap to get things done. These qualities depend on a set of strategic networking skills that nonleaders rarely possess.
In the article, they identify three different forms of networking, operational, personal and strategic, as illustrated below. The Opal event this week was for me of the third category.
The Opal Exchange was a very useful event to attend as I got to know some people I had not met before, where we both saw immediate business opportunities, and some people I got to know who I really liked, where I am sure business opportunities will appear if I keep in touch with them and get to know them well.
When most people think about networking it seems insincere at best, and selfish at worst. This, of course, is the complete opposite of what networking is supposed to be; friendly, useful, and genuine.
It is easy for most of us to be friendly and useful with people we know. However, because networking is a “business activity” we often think that we need to act in a different way. This is not true.
The goal of networking should be to help other people. Yes, it would be nice if they helped you out as well, but networking is a two–way street. And your side of the street is all about helping others, not asking them to help you. Pay it forward. Asking for favours should only become a possibility once you have learned more about the other person and provided some value to them.