The Power of the Network
This week, I had the privilege of attending a Director's Dinner event organized by Howard Gwin and Derek Smyth of OMERS Ventures, Chris Chapman and Dan Wilson of KPMG's National Technology Practice and Digital Puck.ca . As I sat in this event with 40 other CEO's and Director's representing many of the tech stars in the Canadian high tech ecosystem, I reflected on a comment that Howard often makes, that "senior people only go to events where other senior people are". The room was an all-star cast of the who's-who of serial CEO's with successful large exits, board members that had guided companies to similar outcomes and interspersed through the room, a few younger CEO's of companies who have the opportunity and potential to be the next generation of mentors and advisors after they have hit their current gig out of the ballpark.
The next morning, I had a regularly scheduled breakfast meeting with a client who attended as part of the group of younger CEO's. He is a president of a rapidly growing tech company that has been flying under the radar scope and would not have been a house-hold name to the senior people in the room. He came away from the evening having impressed a number of potential future mentors, advisors, investors and board members and had offers for follow-up one on one meetings. In three hours, he established multiple connections that otherwise would have taken months or years to create, if ever.
What continues to baffle me is how some CEO's under-estimate the power of these events and don't prioritize time to attend when invited. For example, I once arranged for a CEO to be invited to the private box of one of the large accounting firms for a sports event. I knew who would be in attendance, including the CEO of most of his important customers. While there was an obvious benefit for the accounting firm to be introduced and host my CEO whom they did not know, there was also a benefit for him to have the opportunity to spend three hours with his customer at a CEO to CEO level. Unfortunately he declined the invitation.
If you are starting a company or currently leading one, set aside time for these types of events and attend when invited. In foresight, you will never be able to justify the time to attend, but in hindsight, you will be amazed by the impact that they will have on your business.