Nurture Your Networks

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog. Here’s why: I moved to Reno, Nevada last December and have become very busy in “The Biggest Little City in the World.” Why Reno? many have asked. I could cite the nice, friendly, polite people or the fact that I’m 35 minutes from a great ski hill and right next to the Sierras with miles upon miles of winding motorcycle roads. Or I could mention the lack of state income tax in Nevada. But the truth is, I was attracted to this bustling community that is experiencing an economic rebirth of the kind seen by few other places in the country. Stated simply, I like to be where the action is.

Having climbed out of the recession, Reno has become the choice for many relocating businesses. Some, like Tesla, have made headlines, others are coming in quietly, and new technology startups abound, taking advantage of the ripple effect created by relocating businesses that are having a multi-billion-dollar impact on the regional economy.

Which brings me to my subject for today: nurturing your network of friends, professional colleagues and people whom you have helped or who have helped you over the years. I’m talking about those with whom you’ve associated and those with a special knowledge or expertise that you may want to tap someday. I’m also talking about people who know a lot of people you don’t know and whom you may want to call upon for an introduction one day.

Your network helps you get things done, and, more importantly, done well. They allow you to access explicit knowledge on a subject about which you may know very little. A simple conversation may lead you to a creative, even innovative, breakthrough idea.

I’ve had a wonderful career, made all the more remarkable by the many, many people I’ve come to know over the years. These people are my most treasured asset, one which I value more highly than my entire net worth. I appreciate these relationships more than anything else in my life. I consider these many people who have blessed my life, helping me to do something or someone whom I have helped, to be my friends. I stay in touch with hundreds of people, not every day, but certainly at some point during the year. I remember their personal situation, their likes and dislikes and their interests. I keep my antenna up as I peruse a newspaper or magazine, see something around me, or hear about a great book or piece of music, staying alert to what might interest or be of value to one of these friends, and then pass along my discovery. That’s how I nurture my network.

Moving to a new city presented me with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge was to connect with a local network of people whom I might find interesting or who might find me so. By connecting to people who have been here for a long time, I’ve quickly become a true “citizen” of Reno.

I had two good friends in Reno before moving here. One had moved here from California 12 years ago and assured me I would have no problem meeting people, being accepted and becoming involved. The other friend was a third generation Reno-ite. Each of these friends introduced me to a couple of people, who introduced me to a couple of other people, and suddenly I found myself being invited to join things.

I’m now on the Reno Streetcar Coalition, a group of local business people who believe (as I do) that a streetcar could have a major positive impact on the redevelopment of decayed neighborhoods, as streetcar programs have had in so many other American cities. The blighted areas are within a block or two of Virginia Street, the major north-south artery that connects the University of Nevada Reno to downtown, to midtown, to the convention center and beyond.

I was invited to join a mentor group run by the economic development authority to advise startup innovators. Reno has wonderful support systems for young ventures. I’m now working with two very exciting new entities run by young, creative, energetic entrepreneurs.

But, I am an architect, after all, and it wasn’t long before I was introduced to a local architect who has had a practice here for many years. During the recession, he decided to become a developer as well in order to be the master of his own destiny. He has a couple of major projects that are now funded and will break ground shortly. He’s asked me to join the board of his development company.

In the end, the thrill for me has been the opportunity to call on my network of friends to participate in some way in each of these ventures. Several are lending their special knowledge and expertise to these projects. They’re excited, I’m thrilled, and the work we are doing together will benefit tremendously by this collaboration.

That is, of course, the point: to do great work. But, it takes focus and effort to have a broad network to draw upon. When I was young, I had to remind myself all the time to nurture my network. As time went by, it became second nature — a habit; a way of life. I highly recommend making it your way of life. The possibilities and rewards are immeasurable.

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