By Dennis R. Kennedy, CPA
Sometimes, when things are going great at work, we feel invincible; our company could never get along without our services! Well, we all know that euphoria is an illusion. Lack of security pervades all parts of a business, and it can be notably among senior financial personnel. My dad used to say, if you are a CFO and have not been fired at least once or twice by the time you are 40, you are not doing your job. So, if the curtain closes on one show, you will need to raise it someplace else. To find a job, you need to network, network, and network some more. However, your ability to network effectively will be governed by how much you nurtured your connections beforehand.
Understand that networking need not be reserved to the process of finding a job. If you develop your network continuously, you will realize benefits across the board. Let me give you a few examples. One group I routinely connect with are bankers. It sure seems like bankers are required by corporate charter to buy as many lunches as possible – at least I know I have blown up a few calorie counts partaking in multiple free ones. Well, several years ago, my company was banking with what was then called National City Bank. Nat City had been pushing us to find a more qualified (in their opinion) CPA. So, when our audited annual report (nonpublic) was issued, and a relatively minor omission was committed by the CPA, Nat City seized the opportunity to demand a change in public accountants. We were content with, and had personal allegiance to, our CPA, so we made the decision to walk away from our Nat City relationship. The decision required that we pay off our $2 million line of credit … immediately. Because of the banking relationships I had nurtured, I was able to quickly set up multiple meetings with bankers that I knew. That in turn resulted in our selection of Dollar Bank, the paying down of the debt, and many years of a solid, trustworthy relationship. I am sure I could not have made that happen under the time constraints had I not tended to my cast of contacts.
My relationship with the PICPA has offered a gold mine of networking connections. For example, I served as South Central Chapter president several years ago. I met dozens of very qualified and helpful people. During a recent job search, I reached out to a PICPA member who was a partner in a Big 4 firm … but not in my region. That individual reached back across the country to virtually introduce me to a partner in the Pittsburgh office, which led to a very fruitful networking chat. Again, you likely won’t get that kind of help unless you have nurtured your network.
The benefits go beyond job hunting and banking. Consider your insurance provider (or agent). If you were to suddenly lose coverage, or it became too costly, your ability to exercise other options would be greatly increased with a vibrant network. Another area is legal counsel. Although it would not behoove you to change attorneys routinely, there are always niche opportunities that call for the services of a specialist. What about business valuations experts? Third-party administrators? IT service providers?
It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: to be a trusted and accomplished networker, you must pay it forward occasionally. Quite honestly, I have found myself helping other people more often than I seek help for myself. But that is the way it goes ... and the way it should go. Embrace all opportunities to help those in your network, and grow and manage your network as a matter of routine. Your options, when you need them, will be limitless.
Dennis R. Kennedy, CPA, is a financial services professional at NYLIFE Securities LLC and is currently a member of PICPA's Corporate Finance Cabinet.