I attended a software industry trade show last week. (I work with a lot of CEOs in the software as a service industry.)

My sole goal was to expand my network by….

Adding Value to Others.

This is the secret to expanding your network. It occurred to me that this is the opposite of how most people perceive and engage in “networking.”

You expand ties with others by finding ways to help them… to add value.

When you do, they like staying connected to you, and they will often be very open to reciprocating at some point down the road.

Invariably, when I go to these industry events, good things happen.

However, it is very difficult for me to predict exactly what good will come of it, from whom, and in what way.

I met my first CEO from Mongolia last week. I also met two from Columbia (Bogotá & Medellín).

Two longtime readers of my articles are now startup CEOs, and they tracked me down to say hi in person.

I was helping out another small startup CEO (too small to be a client). We were both in the networking waiting area to meet our pre-scheduled networking dates when we both got stood up. I ended up helping her out, and she mentioned she had a friend who just raised $50 million and is looking for some help. That was unexpected.

I met the partner of a tech investment bank looking for clients. I met another startup CEO looking for an investment bank.

I’m in the process of connecting the two of them.

The list goes on. So much of relationship-building is unpredictable.

What is predictable is that helping others always seems to come back to you in some way, shape, or form.

It’s not always in the way you imagined. It’s not always in the timeline you envisioned. And it’s not always from whom you would have guessed.

But it does happen.

If you’re looking to expand your relationships, don’t just think about what you want from them… instead, think about what you can offer them.

The easiest time to build relationships is when you have something to offer and don’t need anything urgently.

The hardest time to build relationships is when you want something urgently from someone else and don’t have anything you’re willing to offer.

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