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The N Factor: How Efficient Networking Can Change the Dynamics of Your Business

bridges vol. 14, July 2007 / Book Review

by Chetan Dube

bookcover_n_factor_small.jpgNetworking is essential to business development. Because business is an interpersonal activity, trust is the basis on which business relationships are founded - and networking is the time-tested method for establishing this trust.

Until now, networking has been mostly an art form. It is commonly believed that people are born with networking skills or they are not; people are inherently either gregarious or retiring. However, in The N Factor, Adrie Reinders and Marion Freijsen explode the myth of the little-understood phenomenon of networking, and break it down to a science. Step by step, The N Factor leads its readers through the key ingredients of networking. It is an ordered walk-through of all the key ingredients one should include in a business development protocol for effective networking. Whether it deals with events, seminars, peer-to-peer networking, individual meetings, inheritance of peer relationship capital, or even "chance" meetings, The N Factor tells its readers how to optimize the relationship currency acquired in these situations. For instance, it provides a practical approach to uni- and bidirectional communications, both synchronous and asynchronous, making it easy for readers to start incorporating these suggestions into their networking activities.

As a more trivial example, consider the opportunities afforded by seemingly "random" meetings: Reinders and Freijsen guide the reader to places such as airports, flights, professional clubs, even health clubs, where "random" meetings may happen. They then present comprehensive guidelines for how to engage in the "random" meeting - from the introduction, to the fodder for conversation including business and world events, political changes, market activity, M&As of interest, and global market dynamics - effectively presenting a recipe for building your relationship capital during what would otherwise be downtime. By the conclusion of the book, The N Factor has infused its readers with the value of networking as a way of life, one which can contribute significantly to one's business goals. A failure to avail oneself of this knowledge would reflect a philistine indifference to the talent and achievements that can be harnessed by an accomplished networker.

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Marion Freijsen

The N Factor departs from the way many other authors treat business development, all too often presenting an academic treatise that offers few practical suggestions. Few of these other authors can draw upon the real-life relationship capital that Reinders and Freijsen have assimilated in their decades of networking experience. In their many years of effective networking, the authors have developed a second sense for the practical aspects of building relationship capital, as opposed to theoretical concepts that lack any notable evidence of success.

Other works based on literature reviews tend to be ephemeral in nature, and the discovery-du-jour approach can ricochet readers from one contradictory claim to another, leaving them with no sense of direction. The N Factor, by contrast, presents a practitioner's approach to the elegant fundamentals of networking. The authors state that their intended audience is entrepreneurs and talented young executives, but any executive from CEOs to novices beginning their careers could learn from this book. All of us can benefit from increasing our relationship capital. With the expanding global economy, understanding how to network effectively in diverse "hot" regions of the world is critical for leveraging the labor and resource arbitrage available in this integrated economy. The N Factor starts by focusing on global networking and ends with pragmatic networking suggestions for the US, China, France, Japan, UK, India, and The Netherlands. This global perspective is often missing from other texts on the topic, which portray the networking principles as "one size fits all." Reinders and Freijsen expose the error of this conception. For example, in some countries, replying to a business proposition with "This is interesting" suggests an intention to explore the next step, but in other cultures it signifies rejection.

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Adrie Reinders

The chapter on e-networking tools reduces the networking art form to a scientific regimen. Be it e-mail, CRM tools, search engines, or other collaboration tools, Reinders and Freijsen present a methodology for leveraging each tool in a way that optimizes the networking returns. The authors magically take the chore out of networking and transform it to a natural lifestyle that is healthy, enjoyable, and pays handsome dividends.

Every author of a business book faces the challenge of how to enliven the material, which is frequently fairly dry. For The N Factor, the authors solve this problem by including a buzzing profusion of real-life anecdotes, told in language that is always clever and often witty. The N Factor is an excellent introduction to the elegant basics of networking and should be widely read. Even those who are not born networkers can become proficient at this skill by adopting the practical "how to" approach that Reinders and Freijsen present so effectively.

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The author,
Chetan Dube has served as the President and CEO of IPsoft since its inception in 1999.


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