I have always been a firm believer in relying on my network (my "net"), which I have been building since 2004, to generate business. My net has been good to me over the years, but I also have had plenty of "dropped calls" if you know what I mean.
Case Study #1, The Retiree
The Retiree is a close friend of mine. We met in 2009 and have been on several church retreats together. We have built a very high level of trust between us over the years. We also share several mutual friends, with whom we both have similar close relationships. About three weeks ago I learned that the Retiree was planning to sell his home and relocate about 20 miles north of his current residence. One of our mutual friends told me that he had suggested to the Retiree that the Retiree not "forget" about me and use me to list his home and help him to relocate. The Retiree had actually approached me prior to our mutual friend telling me he had this discussion with the Retiree; the Retiree told me that he might need help finding a new home, but that his wife was working with someone to list their current residence for sale. I assured the Retiree that I would help him any way that I could and that I was happy to help. Inside I was a bit disappointed. My thought went something like "If the Retiree, who I am very close with, does not utilize me to list his home, then I must be wasting a whole lot of time on my net." Last night the Retiree told me that he went to look at houses without me and went into contract over the weekend; then he offered me "half of the listing commission" if I brought him a buyer. Ouch. Not only did I not get the prized listing, but I did not get the selling commission on his new home either.
Case Study #2, The Politician
The Politician and I have been friends since 2009. She is currently running for local office. She is an outgoing person with a lot of charisma. People are naturally attracted to her. The Politician and I have gone on vacation together with our families, we have attended each other's children's birthday parties, we have gotten together to watch a movie or go to dinner with our spouses, etc. We are very good friends, I think. The Politician and her husband also own a successful business. I have sent them good quality referrals, some of which converted into paying business, and some of which have not. One of my other friends who knows the Politician made a comment to me once saying "The Politician must be a great referral source for your business!" Well, since 2009 the Politician has not referred one paying client to me, either as a lawyer or a Realtor.
Why are they roaming out of area?
I have been in similar situations with my net before, so this is not new to me, but when this happens my thoughts usually go: (a) I guess we are not really friends; (b) maybe I am untrustworthy in their eyes; (c) maybe they used someone else they know longer; (d) maybe they just forgot about me; (e) it is in the past, move on. It can take some time to get to (e).
With regard to the Retiree, he is not a sophisticated business person and I do not believe that he understands referral etiquette (if there is any such thing). That is why it did not phase him when he offered me half of the listing commission on his residence if I brought him a buyer after he told me that he bought his new home without my help; he did not realize saying that was like punching me in the stomach. Maybe he wanted to work with someone who specializes in the new area that he will be moving to and that is why he decided not to use me for his home purchase. Whatever the resasons are, I know he was not trying to hurt me in any way.
With regard to the Politician, she is a business person and should understand referral etiquette. Perhaps I view our relatinship as a "friendship" and she views it as an "acquaintance" (there is a difference)? Maybe she is sending referrals to people that she believes she needs to impress? Or maybe the Politician has no referrals to send over to me. Like the Retiree, I do not believe that the Politician is trying to hurt me.
Is it time to change my carrier?
In conclusion, I want to clarify a few things.
I do not engage in friendships for business reasons, but I believe my net should consist of the people who I spend my time with and who I share similar interests with. Therefore, it is normal for me to do business with "friends": those people I go out with socially, people I worship with on Sundays, or otherwise come into contact with while pursuing my interests and hobbies.
None of this is the "fault" of my net. It is my responsibility to nurture my net and make sure that they know what I do. My net may have obligations to other people (friends, family, etc.) and they have a right to choose to do business with whomever they choose. I may never know the exact reasons why someone in my net roams, but whatever the reason may be, I should not waste time obsessing over it. In some cases it may be a good idea to ask the person why they roamed, but that has to be determined on a case by case basis.
Finally, and most importantly, I should never let business get in the way of my friendships. I must be prepared for disappointment. When I find myself feeling that way, it is time to take action and work on my business rather than blame others. It is very possible that I will do everything right and that someone in my net will still choose to roam. In that case, if the person is purely a business contact, I can decide whether to continue the relationship with them or not, but if I feel that the person who roams is a "friend", then I should get over it and move on because I did not befriend them for money and if I did, then maybe there never really was a friendship. There may be instances where someone in my net purposely tries to hurt me. If that happens, then it is clear that they are not my friend and I need to cut them loose and move on quickly.