Sandy was in a rush. Dripping with water, she clutched the towel around herself and awkwardly tried to get into a change room cubicle at the gym, hands full. As she gripped the towel in place, her dry clothes slipped out of her hands and fell onto the feet of a stranger. Fortunately, she didn’t shy away from the opportunity, however awkward it was at the time. She laughed it off and greeted the stranger. That greeting later helped bring about a pivotal career move for Sandy.

Networking opportunities are as readily available as encounters with new people are. You just never know how far a relationship may extend when you first meet someone. Sandy, for example, signed her first largest client thanks to an acquaintance – the stranger in the bathroom. A few years later, when her business was well established, the stranger’s nephew came on board and turned out to be her company’s greatest asset.

What are some of the other reasons to build a strong network of business relationships?

1.  You don’t know what you don’t know

Networking opens you up to meeting a diverse range of people. This is especially true if you nurture each contact you meet – regardless of how insignificant their industry may be to yours. The value in cherishing connections with unlikely people is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Remain open minded and interesting opportunities you could never have predicted, may arise.

2.  Networking is a long-term investment

Building a network of contacts is about much more than simply hoping for a return on investment. It’s a long term game. Try to nurture relationships for the sake of helping others, if you’re waiting to see a reason for having a contact, you’re going to get frustrated. Sometimes, the most lucrative transaction take place between contacts who have known each other for two decades. You may meet someone who is initially of little business value to you. Over time, people’s circumstances change. They make new connections – by maintaining that relationship, you have access to their new contacts too.

3.  A reliable network can help you find that great client

Speaking of long-term investments, a relationship that has been nurtured in a business sense can yield lucrative rewards. Sometimes, landing that game-changing client is a matter of tapping into your friend or fellow businessman’s contacts. When you are referring business to each other, it is important to mention what kind of client you are looking for. Mention specifics, like industry, designation, etc.

4.  A pool of contacts can help you find that great employee

Sure, clients are the lifeblood of a business. But there’s no better asset than a capable employee that increases the business’ profitability. In this day and age, it is difficult to find workers who are truly dedicated, honest, and who possess integrity. We see entrepreneurs and employers reaching into their pool of contacts when they want to hire, before they advertise new positions to strangers. This is because we have seen more accountability and better work ethic from contacts found via our networks.

Some say there is no such thing as coincidence. Perhaps there is or perhaps there isn’t, but one thing that is certain, each encounter has the potential to flourish into a rewarding business relationship, or valuable friendship, or a lesson in life.