Make the Connection
The relationships you cultivate are essential to your success in this business.
By Greg Moran
Success in the tennis industry — or any other business for that matter — can be summed up in one word: relationships. The relationships that you develop and nurture are without question your most valuable resource in every aspect of your career.
Successful people cultivate relationships, maintain contacts, and continually search and add new members to their network. Harvey Mackay, in his networking book “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty,” says, “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all the truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts.”
Simply put, networking is essential to career success. The more people who know you and are aware of your goals, the greater the chance that doors will open for you. Through your network, you’ll learn about opportunities and enjoy a tremendous advantage over your less connected competitors.
Everyone Has a Network
The good news is that you already have a network to begin with: your family and friends. The goal now becomes to expand that network of contacts and make them work for you.
Every person you come in contact with is a potential member of your network. It could be one of your students or your area equipment rep. It might be the person playing on the next court whose ball rolls over onto yours. It could even be the gentleman you strike up a conversation with in the grocery store or the waitress who brings you your steak in a restaurant. Potential contacts are everywhere!
An example: A few years back I was on vacation in Puerto Rico playing tennis with my wife. After we finished, we sat down to have a drink and struck up a conversation with the players from the next court who happened to have finished at the same time.
After we each commented on the heat, we found that one of the players lived near us so when we returned home he began taking weekly lessons with me. It turned out that he was also the tennis chairman of a prestigious country club in our area and, when the club decided to change pros, he offered me first crack at the job.
Remember, everyone you come in contact with is a potential member of your network. Plus, every member of your network has a network of their own that you may be able to tap into — so the potential is endless.
Open and Friendly
With that in mind, adopt a friendly attitude. When you walk down the street, keep your head up, look people in the eye, and say hello even to total strangers. If you’re standing in line at the movies, strike up a conversation with the person behind you.
If the person isn’t interested in talking, don’t be pushy; let it go. But more often than not, if you’re friendly to people, they’ll be friendly back. Talk to everyone. You never know when you may strike up a conversation with someone interesting.
I realize it can be difficult for someone who is basically a shy person to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. But it’s like hitting a topspin serve: difficult at first, but it becomes easier the more you practice. Plus, you’ll be amazed at how making contacts can snowball. Several years ago, I was working out at my gym and I began talking to the person on the machine next to me. The man, a doctor, also happened to be a tennis payer. One thing led to another and he soon became a student of mine.
A year later, he became my doctor. When I developed a minor medical emergency, he went out of his way to help me and even made a house call. He did this because of the relationship we’d developed. But the story doesn’t end there.
One day, my new doctor brought a friend to his lesson and this fellow soon after became my financial advisor. He’s made and saved me thousands of dollars and gone out of his way to help me plan for my children’s education. Both contacts were made because I simply said “hello” to a stranger in the gym.
Don’t Forget the Internet
The internet opens up the world to you in your quest for contacts. It allowed me to meet and develop a friendship with a true legend of the tennis industry, Vic Braden. Braden has always been one of my professional idols and I wanted to interview him for an article but didn’t know him. I simply went to his website and sent him an email. He had no idea who I was so, needless to say, I was somewhat surprised when he answered my email.
Soon after, I found myself on the phone with Vic and, a year later, I had the opportunity to teach alongside him when he conducted his tennis college at my club. Ten years later, we still keep in touch.
It Goes Both Ways
Keep in mind that a network is a two-way street, so you must strive to help those in your network. In fact, a successful networker’s first thought is never “what can they do for me” but rather, “what can I do for them?”
If you hear of a job opening that might be right for a friend, turn them on to it. If a player at your club is looking for a babysitter, I’ll bet there’s a member of your network who has a teenager looking to earn a few bucks. Bring them together. Your network will only allow you to take out what you put in.
Though my doctor and financial guru have certainly helped me, I’ve also been there for them. My doctor’s wife is a huge tennis fan, so last year I made arrangements for him to take her to the US Open with great seats and an invitation to a player’s cocktail party. She got to meet some of her idols and my friend looked like a star to his wife.
My financial mentor recently found himself in a real bind when one of his top clients came to town and was dying to see Madonna. I was able to get him great seats (through another member of my network) and he was a hero to his client. One hand washes the other.
You Must Be Organized
Your network is only of use to you if you can tap into it, so you need to keep it organized. Begin by putting together lists of your contacts. I suggest coming up with three different lists.
List #1: Friends and relatives. These are the people closest to you who you would feel most comfortable going to for help. You are in touch with these people regularly and know that they would help you if they could. Write these names down on either an index card or better yet, start a file in your computer.
List #2: Business colleagues and casual acquaintances. These are the people you see now and then at the club or around the neighborhood. You’re not particularly close to them, but they would probably help you if they could, just as you would help them if possible.
List #3: People in a position to help you. You don’t know these people yet but they are in a position to help you, so you should make it your business to make contact with them. Someone from one of your other lists may tell you about these people, you may read about them in a trade publication, or hear them speak at a seminar. Try to get to know them through other members of your network. An office or email address is all you need to start the relationship. Send the person a note congratulating them on an article they’d written or a big tournament win. Once you make contact, the relationship has begun.
As you put together your files, include the following information: name, title and company, address, telephone number, email address, how you came in contact (i.e. where and how did you meet), comments (special things about that particular person: i.e. birthdays, their kids’ names, accomplishments, special interests, that great backhand they hit against you on match point, etc.).
Be sure to constantly update your information and keep in touch with all of your contacts. It could be as simple as a holiday card or simply a note “just to check in.” This is just as important as making the initial contact because, as they say, out of sight, out of mind.
Reaching Your Goals
The ability to network is an absolute necessity if you hope to be successful. It may not seem fair at times, but it is the way the world works. People will always want to do business with and help those who they know and like.
While your network will always be a valuable asset in reaching your career, and life, goals, never forget that it also allows you to help others reach theirs.
As Harvey Mackay says: “I hope your network can help you find a job or earn a promotion or close a sale or make a buck. But even if it never does, if it can help you help someone who needs it — then you have the best network of all.”
More Networking Tips
- Everyone you meet offers the opportunity to gain and share information.
- Even people you may not like could become valuable contacts. Burn no bridge!
- Don’t wait until you need your network to start building it. Start today. You never know when you might need help from someone in your network.
- Put yourself in situations where you have the opportunity to interact with people, such as at conventions, trade shows, and tournaments. Join and become active in professional associations.
See all articles by Greg Moran
About the Author
TI magazine search
TI magazine articles
- Our Serve: What We Need
- Industry news
- Retailing 133: Hiring Smart
- International Tennis Hall of Fame: Five Who Moved This Sport Forward
- Pioneers in Tennis: History Lessons
- Selling Footwear: Gaining a Foothold
- Tennis Research: State of the Industry
- Fall Introductions: The Sum of Its Parts
- Fall Introductions: New and Improved