Success often isn’t about what you know, but who you know, although, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Everyone tells you to network but no one tells you exactly how to do it. If you’ve ever struggled with networking or reaching out to an expert you could learn from or been afraid to connect with a leader who could help you, then this episode is for you. You’ll learn the secrets of building powerful and influential relationships, and exactly how to grow your network. Our guest today is Pat Hedley, TEDx speaker and author of the book “Meet 100 People”.
Pat is an investor, advisor and founder and CEO of The Path Ahead. Pat spent 30 years in the private equity world with global growth investor General Atlantic. Now in her role as an independent investor, Pat identifies high growth companies in which she invests and takes on advisory roles. Throughout her career, Pat has observed what it takes for business leaders to succeed and attributes even her own success to the power of relationships.
In this episode, Pat provides motivation, inspiration and practical advice for building your network. She shares expert insights on creating meaningful relationships that will provide lifelong value. She provides a framework to determine what you need, so you can reach out to those who can help you and she gives tips and pointers on the right way to approach new people, how to connect with them and what helps to build authentic relationships. Visit www.iambeyondbarriers.com where you will find show notes and links to all the resources in this episode, including the best way to get in touch with Pat. (Listen to the podcast below.)
An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Nikki Barua: Hi, Pat, welcome to the show. I’m so excited to have you.
Pat Hedley: Thank you so much, Nikki. I’m totally thrilled to be here today.
Nikki Barua: So, let’s dive right in. Tell us what you do and share your journey with us.
Pat Hedley: Sure, I am an investor and I advise growth companies. In the last five years since I left the firm that I was with, for most of my career, I have been working with growing companies. And I have made over a dozen investments in these companies and I help them grow so I don’t just write a check to make an investment. What I do is try to provide expertise and access to the companies with whom I work. And I take on advisory roles from time to time as well, I’m really happy to say that more than half of my companies are led by women. I’m super excited to work with female entrepreneurs. And I find a number of ways in which to help support women in their, in their efforts to grow their businesses. In addition, I’ve written a book called “Meet 100 People”, which encourages people to be proactive and consistent in building their network, and in essence in meeting people in person to build relationships. My journey is an interesting one. And when you hear a little bit about my background, you’ll be surprised that I would write a book on networking. My parents were actually immigrants from Hungary. I grew up with a dad who was a social worker and a mom who was an entrepreneur, and they were not the most well networked people, but my mom in particular taught me some incredibly important lessons. And I actually learned those more through observations and watching her build her small business. And I think she planted the seeds for my true love of working with entrepreneurs. And I think some of the lessons I learned early on, really related to building relationships and actually showing up in person and talking and meeting with people. She never had a bad debt issue. So, she never had clients renege on, on what they owed her, because my mom would actually go in person to collect your checks. And that actually taught me a lesson very early on, which is that you have to follow up, and you have to make sure that people deliver on what they promised. And that people actually do help you when you show up in person. So that that was one early lesson that I had. My mom had a data entry business, something that we now do ourselves on laptops. But this was long ago when somebody else punched in an order, you know for something that you might order online because there was no online. And as a result, I had an early interest in computers and computer technology. So, I majored in computer science thinking I would always have a job. And I think my thoughts were on the right track. And, and I think I, it was easy to get a job in coding and programming. But that is not the route that I went and I could not have predicted that. I ended up working for a consulting firm as my first job. And there are several important lessons that I learned there. One was that I did not need to be an expert in everything or in fact, in anything, what I needed to do well, was I needed to find people who had that expertise. I needed to be able to bring that back, synthesize that, learn from that, and then produce something of value from that. So I think again, this idea of going out and finding the right resources and asking for information was something that was reinforced at that time. And then another really kind of life changing event occurred to me, I went to get my business degree, my MBA. And during the summer between my two years, I was recruiting for a job and I actually accepted a job. I wanted to work in banking after I had been in consulting. And a week later, I got a letter from a firm saying, come and interview with us. And I’m dating myself a little bit here, but I said, I could not text or email or even call them by cell phone to cancel the interview. So, I went to the interview in person to cancel it. And since I was canceling the interview, you know, I just said I wanted to talk to the person who had asked me to come and the person said, come sit and talk to me. And then he said, come sit and talk to my partner. And we continued some really very interesting conversations. I was not nervous at all because I was not interested in the job. And in the end, they ended up convincing me to fulfill my, I mean, I was going to fulfill my commitment to the job that I had accepted. But I decided to work an additional couple of weeks at the end of the summer, I worked part time for this firm. And I joined them full-time after I graduated from business school, and I was with them for 30 years. So, there are two important lessons from this occurrence. One is incredible things can happen if you show up in person. If I had called to cancel, my career would have been very different than what it ended up becoming. But I went in person and I talked to people and I met them, and I had an opportunity to learn and they got to know me. And so that was incredibly an important insight. And then the second one, which, frankly, is just as important, is that in a business setting when someone says, no, this doesn’t work for me, it might only mean that the timing is not right, or that the timing is not right, in this way. And so while I could not work for this firm during the entire summer, because I had made a commitment, that didn’t mean I couldn’t spend an extra couple of weeks at the end of the summer, and that didn’t mean I couldn’t work part time during my second year. And it certainly opened up the whole path of my career after I had graduated. So those two incredibly important lessons laid a foundation that I found to be useful many times over the course of my career. So, I ended up working for this, at the time, it was a very small firm and it became and today is a global private equity firm a growth equity firm and one of the few things that I had to do early on was I had to make cold calls and look for companies that we wanted to learn about that we might have an interest in investing in. And so, again, when I talked on the phone, my goal was to have a meeting and to show up in person and meet these companies. And the second piece was when on the phone, I called somebody and they said, no, we’re not interested or, you know, we don’t want to get venture funding. I would continue the conversation and find ways for them to at least meet me and learn more. And again, so I took what happened to me very early on and actually really used that and so many times I can think of two specific examples where I reached out to companies and the first thing they said was no, not interested. We ended up investing and not only did we invest, they were incredibly important outcomes for the company, for both sides. For both the company in which we invested and for the firm, for my firm who had made the investment. So, when I was at real briefly, while I was at my prior firm over the course of 30 years, I did a number of things. I was on the direct investment side for several years for over a dozen years. I also built out their global marketing and communications function when they were still just New York based, to today, they have offices in over a dozen locations nationwide. And then I did one other assignment. And I like to call these blank sheet of paper assignments because I really didn’t have the background to take on this assignment, nor did I have the expertise, I was being asked to serve in a role called the external human capital role, which meant I would help the companies in which we invested with their C-level search. So, senior executive searches with building out their boards of directors, and with talent best practices. I was not a search professional. I was not an HR professional. So, in a lot of ways, I didn’t have the background for it. But I did understand the industry and I had been an investor. And I did have the pattern recognition of having met many incredibly great executives over the course of my career up until that point in time. And so taking that blank sheet, I was able to create something from that, that became very useful to the firm over time, and many other firms since then have created roles just like that within their companies to help the companies in which they’ve invested. And I now find in the work that I do working with my, the companies in which I have placed investments that the time I spent working on talent related issues is really of interest to them. Because one of the most important things that an entrepreneur or a senior executive thinks about, day to day, is to make sure that they have the right talent in place, that they retain that talent, that they continue to motivate that talent so that they have the very best team that they possibly can have. And so that experience even though it was not directly related to investing at the time has become something that I have found to be very important in the work that I do today.
Nikki Barua: What an incredible journey, that’s really fascinating. But what grabbed my attention is how you switched lanes from starting out and consulting to moving into private equity and then becoming an investor yourself and essentially an entrepreneurial journey as well as overcoming things that most people tend to be very, very fearful of such as cold calling. What has helped you take leaps of faith and whether it’s in switching lanes or dealing with generally scary situations where you’ve been able to face those fears and take the action you needed to.
Pat Hedley: I did not realize this earlier on in my career, but I have become much more self- aware, in the last several years, what’s enabled me to take on these challenges. And, and I can actually point to it now. There is part of me, and it’s a very important part of me, that is deeply curious. In fact, I’ve kind of thought about this, you know, in the past, if there were only one adjective that I could use to describe myself, I would use that word curious. I like to learn, I’m interested in a lot of different things. And that curiosity helps me overcome some of the fears that I might have in pursuing things that I want to pursue. So, in approaching new people or being put in a situation that may, you know, not be the most comfortable and, you know, I’ll have to admit this to by nature, I’m much more of an introvert than I am an extrovert. So, in being put in brand new situations with lots of new people, that is not necessarily the most comfortable thing for me. I’ve gotten much, much better at doing this over time. And anything that you practice often and regularly, you can become better at. I think you can learn to be a good networker. You can learn to be a good salesperson. There’s so many things that are learnable you can acquire those skills, but something has to drive you to do that. And for me, it was this desire to learn and this curiosity about both people and the world that helped me overcome some of those obstacles. And as I mentioned earlier, my experience at the consulting firm really made a big difference to me. And, you know, sometimes it’s those early experiences that put a strong stamp on, on the way in which you think of opportunities and challenges in the future. There were many assignments that I was given as a young associate consultant, where I had to do the research, there was a problem, and you know, the way we were going to figure out the problem, or the answer the questions related to whatever the problem was, was to go out and find those people who knew the answers or can give some insights related to it. And so, I had to do that, I realized, you know, I don’t necessarily know the answer, but that’s okay. I should not feel intimidated by my own lack of knowledge, because I have agency and I can change that, I can go and find people who do know it. And believe it or not, I found, and I truly believe in this, people are willing to help you if you approach them the right way. And if you’re specific about what you need and what you would like, and if you can do that, if you can ask the right questions and ask for the assistance that you need, you will get help. And I found that to be true. I found that to be true in my earliest, you know, career projects at the consulting firm. I found that to be true throughout my career every time that I had to embark on what I call blank sheet opportunities. Because I was willing to go out and ask the questions and honestly. I wasn’t afraid to do that because my curiosity helped me overcome those fears.
Nikki Barua: That’s terrific. A lot of what you have developed competency in over the years inherently involves rejection as a part of that. Whether it’s approaching new relationships or cold calling or making a business deal. And rejection is something that a lot of people personalize and have a very hard time with. Give us some specific tactics, tools, things that you’ve done that have not only helped you overcome the rejection, but more importantly, flip it around and turn it into a successful outcome.
Pat Hedley: I think your question is, is such a good question because people really do have a fear of the word no. And of rejection overall. And I don’t know how I’ve gotten over that. I mean, part of it is, you know, I do come from an immigrant background. And when you have nothing to lose you may as well just try because you know what’s the worst thing that can happen? If someone says no and so no has to, at some point in your life not, you know, not be so scary and not be so intimidating and one of the things that I’ve kind of thought through is a no today does not mean a no tomorrow, a no may only be a misunderstanding on another person’s, you know, side as to what you’re really asking for, and a no in many respects is more about the other person than it is about you. So, I think you can take the no and depersonalize it and if you depersonalize it and you try to understand it or learn from it, then you get better at it. I’ll give you one example that just came to mind and this is something I learned from a young entrepreneur and I was so impressed with the way he approached it. He was starting a company and he was doing some research, he was going to offer a service to restaurants. And he went out to 20 restaurants the first week. And every single one of them said no to his proposal. And he came back, and he regrouped. And he thought, you know what, what if we change this? What if we change that? I’m going to go out to another 20 and see how I do? And he did it again. And this time, two out of the 20 agreed and said yes. And he iterated and iterated until he got to the point where more than half were willing to take on what he was proposing. And I love the story because, first of all, the young man was not dissuaded by the 20 no’s. Second of all, he decided to take the opportunity and to learn from it to actually figure out why they were saying no, how can he adjust? How can he be adaptable to be able to still do what he wanted to do but make it appealing to those he was trying to reach. And then the third really important piece of this is he was persistent. And I think persistence should not be undervalued or underestimated ever. Persistence is what wins the game. Persistence is what wins marathons. I mean, you know, people who run marathons or do anything that’s super difficult could give up at any point in time and could say in their head, no, no, no, this is too hard for me. And what makes a difference between those who finish and those who don’t, is that they get rid of the negative part and they just put one foot in front of the other. And I do truly believe that that’s one of the secrets in life is that you do have agency, you can make choices. You do have control over what you do, and you can continue to put one foot in front of the other, learn and adapt and keep going.
Nikki Barua: Indeed, it’s so fascinating how so much of success really comes down to the same principles of, you know, having clarity of vision, having the tenacity and determination to just keep trying different things until you find the path to success. So, you’ve had, you’ve spent many years in private equity in the venture capital world, you have this very unique vantage point of observing businesses. What are some common traits that you see in successful leaders and organizations?
Pat Hedley: There are several interesting patterns that you recognize in speaking to dozens upon dozens of executives and, you know, for my career, we had something that we called investment committee meetings and management meetings. So, we’d have executives come in and present to us and I sat through probably hundreds of those meetings over the course of a very long career. And so, you do see how certain people handle certain things. And I must say some of the traits that are common amongst successful executives include self-awareness. So, an awareness of what the individual is really good at, and what they might not be as good at and then solving for what they’re not so good at. So, building teams around, you know, oneself, where they have a broader ability to solve problems. So, there are certain executives who are tremendous salespeople, they’re really good at that, they might not be, so, you know, so talented or if they might not want to focus as much on operational issues or on finance issues. In that case, you have to bring on a really strong financial executive or a really strong operational executive. And you know, vice versa, some people are really good at the numbers and strategic vision. And they’re, you know, not necessarily good at building out a salesforce. But if you have an awareness of what you’re good at, you can solve for what you’re not good at. And you could build a team around that and scale an organization. And I do think there is real talent in recognizing how to take this great idea that you’ve started with, and then scale it over time. The skills required for a business at the beginning are different than the skills required to run 100-million dollar business or a billion in revenue plus business and understanding what you need and being aware of that I think is important. I also think the other common trait that successful executives have is that they bring on advisors, those individuals who recognize that they don’t know everything, and can reach out to other smart people and help supplement their knowledge, have a huge edge over those who think that, you know, they have it in the bag. And this is very counterintuitive, but I always found that those companies who are most willing to take on advice and expertise are in fact, the strongest companies and those who, you know, would put their hands out and say, no, no, no, we got this, frankly, those were, in some cases, the least secure and those that needed the most help. They didn’t know what they didn’t know, as opposed to those executives who constantly sought feedback from others, who would put together a personal board of advisors, a really competent board of directors and would really reach out to others to get their opinions. They had huge edge an advantage. And therefore, I say entrepreneurs who are good at networking and good at relationship building, really do have an edge.
Nikki Barua: I think underlying a lot of what you’re saying, it also sounds like self-awareness and humility play a very big role in that. The self-awareness to know what you’re good at and not so good at and also the humility to surround yourself with people better than you that can advise you or be part of the mission.
Pat Hedley: I think that’s exactly right. I do think that there’s, you know, there is humility involved. And Jim Collins wrote this incredible book. He’s written more than one but it’s called Good to Great and it is one of the books that most business executives will have heard of, or read at some point in their careers and Jim came and spoke to us at my former firm once and one of the common themes was that, you know, some of the best executives are those who display humility and understanding that it’s really their people that are going to get them to where they want to go. They may have the vision and the strategy, but they’re really good at assembling teams and providing leadership for those teams.
Nikki Barua: Excellent. Well, speaking of books, let’s talk about yours. I’m a big fan of your book, “Meet 100 People”. Tell us what inspired you to write the book and what’s your main message?
Pat Hedley: Sure, there are three things that inspired me to write the book. The first was that it’s advice that I wish I had had when I was first starting out. Now remember, I was more of an introvert. You know, I didn’t come from a super well networked family or background. But if someone had outlined for me, the way in which I outlined in my book, not only that it’s important and why it’s important, but how do you do it tactically, I would have really found benefit in that, I would have loved to have read that, you know, what I wrote are things that I learned over a very long career. And what I learned in observing people who are really, really good at building relationships and networking. The second thing was that I have three adult children, I’m happy to say they’re all gainfully employed. And I saw the process that they went through and I have given them advice. My husband and I give our children advice about all sorts of things. But I think that building relationships and this networking advice is incredibly helpful to them. And again, you know, I’ve met with and mentored many young people over the course of my career, and I think this is such an important advice. And the third piece is, this is advice I am following to this day. I’ve had an over 30-year career with an incredible preeminent firm. I have a very good network that I built there. But in order to do what I’m doing today, I had to recreate my network, expand my network, meet different people than I had met all along. So, I’m doing what I’m preaching myself. And I’m finding that, you know, this is a lifelong process. And it’s something that’s so very important. The main message of my book is to consistently proactively reach out to other people, meet them, if you can in person, because that makes a big difference, and build and develop those relationships over time. I kind of think of it with three C’s. You should commit to doing this and I think the commitment part is probably the hardest part for some people to say, you know what, I understand the value and I am finally go to make it something that is going to be part of my life, it is fundamental to my career today and my future career. So, make the commitment. The second is to make the connection. And how do you connect with people when you meet with them in person and I talk about that a fair bit in my book, and we can talk about it here as well. And then the third and most important piece is to continue the process. You can’t give up on it, you have to, when you plant a seed, having met someone, it’s important to nurture that seed so it can grow over time. It’s important to spend time and follow up with someone and it’s important to approach relationship building with a spirit of generosity, you’re for sure going to learn in the process of meeting someone and talking to someone. But you should also approach it with the thought that you’re going to give something to. And it may not be obvious what you might be able to provide for someone at the beginning. But if you have that mindset, at some point in time, something might come to mind. And I’ll take one quick story here to illustrate this book because I love telling the story and it’s very special to me. A young woman approached me after an event about two years ago, this was a young woman from my college, an alumna who wanted some advice about going from startups into consulting. And of course, I’m going to speak to someone who’s from like, from my college, and I was happy to sit and talk with her. And we had a wonderful conversation, we really connected, we connected on a number of topics, but we actually connected on our mutual love of Asian food. And I talk about this because whatever that connection is, it doesn’t matter as long as you both get really excited about it. And when I told her my interest, she said, well, you know, have you I’ve been to Flushing Queens and I said, no, I haven’t. And she said, well, going to Flushing Queens is like going to China without going on an airplane. And there’s incredible food there. And, and I said, you know, and she said, I’d like to take you to lunch. Sometimes people offer things and they don’t follow up. But this young woman, Victoria, she followed up. And we went and we had lunch together and had a great time. She took me on a tour, we went and purchased dumplings, we had a lovely time. I did give her a good advice. She followed up with me, she told me that the advice was incredibly helpful. She ended up getting a job in consulting.
Several months later, she contacted me and said, Pat, I heard there was a call for speakers for TEDx and I’d like to nominate you as a TEDx speaker. And I thought to myself, you know, it’s always been my secret wish to do a TED talk. It’s been on my bucket list. I’d never thought I’d have the opportunity but now it’s presenting itself through, from someone who I had no expectations. And she did nominate me, I was accepted. I did the TED Talk. I’ve never prepared for anything more in my entire life than this talk. And it would never have happened. I would not have been aware of it, if it hadn’t been for Victoria. And I tell the story because I’m so deeply grateful to her. I tell the story because you don’t know what you’re going to be able to give to someone at some point. And it doesn’t have to be right away. But sometimes those gifts can really change people’s lives. And while she approached me for help, in the end, I think I received much more from her than she even did from me and I am truly and deeply grateful to her. But this is illustrative of whether you think you can help someone or not, there are ways and opportunities that come up. Just keep it in mind. How can you help someone? And incredible things happen.
Nikki Barua: That’s a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing that. What an amazing way for putting things out in the universe and the generosity just coming back. So, I want to present a scenario. And I’d like for you to provide your expert advice to someone who says that I’m, you know, either early in my career or mid-career, and I don’t really have a powerful network and I barely have any contacts on LinkedIn. And I don’t really know what I can possibly give to anyone. There are influential and powerful people and leaders within my organization or outside that I’d love to get to know but I just don’t even know how to go about doing that. What advice would you give to them to build a network or even approach some of these leaders that they wish to connect with?
Pat Hedley: Sure, I write about this in my book very specifically, I give real how-to advice on it and let me give you just, you know, a few of the pointers that I would, that I would offer. The first and most important thing is to look within yourself and to figure out what you need and what you want. And so that is that is kind of a self- evaluation process. If you can’t articulate what you need or who you might want to speak with, it’s hard to figure out who to reach out to and who to talk to. The second piece is that you start near and then you go further. And one of the things I advise, young people in particular, especially when they have their first job, or whatever subsequent jobs they have, is as soon as they join a firm, it’s the perfect opportunity to reach out to people within the company that they’re in. Talk to your peers, talk to people in other departments, talk to senior people and managers. Everybody’s willing to have a conversation with somebody who’s just started in the company. Then the question is something as simple as I just started, I’m looking to learn more, I would love to hear what your experience has been, and what advice you have for me so that I can do a great job. And ask somebody to coffee, to lunch, whatever it is, and just spend that time because these are people that are within your circle. So, you may think you don’t have a network, but everybody has some type of network. You have alumni groups, you have people who live in your town, you have people who, you know, friends and friends of friends, reach out to them for the learning process. If you have a specific thing you’re trying to learn more about, say you’re trying to figure out what your next career move might be. Then you could target people who can help you with those questions. The other thing that I highly recommend for people is not only know people within your firm but find people who are peers of yours outside of your organization. And one of the things that I first did when I joined the firm I worked with for 30 years was I joined a group of young people in a similar role to mine, it was a group of young venture capitalists is how they were labeled. Most of them were men. Frankly, there was only one other woman who I became friendly with at the time. I am still friends with her today. In fact, I saw her two weeks ago. So that relationship stayed with me throughout that whole period of time. But joining groups, small groups outside your firm of people who have similar experiences, is invaluable because not only do you learn about yourself, you learn about what their experiences and therefore you can be more knowledgeable. If a group doesn’t exist, create it. There are other people who have similar roles to yours, there is a way to figure out who those people are by asking others or, you know, looking that up and ask people to breakfast, say, you know what, I’m gathering four or five people who are analysts and this banking, you know, whatever the role is, or entrepreneurs trying to do something or whatever it is, and we’re going to have breakfast once every other month. This is the time, location. People actually come. People don’t like to organize, but they do like to show up and they do like to share experiences. When I received that external human capital role, one of the first things I did was I found other people who have that similar job, and I reached out to them. And I said, I’m new to this role. I’m trying to learn, would you spend half hour with me and talk about you know, what you see in the industry or what you’re doing? Honestly, I’ve never had somebody say no to me. I’ve always had good reception on that. And then the final piece, talk to people who are very different from you, because sometimes those people can inspire you in ways you cannot predict. And I like to tell the story because I once told it at an event. And at the end of the event, the woman said, you know, I was listening to everything you said, I didn’t quite connect with it until you told this story. And I said that at that time, just the other week, I had been invited to a dinner by a friend whose passion was ballet. And she invited us to the ballet and prior to that, we went to dinner, and she invited a ballerina to dinner. And honestly, I’d never met a premier ballerina before in my life. And she said this, you know, young woman is here, ask her anything. And, you know, true to my curious nature, I was like, oh my gosh, I have a million questions. I basically asked “tell us about your journey? How did you become a, like a premier ballerina in New York City?”. And she told her story and she was incredible. I follow her on Instagram now, I think it’s fantastic. She’s opened my eyes into something I would have never really considered or thought of. And so, this idea of meeting new people, you know, is meant to do none number of things. You can have additional knowledge and information, you could find people who can give you access or answer questions or open doors for you sometimes, you know, provide jobs for you. But the most interesting part in my view, is you can get inspiration and you could learn about other things that you otherwise would not learn about. And it opens up kind of this window onto a different world when you meet people like that. So, I think you have to back to the original question: I’m not very well networked, how do I expand that? I think the first answer is figure out how you would like to expand that, who would you like to meet, put together a target list, put a, you know, put them in buckets of these are people I’d like to meet because I’d like them to be my mentors, or these are three people I’d like to meet because you know what, they’re really good connectors. They know everybody. So, it’d be great to know somebody like that. Or this is somebody that’s totally aspirational, that if I can meet anyone in the world, who would it be? Put it on the list, mention it to someone, honestly, you put it out into the universe, somehow, things happen, you know, not tomorrow, not you know, next year, but you never know. And make the ask, make the ask is what I tell people.
Nikki Barua: It really does come down to being very clear about exactly what you’re looking for and what you need and who you need to meet because when you’re specific, then people can actually help you make that connection and access that relationship.
Pat Hedley: That’s absolutely right. And you know what if they can’t, at least, they may not be able to right that minute, they might in the future, but if they can’t, they can say tell you right, then, you know, I really can’t help you with that. And that’s fine, too. There is nothing wrong with that, then you could continue and focus your efforts on people who might be able to help you with that specific request. I was once asked, and this was such a great question. You know, so many people want to join boards of directors. And they have this as an aspirational goal. But if you ask somebody, if you could join any board you wanted, which board would it be and why? Most people take a pause, because they’ve never really put themselves in that position. They’ve never really taken it to the next level, to make it more specific. And I think you have to challenge yourself to make things specific. So, if you can meet anybody, who would you meet? And why, if you could join any board, which would you join? And why? If you were to start a business, which business would you start? And why? If you could get a new job, what job would it be, specifically and why? And once you do that you can make Progress. You need to know where you’re going in order to figure out how to get there.
Nikki Barua: Right, right. So, one of the things that you have practiced all your life is level of consistency in nurturing your relationships. Connections today are so easy to build in some ways, because all you have to do is click a button online, right? You know, add a friend or you know, connect with someone on LinkedIn. But it’s one thing to make that digital connection versus truly building a lasting relationship, one in which the relationship is being nurtured by both parties. What advice would you give in terms of the habits that you follow, perhaps maybe giving us a little bit behind the scenes of what are your daily habits that have allowed you to build such lasting relationships? Because it’s not something that you just do once in a while, you’ve probably been doing it very consistently all your life. So, what can someone learn from your habits about building relationships?
Pat Hedley: Sure. Let me give you know, some thoughts related to kind of digital connections versus real relationships. So, occasionally, but not very often, I go to LinkedIn first, or I’m inspired by something and I go and find the individual on LinkedIn. And in that, and I’d love to talk to this person. The first and most important thing I can do is not just to hit that connect button, because that’s gives the other person absolutely no reason or understanding of why I’d like to connect, or what the mutual benefit would be. So if you do a cold outreach, one that is not through a referral, not through someone else, you have to give a compelling reason, I would like to reach out to you because I read about this, what you’re doing is interesting, I know I can help you. It has to be of that type of theme. And then the goal is not to be connected on LinkedIn. The goal is to have a phone call and a meeting in person, one or the other or both. The goal is to actually connect and connect is not a digital connection. Connecting is to speak with someone, share experiences, understand where they’re coming from, share where you are coming from, to figure out how you can help one another, that’s what a connection is about. And frankly, the real goal is to meet in person because it takes the relationship building to a totally different level when you meet with somebody face to face. So, you know, digital connections are just ways to stay in touch and to, and, and to have some way of tracking who you know. I mean, I love LinkedIn, I’m one of the biggest fans of LinkedIn, I do a lot of research on LinkedIn. So, before I meet somebody new, I do my homework so I can understand things that are important to them, things they’ve done, where they went to school, what are some of their interests, and that gives me information so I can have a valuable conversation. I can follow up on LinkedIn. LinkedIn makes it easy to remember somebody’s birthday, but it’s not enough just to hit the Happy Birthday thing. It’s much more to say a little bit more. And then this continuing process, following up, putting on your calendar, I met this person, this is what I found. And then in six months, putting on your calendar again, follow up with the person that I met, check in with them, see how they’re doing. If you’re in the job process, it’s the most incredible time to build and expand your network. But the biggest mistake people make is they meet a ton of people in the job process and once they get a new job, they don’t tell everybody they met with what happened. Why not? It’s an easy thing to do. That’s how you stay close to your network. I’ll give you one story. I do say this on my TED talk, but I will briefly mention it here because it’s, you know, it’s so surprising in some ways. But one of my first job rejections came from a guy called Jim. And Jim did such a nice job telling me no, that I would not be proceeding with the interview, that I always thought fondly of him. Two years after that, he was a banker, and I was on the client side of the table, a young associate, but still, he was showing us opportunities. Years after that, he came, he purchased the property next to my house, didn’t end up being a neighbor, actually ended up moving out of town but would have been my neighbor and we connected again. Years after that he came to me for career advice. Once I left my firm, I reached out to him just to check in, and we made an investment in a company together, and we bonded over the fact that we both like bicycling. I mean, you never, who would have ever guessed that this person Jim, who I consider a really dear friend, is someone who said no to me long ago when I was just starting out in my career. I mean, you know, you never know what happens. But you do have to keep in touch with people. Sometimes, people come back into your life and you could never have predicted it the way I could not have predicted it with Jim. And then you have to see how that relationship might evolve or change over time. But I guarantee, any young person, that there are people that they’re meeting along the way, you’re going to come back at some point and you’re going to have and they will have an impact on their lives in ways that they cannot foresee. So that tells you a couple of things. Treat every relationship as if you’re going to see the person again. And look for those opportunities. Look for those people who might be people who would come back into your life and find ways to share interests or things that you like, invite people to events, you know, do things that might not necessarily be career oriented, because it could be a way to continue to build a relationship.
Nikki Barua: That’s great advice. Now, one thing that I hear from a lot of women as it relates to relationships and networking, is networking is a bad word, you know, there’s inherent discomfort with the idea of networking because it sounds selfish. It sounds like you’re taking advantage of the relationship. So, while a lot of women might have large circles of friends, oftentimes they struggle with leveraging those very relationships, to achieve their goals and make them part of whatever mission that they’re on. What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling with that idea of, networking is a bad word? And I’m not sure I could ask my friends for help, or people I know because I don’t want them to feel obligated.
Pat Hedley: I think this is a prevalent theme. Frankly, I don’t like the word networking either. It sounds transactional. I try to avoid using it even in my book, I talk about meeting people as opposed to networking. I talked about building relationships and women are very good at that. Women are good at getting to know their friends, women, you know, gather in groups and they spend time together. But one of the things that they don’t do, which I think men do more often is they’re not specific about what’s important to them or what they need. And that really has to come from, from you. Sometimes people don’t share, I’m looking for a job now I would need help in this. If you do that, people come to your aid, whether they’re men or women, they help you. When I mean, having written Meet 100 People has opened up such incredible, you know, opportunities for me and I’ve seen people be so generous in helping me in ways that I would have never expected or predicted. But, you know, I go to a bar class three times a week, there is a group of women there who I like very much. I’m close to one of the instructors. When they heard that I was writing the book, which I shared with them. They were so helpful. Somebody introduced me to someone she knew that was in incredibly helpful to me. I mean, people went out of their way. But if I had kept that to myself and not talked about it, how would they have known? And how could they have helped me? So, I think it’s incumbent upon each one of us to share what’s important to us, or to be specific about what we might need. And women are well networked. I mean, women know other, you know, other people, what they’re doing. There are so many ways that we can be helpful to one another. We just need to ask, we need to make it more specific. We need to not feel uncomfortable to say to a friend, you know, would you be able to help me with this? Or do you happen to know this person or I’m trying to figure out ways to further market my book. Do you have any ideas? It’s totally fine to do that. It is absolutely wonderful to do that. Because guess what, if you would do the same, I know I would. I would. I am more than happy to help, especially my friends. So, if they have a need, I’m the first one in there to try to be helpful to them. And if you feel that you would, other people will do it for you.
Nikki Barua: I think there’s inherent generosity that most people operate with and everyone likes to help. So if you just put it out there about what’s important to you, and where you need help, even asking for advice opens up lots of doors where people are willing to step in, and not only help you directly but potentially connect you to those that can.
Pat Hedley: I think that’s exactly right. And, and a good way to position it is, I’d like to seek your advice. I mean, you have to approach meeting people and building relationships with a spirit of humility, with a spirit of generosity, and with one of learning and no matter how old you are, I mean, I’m constantly learning I’m going to learn until I’m no longer able to learn at all. If you approach things with that attitude, with that growth mentality, everything changes. I think, you know, it becomes it becomes the process of meeting people, the process of networking is not only accessible, it’s actually joyful.
Nikki Barua: Right, because it’s pure curiosity. And there’s no expectations in that.
Pat Hedley: Right. That’s right. And if you know, if people can help you, great, thank you so much, if they can’t, thank you so much for listening, you know, and I’d love to be able to help others.
Nikki Barua: Fantastic. So, speaking of learning, and, you know, as you look into the future, there’s so much that’s changing and it’s changing at a very rapid pace, especially in the age of artificial intelligence and automation. The change curve is just exponential. What are the biggest trends that you’re seeing, especially from an investor standpoint that you believe will truly impact business?
Pat Hedley: There are several things. I mean, look, technology’s only getting better, I think, you know, there’s even more data being gathered, there is technology that can be predictive. So that, you know, I, nobody surprised by it, but the ads that are served up on your home screen or when you’re doing searches generally relate to other things that you might be interested in. So, technology is getting smarter and smarter. And that will only continue. At the same time. We are all human beings, and there is a human element to this. So I think there will be as much opportunity on the data analytics, you know, data intelligence side applied to a number of different industries, as there will be to kind of the human side of it, the piece where we’re thoughtful about what human beings need in terms of Health and Wellness, in terms of, and health and wellness is a broad category, as well, it encompasses aging and the needs that people will have as they continue to age and there’s so much that’s broken on that side that still needs to be fixed. It encompasses the things that we can control about our lives and our bodies, everything from food, to exercise, to sleep to stress. I think people are looking at and addressing in different ways, you know, everything from the whole consumer experience and how you buy things and how you get access to products, services, knowledge, education. So, there’s a, there’s a lot out there. I think for myself, I find it fascinating and so incredibly important to continue to build and maintain my network among young people, millennials and the next generation after that, because they are windows into the future. And what’s wonderful about talking to younger people is that they’re not entrenched in the way things have to be, ought to be, have always been. They’re much more willing to take a blank sheet to problems and say, if we were to make it right the first time or look at it a totally new way. What would we do and how would we do it? And I think that there’s huge value to doing that, to taking, you know, a blank sheet of paper to problems out there or to situations and, and I think some of the interesting concepts and ideas that are arising come from that type of approach. You know, what should your experience getting health care look like? What is the ideal world? It certainly doesn’t look like waiting in an emergency room for four hours to be looked at right. You know, what does an experience of purchasing anything look like. It’s not about waiting in lines or not getting exactly what you’d like. So, I think I think the future is in, in customization, applying data and technology to making things efficient and easy for us. And then very importantly thinking about our lives and our bodies and the way in which we interact with the world and focusing on that, trying to make that better as well.
Nikki Barua: Now, we really are living in such interesting times, because on one hand, we’re facing some of the biggest challenges that humanity has ever faced and on the other hand, we have the power of technology and the beauty of the human mind available to solve those very big challenges. So, it creates tremendous opportunity all around and for people that have a big vision and the desire to make an impact. We truly have the ability to do that today.
Pat Hedley: I agree. It’s exciting times.
Nikki Barua: What advice would you give to our listeners about getting future ready, given the opportunities or potentially even some of the roadblocks and challenges where things are not how they used to be? How can someone get future ready?
Pat Hedley: I think you need to be informed. You know, you asked me about what are the habits that I have myself that I think is helpful. I really do read a lot. I, you know, I read news, I read about current events, I try to keep up to date with what’s happening in certain industries. I keep myself informed. I think it’s important because it makes me think about things differently. It certainly helps me when I speak to people because I have something to talk about. I can ask them questions about what they think and how they view things and you know, where they get their information sources from. So, I think that’s a really important piece of it. I make it a habit. It’s part of my day. I actually spent some time thinking about this notion of habits and what makes for good habits and how do you add new habits to your life that can be helpful? You know, I do things to make it easy for myself. I get up early. You know, there are a couple of personal things that I do right away. I drink two 16-ounce glasses of water every morning and hydrate myself right to start my day. I look at my newsfeed and check news in the morning first thing before everything gets really hectic. I make exercise a priority. You know, it’s so important to keep your body strong and healthy, because you can’t operate well. And I really do make it a habit to talk to people, especially meeting brand new people. I mean, I keep in touch with contacts and people who I care about and make a habit of keeping in touch with my good friends and obviously my family, but I also like to meet brand new people and I think, you know, one thing people say occasionally is that they don’t have time to do that and to that I have a clever retort and that is if you have time to eat, you have time to meet. Make it a point to have lunch with someone new once a week, that’s not a big ask or have coffee with someone new, once a week. You will have met 52 people if you just do one, one new person a week that you know, share a cup of coffee with or you know, or a drink or whatever. But they have to be, you have to be very intentional. You have to say this is important to you. And you have to understand that, you know, keeping informed, taking care of your health and body and meeting new people is making an investment in you and you are worth that investment and the investment may not pay off tomorrow, and it may not pay off next week. But consistent investment in yourself, whether it’s exercise or healthful eating or meeting people or informing yourself, doing a good job. All of that pays off. It’s an investment in you.
Nikki Barua: And it has a compounding effect.
Pat Hedley: It does absolutely, it absolutely has a compounding effect. The more you do it, the easier it is, and the better you get to be at it. And it does become joyful.
Nikki Barua: I absolutely love your philosophy. But I also love how methodical you are and how you go about doing things that in some ways, sort of breaking down the fear of how do I go from zero to building this huge, powerful network. I mean, you’ve just broken it down to tangible achievable baby steps. And it’s just a matter of consistently doing that over and over again. A lot like exercise, you’re not going to get healthy by going to the gym once a month. It’s just being consistent about it and making it easy to follow whatever the right action step is.
Pat Hedley: And you know what, I exercise six days a week, and there are days where I really don’t feel like it. But I make myself go. And the best part of my day sometimes is leaving, leaving my exercise routine, and I’m proud to say it and happy to say it and I feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s a good way to start the day. And I think with anything that you set your mind to, and if you set your mind to, you know, I am going to meet just one new person a week. That’s just, and when you go to a conference, people get intimidated with conferences, as do I, I must admit, especially when I was first starting out, you see 100 people in a room and you’re like, oh my goodness, how am I ever going to talk to anyone? And the problem is you think you need to talk to everyone. And you don’t. All you need to do is have a conversation with the person sitting next to you. And already you’re expanding your network. And it can be as simple as that, you know, opening question, tell me about yourself or, you know, have you been to this conference before? What do you think or whatever? Simple opening is a great way to start the seed of a relationship and you never know where that will go?
Nikki Barua: I love that. Do you have a particular question that you have found most valuable in building relationships?
Pat Hedley: I like it. I like to do it very open ended. I just like to say tell me about yourself, because then the other person could tell me whatever they want, and, and they will likely tell me something that’s most important to them. Because if somebody asked me that, I mean, I tried to adjust it to, you know the situation, but I’m not going to tell them something that I don’t want to talk about. I’m only going to tell them something that might spur additional conversation. And so, I like it. I like it open ended, right? Like, tell me about yourself. Tell me why you like this conference. Tell me, you know, I like to ask people about books they read just because I really like books, young people, I ask what’s your favorite app? I learned so much. And they tell me, you should see all the apps I have on my phone. I have a lot.
Nikki Barua: I love that fact. This has been fantastic. Such a wealth of wisdom and actionable strategies that you’ve shared. What do you wish you had found out earlier in your career? You know, you’ve learned so much and given so much. What do you wish you knew before?
Pat Hedley: I wish that I knew how incredibly valuable these relationships can be over time. I know people today who I met very early in my career and there is no way I would have ever thought that I would be friends with them so many many years differently and we would bond on something. I have one friend who I bike with. He bikes his age and miles. He invited me to his first bike. Well, the first one I was invited to when he was 75. We rode 75 miles, he and his friends, and I was fortunate enough to be invited. He used to be someone who I knew from a business setting, he ran one of the companies in which we invested. Today he’s a dear friend, we still go on bike your age in miles rides, although his wife said no more miles, it has to be kilometers, they are still pretty hefty. But how would I have ever known that and I wish I had known that, I think I would have looked for more opportunities to nurture relationships. I think I would have been more eyes wide open as opposed to having it evolve, as it has for me and I really encourage my own adult children to think about and build their relationships, keep in touch with people, find ways to be helpful to other people, because there’s so much richness in doing that, and not just from a professional career perspective. And of course, there is that too. It is much more from a personal and enjoyment of life perspective. And I wish I had known that earlier. It’s never too late. I am absolutely appreciating it in its fullness now. It’s a message I feel very strongly about. And that’s, you know, part of the reason that I wrote Meet 100 People. And I think people that have made this commitment, will see the fruits of the investment that they make.
Nikki Barua: That is incredible. Your love for people and relationships really comes through as does your generosity, and I’ve been privileged to receive that generosity as well. So, thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure chatting with you and having you on the show. For all our listeners out there, make it a point to go to the website, https://meet100people.com/. Get a copy of the book today and you will learn the most precious wisdom that can transform your life and your career. path. Thank you so much.
Pat Hedley: Thank you, Nikki. The pleasure has been mine. I really appreciate it.
Nikki Barua: Thanks so much.