The size of your professional referral circle is less important than its strength. If your only other connection was Warren Buffett, you would have a professional circle of 2 that could buy Ghana and Cambodia – without your help.
Illusions of doing business with Warren aside, here are 6 ways that you can check to see if your professional circle is solid.
1. You always feel pressure, like you are going to be kicked out.
If you are the best in your professional circle at everything, then it is time to move into a higher circle. You can never improve if you are always looking down at your business partners. Ideally, you are the one who feels as though he always has to prove himself and work up. This will keep you motivated, which will in turn energize the rest of your circle into new ventures.
2. As you move up, your circle moves with you.
You will always have stories to share about new business ventures, win or lose. The second that you become the only person sharing new news, you know that you are in the wrong circle. Additionally, if you begin feeling that you cannot share your success with others in the group because of jealousy, this is a sign that your network is not progressing at your level.
3. Everyone is always looking to add value.
Professional circles with people looking over their shoulder scared of idea theft are pointless and annoying. The ideal set of professionals love to share ideas. They can’t stop sharing ideas. These are the people who know that the money is in the execution, not the idea, because the idea has probably been thought before. If you are in a circle where you find yourself reaching out to new contacts just so you can keep up with the sharing, then you are in the right place.
4. Everyone has resources to bring to the table.
Money is not the only resource that a solid professional circle needs, but it certainly is the most important. More than an indicator of wealth, money is a metric for skill and fortitude. If someone is willing to risk his or her money on a venture, then you know that person only speaks on things that he or she is certain about. Professional circles without resources are usually full of people who love to talk about big ideas without putting any money behind any of them. How are you to know if anything these people say is properly researched or vetted? They have never tested their ideas with money, so you cannot trust what they say.
5. Your circle is employed in a variety of industries.
There is a certain advantage to people who are in the same profession working together, if they can get along. Most of the time, they can’t. They are too embroiled in competition to be any good to one another. A professional circle that contains people in different but related disciplines within the same industry is ideal. However, there is nothing wrong with cultivating a circle of professionals who have vastly different professions as long as everyone is willing to find common ground and act on it.
6. Your circle tells you “no.”
If you have a bad idea, your professional circle is your first line of defense before you throw money down a sinkhole. You need to be able to trust the opinions of the people you are sharing ideas with. A circle of professionals who do not scrutinize will not be a circle for very long, because money will be placed into bad idea after bad idea until no one has the resources to even get together any more.