FT Guide to Business Networking- Heather Townsend- Book Review

In summary- The book’s great buy it now.

Here’s another book that I’d like to have written.  I’d put ‘The FT Guide to Business Networking’ by Heather Townsend alongside the irritatingly comprehensive ‘Beyond Bullet Points’ by Cliff Atkinson- Reviewed here, in the ‘Oh my God, there really are people as structured, efficient, and focused as this, surely I could learn something from them…’ part of my library.

Make no mistake, this is a comprehensive, detailed book, well put together in form and content.  It’s interesting, thought-provoking and tough-minded.  It asks uncompromising  questions that you need to be asked if you’re going to win more & better business to feed yourself and others in your firm.

I consider my self to be a pretty good networker and it made me think long and hard about how I can improve.  The author- from the Legal and Consulting professions- knows her target market- the successful, challenged, sometimes resentful practice leaders in small and medium type law firms- who more and more will be forced to sell if they want to maintain their businesses in challenging times.  Selling, for many, will be something they’ve had little inclination or drive to do in the past, but which lies ahead of them for the rest of their careers, unless they land a case like Lehman Brothers, or are representing News International through their current ‘difficulties’.  And they probably won’t do that, so they’d better start learning how to make the most of their assets to help them.

This is a book that will help them do better individually and together with their colleagues.

It offers sensible advice in networking strategy, tactics, skills, tools and technology for the most detached networker to the most skilled business developer in professional services.  It’s good. Very good.

I’ve added it to my reading list for my clients, seminar and speaking audiences, and I’ll buy hundreds of copies to give away over the next few years, I’m sure.

In the pursuit of balance though, and If I’m too positive here you’ll think Ms Townsend is my sister, I feel that the book is far more convincing on the strategy and technology issues (integrating social media into one’s networking actvities) than the skills side of building a network.  And also that there’s a ruthless mindset on display that might make the followers of such a clinical strategy seem shallow and self-interested at first meetings with potential contacts and therefore less effective as business relationship builders in the long-term.

That may just be a style question, as I’m more inclined to go the ‘if they love me they’ll never leave me’ route with my networking, and I have enjoyed being challenged in my ‘comfort zone’ by the book.  Also I’ve never not had enough work, or been driven by backers or Partners to get ‘more, more, more’,  so I have had the luxury of time to build relationships, that other’s may not have had.

Either way, the focus on ‘now’ also seems to ignore the fact that deliberately networking outside of your usual and expected channels can have exponential impact on your visibility and opportunity.  Or maybe I skimmed that bit, sorry Heather if I did.

I was asked to speak, at short notice, to a Lesbian and Gay Association in London in 2009.  The offer came about through an ex-colleague who I kept in touch with while she was on maternity leave, through LinkedIn.  I sent her a note one day, with not thought of an opportunity and she rang me immediately to give me this chance to talk to a massive range of influential people from a wide variety of industies that I’d never have had the chance to address unless I’d kept in touch with her, with no expectation of income. I gave the speech, met one of my heroes, and met lots of interesting people.  And one conversation that evening has led to £150 k plus of work over the last 2 years. I’d much rather be the only speechwriter at an evening for Lesbian and Gay professionals, than one of 100 at a speech writer’s convention.

In summary- The book’s great Buy it now.


Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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