Your Professional Network: Quality vs Quantity

ski-network

How do you know there is a ski instructor is at the party?
Don’t worry. He will tell you.

That’s a joke, son, but there’s a touch of truth in the humor. You’ve met this person. He’s the one who tells everyone, including your great grandma, that he’s a ski instructor. Blissfully unaware of people’s reactions, he wastes precious energy trying to impress people who will never be interested in his services! He’s not building a network, he’s stroking his ego!

You need to create a network of resort professionals, interested support staff and satisfied students who will refer you. Unlike the mountain, size doesn’t count. You need a quality network. How big should it be? Read on to figure it out.

Network Size

Let us look at the numbers. If you resort has a 5 month season, you work 6 days a week and your average guest skis with you for 3 days. You need to have 40 clients to “fill your book”. If you have a 50% return rate you need to get 20 new guests a season. If your network colleague on average refers 2 people a season that you convert into a guest. You only need 10 people in your professional network. You will need to work out these numbers for your own business. Improving the quality of your network members and their familiarity with you will reduce the number. Improving your return rate is also a way to reduce the required size of your network.

Take a moment and “ball park” your required network size. I’m guessing is not a huge number. To get started we are talking less then 20 people

Creating a Niche Network

Many people confuse network building with telling everyone that will listen what you do (like in our joke) or spending time on ski forums, linkedIn and Facebook. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with hanging out online, debating the merits of the wedge vs direct to parallel, stance width, ski length, etc. In the process, you might find some kindred spirits, but that’s not really building a niche network.

Who Should Be in Your Niche Network?

Your online and offline professional network should consist of:

  • Industry professionals who share your teaching philosophy
  • Your former students, that like and understand your brand and are willing to share it with others.
  • People you like. Pamela Ryckman, author of The Stiletto Network, told Inc.com that she refuses to let jerks into her network.
  • People who are comfortable with the process of give and take. If you endorse someone on LinkedIn, will they reciprocate? If you recommend an instructor, will they do the same for you?

Networking at the Resort

Creating a network at your local resort requires you to think outside the box. Your fellow instructors are an obvious choice, but, in some cases, they are competing for the same private clients. A co-opetition strategy can work in your favor.

What Is Co-Opetition?

Co-opetition is a term coined to describe cooperative competition. Here’s a scenario:
Jim and Michelle are the same age. They both have their Level 3 certification, and they share a similar teaching style and philosophy. Both are known for their patience, their sense of humor and their ability to create a fun experience on the mountain. Despite their similarities, they might have different ideas about their ideal client.

  • They both love working with women, but Michelle likes to work with women who prefer female instructors
  • Jim enjoys working with kids. Michelle tolerates them.
  • Michelle’s knee is bothering her, and she’s not in the mood to teach moguls
  • Michelle likes working with seniors. Jim tolerates them.
  • Jim speaks fluent Spanish. Michelle speaks French and Italian
    Based on these difference, Jim and Michelle can create a co-opetition network. For example, a student from Spain wants a private lesson. Michelle suggests Jim. An Italian student wants a lesson, Jim recommends Michelle.

Speaking of language, have you considered networking with the support staff?

Support from the Support Staff

Most resorts hire housekeepers and cafeteria staff from all parts of the world. If you work at a major resort, your clients probably come from the same parts of the world. Do you speak a foreign language? If so, do you communicate with resort support staff. Here are some reasons why you should.

  • Many instructors treat support staff as if they were invisible. Your kindness makes you stand out as a teacher and as a person.
  • Rosalita, the Mexican housekeeper, overhears a family from Spain. They’re considering a family lesson, but they worry whether they will understand the teacher. Rosalita tells them about that nice instructor Senor Jim.
  • Most resorts allow support staff to take lessons for free. Encourage them, and build your reputation.

Other Potential Network Members

Surveyors:
You know those people who walk around the resort taking customer satisfaction surveys? They hear the dirt about every excellent and terrible ski lesson. Get to know them. Encourage them to take your class.

Ski School Desk Staff:
Let them get to know you, communicate your brand to them. They have the power to recommend the best instructor for a particular client.

The Gear Guys:
Your understanding of how boot fit affects skiing can help you create a powerful alliance. Recommend boot fitters, and they will return the favor.

Your Network

Evaluate your ski instructor network. Set a goal for the size and quality. Write down the folks that have referred guests to you in the past. Are they benefiting you? Is it a give and take, or a one-sided relationship. Think about what you can do to add quality to your network.

When you approach people to join your network, be clear in what you want to accomplish. Make sure you establish a win-win relationship. Communicate your brand and your ideal client. Leave them with business cards or other collateral to make the referral process easy.

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