Kevin McQuinn is a commercial real estate entrepreneur, a venture capital investor in green technologies, a beekeeper, an artist, a voracious reader, and a dedicated family man. He created and maintains a wide net of friends that personally and professionally support each other.
Dan: I have always been impressed by the way you link people together. How many people do you have in your business and personal community? And how did you build it?
"... my network has grown organically."
Kevin: My network is approximately 300 people. That is not a lot, but it is by design. I would say that over every two or three year period I meet face to face with almost half of those people and two-thirds of them over 5 years. Not to sound cliche, but I would say my network has grown organically.
I have been building the network since I was a teenager and I recommend to anyone that you start as early as possible. I was a three-sport athlete in school and always a catcher. From grades 7-12 I talked with every other baseball player in southern Maine whenever they came up to bat, got to know them by name, and something more about many of them. I'd always make a comment or ask a question, maybe give them a good-natured hard time.
As the years went by I saw these guys at the Mall, the beach, in college, out at nightspots, or restaurants. I made it a point to engage with them. Over the years I added coworkers, classmates, and other professionals.
Once I became a businessperson in my mid-twenties, I became involved with and served on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce and several other nonprofits and civic groups, The Greater Portland YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Serenity House, Friends of Casco Bay, and Portland Little League. You can see what I mean by organic.
Dan: How do you keep that network active? Do you have a system? Do you use Customer Relationship software? How do you keep so many friends and business associates in your loop?
"... if I think they might be able to help me with something, or I've heard they may need some help, I reach out."
Kevin: Again, nothing formal. However, what I will do is commit to meeting people for lunch or coffee when I run into them after an absence or sometimes if someone comes to mind and I haven't seen them for a while. And of course, if I think they might be able to help me with something, or I've heard they may need some help, I reach out.
Dan: Besides the obvious business advantages such as sales and marketing, what are some other advantages to making the effort to keep these relationships current?
"Building a community that is local and regionally-based creates a positive sense of belonging and even security for me, and I hope, for many of them."
Kevin: There are certainly many intangibles. Building a community that is local and regionally-based creates a positive sense of belonging and even security for me, and I hope, for many of them.
My network is more personal than most because of the way I built it and the way it expanded over time. I am almost always willing and available to assist or connect others to my contacts or resources. I am also able and willing to avail myself of their reciprocity.
Dan: What struggles or difficulties did you first encounter when you started building your community and what difficulties do you face keeping the network active?
Kevin: I never wanted or needed to build a huge network of people or contacts beyond what I have. In my network, there are groups of people with bigger circles who are always happy to introduce me or connect me with those outside my circle if I ask. It's not realistic that I can keep in touch with everyone, but I am quick to acknowledge that it would be nice to see or connect with everyone more often.
Dan: What would you recommend for those wanting to build a new network or expand an existing one?
" ... because I genuinely care about them and how they are doing and they feel that."
Kevin: Be genuine. I could send Christmas cards or be active on Facebook or LinkedIn and send birthday wishes, but that's not me.
However, upon reconnecting with any of my community after some time, the first questions I ask are always about health, family, or mutual friends. Both of us typically agree that life is busy and there aren't enough hours in the day. We acknowledge how hard it is to stay in touch.
Lastly, I always try to say something thoughtful or special, ask a question, or maybe give them a good-natured hard time about something before we part ways. We might not be the closest friends, but we are much more than acquaintances, because I genuinely care about them and how they are doing and they feel that. Really, not much has changed in the way I network over the years. It's personal and that's just the way I like it.
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