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Your Network Equals Your Net Worth

By Linda DiProperzio of PINK Magazine

Former golf champion Jane Blalock was in familiar territory – on the golf course – when she worked up the nerve to ask well-known venture capitalist Jean Tempel for advice about expanding her business. While the Jane Blalock Co. was doing well, Blalock realized she needed more capital to grow the company, which runs events for both amateur and professional female golfers from its base in Cambridge, Mass. When Tempel, a social acquaintance, had invited Blalock out for a friendly round of golf, Blalock knew she had been handed a golden opportunity.

On the tee, Tempel asked for help on her golf swing. Blalock gladly obliged, then turned the tables and tapped Tempel for some business pointers. They agreed to have lunch three days later, when Blalock presented her informal business plan. "I told her, 'Here's what I want to do, and here are my other opportunities,'" she recalls. Tempel was impressed – so impressed that she agreed to find a group of women investors so Blalock could expand yet still maintain control of her company. Since finalizing the deal in January 2006 (and changing the company's name to JBC Golf ), Blalock has increased her firm's annual revenue by $1 million.

When it comes to making more money – whether it's through expanding your own business or landing a better job – it's all about whom you know, says Gwen Martin, director of research at the Center for Women's Business Research. "The majority of business opportunities come from connecting with the right people at the right time." In other words, while most high-level women execs have enough business cards and event invitations to stack floor to ceiling, leveraging the right part of that network at just the right moment can make all the difference.

Angela Ford agrees. "Networking has defined my career," says the founder and president of T.A.G.Worldwide Inc., a "green" property management firm based in Chicago. Ford's big break came when she met the head researcher and developer of innovative software tools for Johnson Controls, a multibillion-dollar company that sells products and services to optimize energy use in buildings. The two hit it off and, as a result, Ford recently entered into an agreement with Johnson Controls that cut the cost of an environmental assessment for commercial properties in half. Plus, by partnering with such a reputable company, Ford now has access to clients and projects that her company never could've handled before. "It's like getting invited to a party I would never be able to get into on my own," she says. Ford expects her annual revenue to exceed $1 million this year, a major milestone for her business.

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