Good networking involves more than simple face-to-face meetings: Really skilled networkers not only take advantage of their own networks, but tap other people's networks as well.

Leveraging other people's professional relationships helps you find clients who move in different social circles. It's an idea that my partner and I used to build up our wealth management practice, Valley Wealth, based in Modesto, Calif., a region hit hard by the housing market bust. We launched our firm in 2008, when my partner and I left our jobs at a big brokerage. But during our first year, the firm grew slowly, gathering a mere $15 million in assets.

In 2009, we started an annual event, "The Economy and You." Free and open to the public, the conference featured locally renowned business leaders in various fields - real estate, health care, manufacturing and more - who described how their companies were surviving the recession, and offered tips for adapting to changes in consumer spending habits. A local real estate expert analyzed the housing market, and a clothing entrepreneur discussed the ways global market shifts affect the community.

We've been careful to select experts with a local following, a proven track record and an aura of authority. After all, it's their networks we want to meet - community members who follow these "business celebrities" and have an interest in our community's economic health. And there's one thing we don't do: Give a sales pitch for our firm. The audience is smart enough to recognize a bait-and-switch tactic.

Our conferences attract the kind of people we want to meet. Surveys revealed that the average attendee was around 50 years old, with roughly $500,000 in investable assets. We've held three conferences so far, with attendance increasing to 1,200 from 770. After each event, our phones start ringing with calls from potential clients.

One year, we even got a call from a local CPA whom we had long sought as a client, unsuccessfully; this time he wanted to set up a meeting. (He has since become a loyal client and referral source.)

Five years after our shaky start, we now manage more than $325 million in assets - and we think much of that growth stems from our networking events.

Gatherings of this kind work. The audience gets valuable advice from business leaders they know and trust, the speakers find a wider audience and we as financial advisors get access to the networks of these local executives. Their participation becomes a kind of indirect endorsement, allowing us to share in some of their prestige.

Done properly, harnessing the power of other people's networks can increase your firm's reach. We've seen it happen time and time again.



Jason Gordois co-founder of Valley Wealth in Modesto, Calif., and CEO of FlexScore, an online financial assessment tool.



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