An Englishman in New York: The value of connections

An Englishman in New York: The value of connections

Networking as an expat is hard work. But Americans are an especially friendly bunch, so it need not be too daunting.

Connections often create value for multiple parties but for some reason there’s a big difference in how Americans and Brits go about forging them. In this month’s column I want to elaborate on that and delve into why.

I started a company (that was then called The Programmatic Advisory) seven years ago, and like many others who leave big corporate jobs and move on to create their own business, I quickly started to realize the monetary value of my connections.

No, not through some Instagram sponsorship or sponsored newsletter, but through people who I was connected to who might need my skillset enough to pay a consultancy fee for it. I had built these connections through 10-plus years of working at different companies, meeting ample suppliers, speaking at events, and going to lots of media Thursday parties (good times).

Fast-forward to 2020. When I moved to New York, it was obvious that my network was significantly less than the one I had built in the UK. My inbound LinkedIn messages and emails had diminished, and it was daunting to build a network from scratch by managing a spreadsheet of people I should contact and connect with. I really didn’t know where to start.

However, what quickly became apparent was that the people that I did connect with in New York would nearly always connect me with someone else. My network started to grow exponentially; of course, it’s going to take some time to build one to the extent of my 10 years in the UK (the pandemic didn’t do me any favours here!), but I really hadn’t expected the connections to be made.

Why were they and why was I so surprised? I think there are three potential reasons.

1. Going the extra mile

Everyone is time poor. Very few people want to be taking on more work and most of us want a holiday as soon as possible, so the thought of a 30-minute conversation with a stranger (which can be two hours out of your day if travelling to and from the meeting) is tiresome.

This is consistent between the UK and US. However, my observation (and this is a huge generalisation, so don’t be offended if this isn’t you!) is that New Yorkers are more likely to go out of their way to take the meeting regardless of being busy.

2. Status

People like to name drop; it’s nothing to be ashamed of!

My observation is that Americans like to do this more than others. Very often when I’m in meetings here it’s a case of “do you know X?” or “I know Y.”

Name-dropping in the UK is considered differently, it’s almost made fun of in popular culture. The status of creating a connection can make you seem popular and more valuable than the average person.

3. Opportunity

I’ve said it before in previous columns, but the US is huge. This is not a revelation, but the mindset that goes alongside this is fascinating.

I believe New Yorkers recognize the value that connections can bring for them better than us Brits. There are more companies to work for, more jobs to apply to, and if you have a network of people who value you, you are more likely to be able to realise those opportunities.

On a personal level, I’ve started to put much more effort into connecting other people. Sometimes people don’t reply when I’m trying to make a connection, but if I see an opportunity that could be created by two people being connected, I go for it — what’s there to lose really? When you hear positivity following the connection, it’s incredibly rewarding.

To conclude this month’s column, I’d like to say thank you to those that continue to connect me and others in our industry; when there are mutually beneficial opportunities created off the back of it the value is so significant. To those that aren’t comfortable with making connections (like I used to be), do it — you never know where it might lead to for the people on the other side.

And finally, those who are too busy to take a 30-minute call or meeting from someone making the connection, well, the joke is on you as you never know what you might be missing out on.

Wayne Blodwell is founder of TPA Digital, an online advertising consultancy. ‘An Englishman in New York’ is a monthly column reflecting on time setting up a business in the US and what media Brits should know when deciding to find success stateside.

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