"It's not what you know, it's who you know." The phrase seemed particularly popular around the time I emerged from the jostling corridors of the education system and took my first bold steps into the world of paid employment.
It was muttered, generally, with the cynical resignation of those who had missed out on the prefect's badge, the internship, the job – all due, they believed, to lack of influential contacts, the type of contacts who bestowed success on other, luckier, candidates.
In time, I understood that the adage certainly held true when it came to building political dynasties, perhaps, or to nabbing the last available pair of tickets to a Rugby World Cup final. These are certainly the situations in which the "right" connections readily breed success.
But what of entrepreneurship? It's here, I believe, that the adage takes a twist. The "what you know" will create your business, but it's often the "who you know" that ensures it grows as it should.
As a growth advisor at Northland Inc, I'm privileged to work with scores of our region's best and brightest businesses, with a focus that encompasses early-stage growth and sustainability.
Often, an emerging business will have the right product or service, the right people, the right potential market – and will have launched at the right time – but, sometimes, those solid foundations are not quite enough on their own.
There's another crucial element to the mix and it can be best summed up in one word – networking.
Used intelligently, that one word has the power to lift your business to the next level. It might be something as simple as a conversation over a beer but, chances are, it could lead to something long-lasting and meaningful, so never for a moment underestimate the value of networking.
Don't be afraid, either, to talk to your competitors in business – it might surprise you to discover just how much they'd be prepared to help you.
Today's networking, fortunately, bears little resemblance to the excesses of the 1980s, when the word became soaked in champagne and earned itself a somewhat questionable reputation. Today, when we think of networking, we think of the creation of genuine connections which, in turn, lead to genuine opportunities.
At Northland Inc, through our regional business promotion programme, we help people make connections, we listen, we validate their thinking, and we provide them with first-hand knowledge of the power of networking.
It is my experience that, in most cases, businesses are not necessarily looking for a handout, they are looking for a hand up.
Indeed, in the digital age, real-life connections, made the old-fashioned way – face to face – take on an unprecedented layer of importance.
One example of networking that instantly springs to mind is the rise and growth of Whangārei's Olive and Ash, the creators of a 100 per cent plant-based dehydrated mince, called Vince.
Vince is dehydrated mince – you just add water and it is ready to eat in just two minutes; simple but effective, and simply delicious it is, too.
Northland Inc was involved from Vince's inception and, when the company recently contacted me, eager to increase their production, we were able to link them with a commercial kitchen at NorthTec. This link will undoubtedly prove a substantial stepping stone for the business.
In fact, almost two weeks ago, Olive and Ash won Northland Inc's Innovate Northland award at the 2019 Westpac Northland Business Excellence Awards.
Here at the Orchard, Northland Inc's Business and Events Hub in Whangarei, we see the power of networking in action every day.
The Orchard is a collaborative business and event space for Northland's entrepreneurs, startups, and established business professionals. It is a hive of ideas, of networking and collaboration, a creative environment and thriving community of like-minded people. It's where enterprising Northlanders come to put down roots and cultivate their connections and dreams.
Being a sole trader, for instance, can be a lonely, isolating experience at the best of times, but networking can provide a bridge, a way through that situation and, ultimately, a key to opening the door to growth.
After all, to borrow from another old adage, no man – and no business – is an island.
• David Templeton is growth advisor at Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.