The old adage, “It’s not what you know, but whom you know,” is particularly true in business. At the 14th annual Wharton Women in Business Conference on Oct. 5, a panel of business professionals discussed best practices for building and leveraging relationships. And they added an important addendum to that old adage: It’s not just whom you know, but how they know you.
“Be careful who you befriend, because you never know who you manage,” said Kimberly Kitchings, vice president of corporate and strategic planning program metrics for Cotton Inc., quoting a previous supervisor.
Lauren Sveen, WG’90, president of Mom Corps., agreed, advising students that they must change the way they use social media after leaving school and enter the workforce. She suggested that students use online platforms to keep up with their clients and strategic partners.
Jane DeFlorio, managing director of Deutsche Bank, concurred that having a system for maintaining professional relationships is essential.
“I take copious notes on people I meet. Whether it’s a three-hour client meeting or I’m at a dinner party and I’m sitting next to someone interesting who I would … like to develop a relationship with, I will send myself emails. I’ve even found myself in the bathroom of restaurants … leaving myself voicemails,” DeFlorio said.
Building relationships is only one part of the equation. The panelists told the students that they must leverage these relationships as well.
“It’s really OK to ask,” Marcus said. “Women happen to be very good at building relationships; we are not so good at leveraging relationships. And why? Because we’re usually afraid to do ‘the ask.’”
Sveen regularly networks with Wharton colleagues and fellow alumni as president of the Wharton Club of Colorado.
“I can’t emphasize enough how important your Wharton relationships are,” she said. “Being involved and connected with the alumni group is really, really important.”
The panel was moderated by Anne Libby, WG’95, founder and owner of Anne Libby Management Consulting LLC and leader of the Wharton Women in Business Alumnae group.