Who Owns Your Network?

Building relationships is vital to any business.  As such, growing your business network is all the rage.

If you are in business development for anyone other than yourself, the question  “who owns your network?” may come up.  It’s interesting to consider that you could spend vast amounts of time building your network and having it not really be yours at all.

Heres why; they pay you to build their business.  FACT: networking is beneficial for far more than simply business growth.  REALITY: many people dont see it at such. If your boss is one of those people, they are going to see your network as something they paid you to build. The logic being that they pay you to grow business and networking is a means to that end.

It makes some sense. Consider the number of their clients, vendors and prospects you will likely add to your network. Should you be able to work with them if a separation occurs? Think about the non-competes so many companys have their employees sign. Granted, most are relatively unenforceable especially in right to work states.

So adding people related to their business to your network may be a cause for trouble. What about the network you had in place before? You know the one that likely helped you find the job in the first place.

Do we have to take snapshots of our network every time we take on a new role? Is our network negotiable? How much gray surrounds this topic and who will color it up for us?

Share your thoughts and comments.

20 Responses to “Who Owns Your Network?”

  1. 1 Mike Seidle Monday, June 16 at 4:08 pm

    All the social networking in the world is useless unless there’s a point to it. You’ve got to have a point. Do something to make those empty contacts yours. So many people just warehouse contact info… and provide limitless page views for the network.

    — Mike

  2. 2 trybean Monday, June 16 at 4:54 pm

    Couldn’t agree more Mike. Step 1 in networking is asking why am I doing this? I would argue that if your only reason is to grow your business, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to CONNECT with people. I will blog about the additional reasons to network soon.

  3. 3 John Minni Monday, June 16 at 5:25 pm

    Great post!

    As far as the non-competes go. I got some info from a few attorneys. Now I am not an attorney and you should check with your own attorney. Nevertheless, I am to understand that even if you sign a non-compete. The company you sign it with can not prevent you from making a living.
    So, if there are any attorneys aout there I would be interested to hear what you have to say!

  4. 4 Jeremy Burgess Monday, June 16 at 8:50 pm

    That is why I own businesses instead of work for them. If I paid someone to build my business and network (which I do) I figure I own it. However, people build connections with people, not businesses. If the contact leaves a business I will bet the contacts will continue to do business with the individual no matter where they are. Trust marketing. What do you guys think?

  5. 5 trybean Monday, June 16 at 8:52 pm

    Great point Jeremy-

    You see sales people recruiter for their book of business all day long. Why? Because smart companies know that people buy from people!

    Thanks for the comment.

  6. 6 trybean Monday, June 16 at 8:54 pm


    That is my understanding too. Companies can tie you up in court and make you spend a bunch of money defending their non-compete but at the end of the day, they can’t stop you from making a living in your preferred industry. I have seen it happen in both MI and Ohio, can’t comment on the rest of the states.


  7. 7 Sky Sister Monday, June 16 at 11:11 pm

    This is a great article. I think things can get really cloudy when it comes to the business relationships the employee ends up developing over time; when people are used to contacting “you” and not “who you work for” – is the connection really the employer’s? Or are the results that the connection brought the “thing” that the employer owns? You can’t “transfer” the rapport you build with people to someone else in my opinion; not automatically.

    I also agree with the comment on the blog that large amounts of contact info with no communication is useless and does it really matter who “owns” it?

    Anyway, great read…looking forward to more articles.

  8. 8 Dr. Sally Witt Monday, June 16 at 11:21 pm


    Great post and topic.

    I have 17 years experience as a Real Estate Broker/Trainer/Mentor. Working with independent contractors means walking a fine line. The networking contacts belong to the agent UNLESS they were provided by the broker.

    It is a sticky area these days with the internet. Where did the buyer/seller come from? All the agent’s business is done as an agent for the broker.

    Different types of companies handle it differently when an agent leaves. It all depends upon their independent contractor agreement that is signed at the beginning of the association.

    I coach agents and brokers on social networking. I encourage agents to get their own blogs and profiles besides the contacts that they make through their brokers.

    I also encourage them to work where they think that they will be happy and productive for the future, changing companies always brings issues with different contact information, losing clients that call to your former company, etc.

    Great Success to you,



  9. 9 Jeff Kingzett Tuesday, June 17 at 11:08 am

    Having spent most of my career in human resources before going into financial services 4 years ago, I can support the statement that non-compete agreements are hard to enforce in Michigan.

  10. 10 Steve Tylock Tuesday, June 17 at 10:20 pm

    Easy answer for me – you own your own network…

    I posted a longer answer this afternoon: http://www.linkedinpersonaltrainer.com/archives/owning-your-network/


  11. 11 trybean Wednesday, June 18 at 12:07 am

    Dr. Sally-

    That’s a solid response regarding individual contractors. I think it would be more challenging for a company to say they own your network if they are only paying you for results. As you know, many sales jobs today still offer a salary to build business and then a commission when you make a sale. Your point about changing companies creating challenges is accurate and interestingly it becomes a lose-lose many times. Rarely do both sides see a separation as a win.

    Thanks for your comment.

  12. 12 trybean Wednesday, June 18 at 12:22 am


    I am relatively new to blogging myself so I am ecstatic that my post prompted a discussion elsewhere.

    If you have ever had an outside sales job, you quickly learn that companies believe that the business cards you collect are their property. If you have ever sent an e-mail…yeah, same thing.

    So while I agree that Your Network (thanks for catching that btw) should be Your network, I also foresee a lot of potential for disagreements on this front in the near future.

    While it is important to network with those you know, like and trust, it can also be very limiting. Sometimes new opportunities require new connections and new connections lead to new opportunities.

    Be Connected-

    Terry Bean

  13. 13 trybean Wednesday, June 18 at 4:45 am

    Very interesting court case on this exact topic where UK court ordered employee to surrender his linkedin contacts to his employer. Read it here: http://tinyurl.com/3wm9zx. Thank you Dr. Sally Witt.

  14. 14 Steve Tylock Wednesday, June 18 at 6:20 pm


    Slight clarification – I’m an open networker. In person, online, over the phone – there’s lot’s of reasons to communicate (network) with others.

    Connecting on LinkedIn – that’s something I reserve for people I know and trust…

    I know that’s a bit like “crazy talk” to open connectors, but it works well for me;-) If you’re interested, you can read more on it in this post: http://www.linkedinpersonaltrainer.com/archives/connect-to-those-you-know-and-trust/

    Best regards,

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