Is Your Business Network Operational, Strategic or Social

Is Your Business Network Operational, Strategic or Social

In my research I have identified that there are three types of networks: Operational, Strategic, and Social. The question is where does your network fit within those categories?

Operational Networks

Operational networks contain the individuals that help you and your team solve your day-to-day issues and challenges. The operational network is comprised of people within your organization who belong to support groups: accounting, finance, HR, IT, customer service, marketing, research, development, sales, support teams, vertical industry teams, etc. The internal people who help you overcome day-to-day issues.

Operational networks will also include relevant vendors, possibly customers that do alpha and beta testing, consultants, contractors, advisers, industry specialists, etc. These are the external people who help you understand how you are doing, what others are doing, and may offer answers and solutions.

What does it take for you and your team to get your day-to-day tasks completed? Do you have ready access to the necessary individuals? Can you find the answers in a timely manner?

If you cannot answer those questions relative to the people in your network; you must rethink your networking process and who is in your network. Your network can be a valuable asset, but only if you have the right ingredients.

Strategic Network

Strategic networks take you to the next level. Strategic networks include individuals who can help you see what is coming, who help you prepare and be prepared, and who offer insights into the future to help you determine your course of action.

Your strategic network will include visionaries from within and outside of your organization. They will be business and industry specialists; including industry lobbyists; local, state, national, and even International elected officials; government agencies, competitors, consultants, researchers, financial advisers, attorneys, and numerous other disciplines. The common thread is these individuals all have the ability to contribute perspective or help you develop perspective.

Your strategic network helps you set your course and avoid possible pitfalls and problems. These individuals assist in developing the 3, 5, and 10 year plans for you and/or your organization.

Social Network

Your Social Network consists of individuals you care about, you may even be interested in the games they play, the food they eat, the movies they watch or the restaurants they patronize. As the name implies these are your social contacts. Those who you do not expect to show up with opportunities or new business; they may, but that is just an added benefit.

Your Network

If you are like most networkers; your network probably leans toward the last type: the Social Network. The truth is these individuals are much easier to connect with and talk to. You are not as self conscious because you are not as worried you will say the wrong thing or offend someone.

Become an Effective Networker

If your desire is to become an effective networker you must be restructure your network objectives to include the operational and strategic components. The reality is that the higher up you go in an organization the more strategic your network will become. You must maintain an operational component, but the purpose will be to have the connections you need to support and help your team when it gets in a jam, faces a problem, or requires cross organization support.

Effective managers are effective networkers.


My name is Tom Staskiewicz and my goal is to help everyone do a little better, get a little further and reach the success they are destined to achieve! Whatever I can do to help you or anyone to move forward in reaching your goals; I’m all for it. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

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Professional and Business Networking: A Definition

Defining Professional or Business Networking

The term networking is bantered about frequently but what does it really mean from a professional or business perspective? Professional and/or business networks:

  1. Contain individuals with, at least, a loose tie through a common business interest.
  2. Can evolve to become closer and even personal relationships; but they start at the business level.
  3. Contain people you know well, acquaintances, and even people that you are getting to know.
  4. Include subject matter experts that can help you solve problems and answer questions.
  5. Have individuals that can provide you with perspective and insight within your industry, your business, or in general.

Professional and business networks are NOT simply about who you can tap when you need a job. They are NOT about being there when you find yourself in need. Sadly there are many people that have this misunderstanding about networks and abuse the relationships. In the process they give networking a bad name and therefore make others reluctant to participate.

Networking is about mutually beneficial relationships that may not even be helpful today; rather sometime in the future. But that is okay; there is no requirement for immediacy!

I once met the CFO for a major sporting goods company. We connected immediately on many levels, but not necessarily on a business level. He left the door open in the event I ever needed something. A few years later; I did and he lived up to his word.

The reality is that you never know when or who within your network will need help or be able to help you; you just need to be ready and have nurtured your network with value.

Three Types of Networks

Did you know that there are three types of networks? Two of these are Professional and the other Social. To be a successful networker you must know the difference and create the type(s) of networks that will help you achieve your networking goals. The three types are:

  • Social Networks;
  • Operational Networks;
  • Strategic Networks.

Social Networks

Everyone is familiar with the concept of a Social Network; in fact, many think that is the only type of network and today’s Social Media does little to dissuade that thinking. Social Networks are truly that they are about your social activities; the things you do for leisure, the activities of the family, etc. There may be a business connection, but that is not the primary connection with Social Networks.

Operational Network

Next is the operational network. This network is professional an/or business connections. These are the connections that help you complete tasks. They are your go to people for answers, suggestions, solutions, examples, research, etc. Many companies have these resources identified internally, but they are typically by specialties.

An operational network is more fluid in that you can pose your question to the group and the group can then collaborate on the solution. Even though there are identified experts in the organization; your operational network may have others that can expand upon the answer or help with applying it to a specific situation.

Strategic Network

A strategic network is comprised of individuals that can help you interpret and apply what is happening in your organization, your industry, your city, state, country, or even the world. They provide a broader perspective as you work to develop your short and long term strategies.

You want your strategic network to have a variety of talents so you can draw on their collective knowledge to develop your strategies.

In your organization you strategic network cannot include just one or two board members or company executives. It cannot include only people from your department. The reason is that this limited input may be missing the big picture or may have their own picture of the future and their picture may not be consistent with what others see or believe. Quality strategy decisions require exceptional input from a variety of sources that enable you to gain proper perspective.

Download our free report The Three Types of Networks.


Tom Staskiewicz speaks and coaches on structuring Social Media and Professional Networking to help businesses, organizations, and individuals establish and manage their Social Media presence to increase efficiency, improve decisions, and respond to your audiences. Your Social Media presence doesn’t just happen and will not take care of itself. Tom helps you with those processes so your Social Media efforts will work for you.

Learn how Tom can help you and/or your organization develop your Professional Network or Social Media: email Tom for information.