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  • Writer's pictureSusan Tatum

Your Network is Your Net Worth

In any industry, a solid network keeps you well-positioned in your career. You don’t have to be an outgoing extrovert to have a high-value network. Kurt Schmidt, author of The Little Book of Networking: How to Grow Your Career One Conversation at a Time, shares his networking system that eliminates the excuse ‘I don’t have time to network’.

Notes from the Show

Too many consultants claim they don’t have time to Network. Kurt Schmidt, author of The Little Book of Networking: How to Grow Your Career One Conversation at a Time, says it’s not about time, it’s about priority.

In our conversation, Kurt gives tips and secrets from the book about how to build a quality network. He shares his system of identifying and classifying contacts, AND how he keeps up with them on an appropriately consistent basis.

Whether it’s an email or a phone call, a 60-day check-in, or even once a year, you don’t need to be an extrovert. Your network is not about getting value from a 5-minute conversation, it's about the long game, creating and giving lasting value over time.

Making your network a priority will keep you well-positioned in your industry. You can find out more about Kurt Schmidt and The Little Book of Networking, by visiting him on LinkedIn.

What's Inside:

  • Do you have to be an extrovert to have a big network?

  • How to be a connector within your network.

  • A system to keep and track your network connections.

  • Email or Phone; How should you keep in contact?

  • That value of a network as to your employer and your clients.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:36

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to stop the noise. Today I'm talking with Kurt Schmidt, who's the president and partner at Foundry. Foundry is a software development firm. But not only that, he's also an author of a book called The Little Book of networking, which is what we're going to be talking most about today. And he has the beautifully titled podcast Schmidt list. So welcome, Kurt.

Kurt Schmidt 1:01

Yeah, thank you for the opportunity season. It's so good to talk to you again. And I appreciate you having me on the show.

Susan Tatum 1:06

Oh, it's really great to have you here. Let's start off by you telling us a little bit about foundry.

Kurt Schmidt 1:11

Sure. So Foundry, we design and build custom software applications. So for mobile phones, for businesses, a lot of b2b work, we work in ag tech, FinTech, you know, most of you know any kind of abbreviation Tech, we work a lot with SAS companies. And basically we help them beautify their software platforms through a UX UI. And then we can also provide development support to make sure that those those Sprint's get done on time as people hope they do so. And yeah, we're about 30 35 full time employees, and we're located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Susan Tatum 1:48

Well, congratulations. I mean, that's a that's a good size, software development firm.

Kurt Schmidt 1:54

Yeah, we're having fun.

Susan Tatum 1:55

Oh, cool, cool. And none of that has anything to do what with why I invited you here today. So you wrote this cool book called The Little Book of networking. And the subtitle goes on to say how to grow your career, one conversation at a time. And before we hit record today, I was telling you, you it either needs to say grow your career and your professional network or business, or you need another version of this because there's so much good in here.

Kurt Schmidt 2:24

I appreciate you saying that. One of my friends said I should start a for Dummies sort of version of this, like a little book of networking for sales, a little book of networking for college students, you know,

Susan Tatum 2:32

yeah, yeah. Well, you know, it's, it's, it's one of those things that when I talk to consultants, who would who is my target market, and they're experts, they all experts in something, but rarely is it networking. And there's real discomfort about it, the whole, you say the word network, wet networking, and people sort of cringe. Why is that?

Kurt Schmidt 2:55

Well, it's because people have been, they've grown up with the wrong idea. So if you think about my remember when I was in, in high school, there was a lot of people that were complaining that they didn't teach basic skills, like how to balance a checkbook and things like that in school, right? Things that you're going to need outside of it, how to you know, how to buy insurance, or whatever, like, oh, you know, simple life things that you would think that people should know about. And you know, how to build a resume was not something they taught, they taught people, right, you always had your sister or your uncle, you know, an uncle or somebody that was had made a resume before that was going to help you do it right. There wasn't a professionals that that helped you. And there wasn't LinkedIn and all that stuff. So so this goes back a long ways that people have always looked at networking as a singular event. Like I go to a place, I put on a name tag that says, Hello, my name is Susan. And then you awkwardly try to interrupt conversations that are already happening. And and then you leave despondent because you didn't get anything out of it. And that's not what networking is. And so, to me, my mission is sort of to reframe what the word networking means. And to me it means about building a lifelong partner micro partnerships with the folks that can help your career or help your business and that you can then also help their career or business. But it's really a mindset. That's the that's the problem that we're seeing is that people think it's about being an extrovert when it's not at all.

Susan Tatum 4:31

Well, you had there was one thing in your book that that was, I think, an aha moment is that we do think about networking is I gotta go out there and talk about myself. But when reality we should be thinking about how can I help this other person?

Kurt Schmidt 4:47

How can I go out and gather what the needs and wants are of others? And how can I connect those people together? Because if you can become a connector, you know, because I look at it like there's sort of a graduation rate your first you're networking. And then as you build that network, you become a connector. And then you're one of those people that can start connecting other people together as you're out networking. And so, every day, Susan, I'm lucky to be in that spot where every day I meet people where they say, Well, I'm interested in this, or I'm interested in that. And I probably have two or three people in my network that I can introduce them to that maybe they will help them further their career or business, or they might know people. And it's funny, I did a I did a podcast episode recently, if you look at a lot of famous people, you know, most of the reason why we know their names is because of their network, not because of their talent. So if you think about it, I mean, if you look at Johnny Depp, for example, like that's a famous actor, right? He had a he had a, he was dating somebody who knew Nicolas Cage or something. And then he got introduced to somebody who put him on for the first Friday the 13th movie, and boom, there we get Johnny Depp like, for the rest of our lives. And so you know, there's story after story. And those are the stories people love, right? They have the stories where it's they people have sort of tripped and fallen into success, right. But it's not right. It's the that 20 year overnight success person is because of their network and a famous person, not me, he said, Your network is your net worth. And so it's absolutely true. And I say to the people that are nervous about networking is that people are going to decide what your reputation is, either you can contribute to them by by going out there and networking and putting yourself out there a bit. Or you can leave it up to them. I prefer to, you know, have some sort of say on that.

Susan Tatum 6:44

And so giving them a chance to meet you and see you as a human being does a lot you know it because me think about what a difference it makes when you read something somebody wrote, even if it's just an email, and then you talk to them. It's I often am like that. That's not what I thought he's gonna be like,

Kurt Schmidt 7:05

yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Again, it's the same with social media. We were so inundated with that right? You know, we Google people, all those sorts of things. So so we're because we inherently have a lot, a lot more lost a lot more trust in society over the past few years. Right. But from political things to, you know, I have to wear a mask around you, to I have to stay indoors, too. You know, there's in there's there's a war in Ukraine. I mean, there's, there's a lot going on. And just as human beings, we've lost.., we're getting spam every day. That's another thing, right? We're getting messages on LinkedIn that we don't want, where nobody answers the phone when it rings anymore at all. Yeah, so we've lost a lot of trust in general. So when somebody shows up, and we're naturally a little bit nervous, right. And so that's why I say, you know, why we have to be intentional to go out and say, you know, this is what I'm looking for, and get it over as fast as possible. Say, this is what I'm interested in. What are you interested in? How can I help you? What are you looking for, and moving the conversation off of you and onto them as quickly as possible? Now that you've told them, This is what I'm interested in, it's a lot more comfortable. It's a way more comfortable conversation.

Susan Tatum 8:21

So do advocate in from a standpoint of business development. I mean, if you if you say, this is what I'm interested in you go you there's a fine line, that a point at which that becomes a sales pitch.

Kurt Schmidt 8:34

Yeah, well, that's the difference between if you're out doing business development, or you're doing networking, so to me, business development, because I have some salespeople say to me, Susan, you know, why have a CRM? Why, you know, why don't I just, that's where I'm like, That's sales that's different. What I'm talking about is building professional relationships with people that maybe are in competitors of yours. You know, you're not building it with the CEO, you're building and maybe with other bizdev people at that, what are you seeing out there? What's interesting you. What are you looking for, we probably don't work with the exact same clients, or maybe we do, but we're not a good fit for everybody. So once you realize that you can start to build a network of people. So number one, you don't feel alone as alone anymore, right? Yeah, that's great, which is great, you have a better understanding of what's happening out in the world. So you're bringing that information back, which is making you a more valuable employee, because you are a more worldly and knowledgeable person about what's going on in the industry. So you're more valuable employee. And the more you're doing that, you're also bringing that to your potential clients that knowledge and expertise so you're a much more valuable contact to them. So all these things in my opinion build up to setting you up in a much more well positioned place to provide value to people because that's what biz dev should be business development should be is about going out and providing value to people. Yes, you want them to sign a contract, you want them to pay invoices. But if you go out, just trying to do that, that's that's not how I saw how it's gonna work anymore.

Susan Tatum 10:11

Yeah, I think if you, if you do lead with, here's what I can do for you, thanks for saying you're gonna lose 85 90% of people that could do business with you because they don't care at that point, you're just going to bore them

Kurt Schmidt 10:25

exactly people, people can find what they're looking for. We have Google, right. So I don't need the I don't need a door to door salesperson, I don't need the yellow pages anymore, if you look at it 90% of consumers that are digital focus, or digital focus, which is 60% 60 to 70% of all consumers are doing their own most of their own research. So yeah, so there. So all you can do at this point is be a person or a company that provides value and provides information on your products and services in a way that they can do accurate research, and then being able to follow up with them in a in a way that provides continual value until they are ready to make a purchase. And that's how it works these days, right? So again, think about enterprise sales, right? So I'm, I'm NetSuite and I sell to, you know, my minimum client has 1000 employees, you know, when you try to make a sale like that you have 100 stakeholders in the sale product sales process, that's, you can't do that if you have a short and narrow funnel of like, I'm looking for this title, especially in a supply chain environment, if you're trying to sell software to a place like Amazon or other things like that. And that's a large company. But if you even a smaller fortune 1000 or fortune 5000 company, you're going to have a minimum of three to five decision makers that you have to get in touch with. So if you're not focused on your network and building it wide, yeah, you're going to be stuck.

Susan Tatum 11:58

So how many people do you have in your network?

Kurt Schmidt 12:00

Oh, I have no idea thousands. You know, but that if I stay in touch with regularly, I'd say a few 100, I'd say pretty regularly. And that's because I talked about the system in the book, Susan, where I have a spreadsheet that kind of allows me to it alerts me when somebody has gone past 60 90 days, and I haven't heard or talked to them. And especially if there are people that I personally have learned a lot from their people that are in a specific area that I think I could probably either provide a lot of value to or would be a lot of value to me. Those are people I'm trying to stay in touch with pretty regularly. And so those conversations are real simple. It's just a simple email that's like, Hey, are you still looking for block what you told me about? You know, because if you are, I just want to stay keep you top of mind in case I run into those opportunities to introduce you. And just to you know, I'm still looking for this. And so

Susan Tatum 12:55

Okay, let's so let's, let's, let's back that up a little bit. And if you don't mind, if we go into a little bit more detail with that. So you you are making a you're making a list. And I know you said you use a spreadsheet to make a list of people that you want to get to know that you've identified somehow that this person and I could be beneficial to each other.

Kurt Schmidt 13:19

Yep. And then and then those people move into more segmented rows of like, this is professional consultants, these are recruiters, these are podcast hosts or things like that, where each of those people are kind of looking for different sorts of things. But again, my network needs to be broad, not narrow and deep, you want to go wide. So yeah, so I'll make a list of people that I find that I might be I run into them on LinkedIn. And instead of just, you know, sending them a connection request and being done with it, I will write their name down. And and when I have time to process some of these folks, I'll take some time, I'll go through their LinkedIn, I might Google a little bit, I just looked them up and see what do they have going on and learn a little bit about them. And then when I'm ready, I'll reach out to them with something that actually caught my eye like, hey, oh, wow, you know, you know, I saw you I found you on LinkedIn. But I also took a quick look, and I loved your photography, Instagram that you have Susan like is just amazing, the black or white photography that you do. And it just really, I really connected with that. And I thought it was interesting. So you know, I thought to connect with you or something, right? So some sort of personal reason why you are interested in them because it can't just be you own a business and you have money.

Susan Tatum 14:37

Well, I think also, I think also what you're doing with that approach is that you're letting them know that you're not a robot. You didn't scrape their address.

Kurt Schmidt 14:48

Exactly, because people can pick up on that easily and quickly. Right? Because we're trained to pick up on spam right? You get you get the big cards and we whenever you get mail people get so excited, right? But it's always this like big cards about a real estate agent or something. And you they just immediately it's like they mail it to you say here, you throw this away. And it's like, well, you could just throw it away yourself. But okay, you could mail it to me, that's fine. So so that's the way I look at the robot type of stuff. Now, that's not to say in a CRM and a bizdev. In an outreach campaign, that stuff can work. It's a different approach, though, than what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a much more surgical approach to building your network in a very specific way that gets you closer to the types of people that you want, that you want to be that can make you successful in what you're doing, whether it be sales, business development, it could be business ownership, or entrepreneurship, or even just could be a senior UX designer, right? Because they always say, you're sort of a culmination of the five closest people to you, right? So in, especially in a professional environment, well, if you're not in a place that you want to be right now, and you want to grow and get better, well, you should upgrade or laterally move your network to the those things in to building those relationships. So that's something I've always taken very seriously in my career, is that while the people I'm surrounded with are great, I'm always looking to level up to people that are closer to me, that have more to offer more to, for me to give, right, they have more needs. So yeah, it's just it's a constant grooming of trying to grow and get better.

Susan Tatum 16:35

What you just said about the approach that you use a very intentional and sort of laser focus. That is the that is the approach that I believe that consultants should use apps in getting and getting business because it's a relationship ship based sale. And if you spam them, and lie to them from the beginning, about how you're connecting with them, the trust goes out the window.

Kurt Schmidt 17:03

Yeah. And then you'll build a reputation very quickly, especially if you're in a smaller town. If you're in New York City, you're probably fine. Yeah. But it can be very detrimental to your personal reputation, and brand. Because, you know, again, I can't tell you how many times somebody reaches out to me that knows that I'm connected to a consultant and says, Hey, I'm thinking about hiring bill to come in and do some of our EOS implementation. Right? So or do some sales training with us? Do you have any feedback? And I'm like, Oh, well, I've never hired Bill myself. But I do know, he's pretty legit person. And he's a serious individual, because I know him, you know, because I've met him, you know, not because I've hired him, but but he's a part of my network, right? I'm just yesterday, I have a person who used to be a client of ours, who left the company and is now a leadership consultant. And he specifically, he specifically focuses on executive team, executive teams and getting them to coalesce can work better together, And he told me yesterday, he's like, Oh, by the way, yeah, I'm looking for other clients. And I was like, Oh, thank you for sharing that. Because I literally was just thinking of two business owners that I know that were complaining to me about their teams a couple of weeks ago. So let me let me and I like to do the I like to do a double blind right where I reach out to the, to the person say, Hey, I've got this person I'm interested in, in introducing you to do you have any interest in meeting them before I do the thing, but I do know people that I'm very close with that. I just will just make the intro because I know that they'll they'll hit it off. And they'll find some value there. Even if it's just in talking about the weather, they'll probably enjoy each other. So. So those times I take it very seriously. But yes, yes, exactly what you're saying, Susan, it's the consultants. I hire, I hire Susan, because I like Susan. And then what she has is a benefit along with it. Like that's how you hire consultants. You don't hire consultants, because.. Well, they're the highest Google rated one.

Susan Tatum 19:11

Yeah, never. Yeah. Or they put a flyer on your door?

Kurt Schmidt 19:14

Yeah, right. It's, yeah, that's not gonna help you.

Susan Tatum 19:19

So we'll just to complete a discussion of your system. So you create this, this, I'm gonna call it target lists for better for lack of a better word. And when you do make contact with them, what what I got from your book was you move them into another list, which you call your pipeline, which is people that you have touched base with, and then you and you mentioned, also in the conversation, you're careful in that in that first conversation with them to understand what it is they're looking for, or what their needs are, and you're documenting that.

Kurt Schmidt 19:53

Yes. So so yeah. So I will I will try to specifically target people and that and that surgical list could also just be introductions, right? I meet Susan Susan's like, Oh, I think you'll like Sally. She's fantastic. She's really into podcasting, or she's interested in podcasting. Would you be interested in talking to her? Absolutely. So I could put Sally into that that list as well. But then it moves into a pipeline that I that I specifically try to categorize people by sort of their profession and what they're looking for. So I have a column that's for entrepreneurs, right? It's based mostly small, this small businesses, And then I have consultants, I have a row for consultants, I have a row for recruiters. I also have a row for for just professional colleagues, right. So other other presidents of companies in a similar size or industry. And so I've got those all into different groups. And then in in next to their name is what are they looking for? I just have in the column, I just write down what are they looking for? Susan's looking for podcasts guests, Sally's looking for more HR context, because she does HR consulting, or something, and, and then I have a column that changes based on the date. So I put in the date, I last talked to them, and it changes from after 60 days, it changes to yellow. And after 90 days to change changes to red. There's two reasons for that one is obvious is obvious. Which is it's been a while you should reach out to this person, right? What you do is you reach out to them and you say, Hey, are you still looking for this thing? Just so you know, I'm still looking for this thing. And you stay top of mind with those people? It's not spammy? It's nice, quick email. Hope your day is going good. Hey, I'd like that post. You put on LinkedIn something right? Whatever the case may be. But the other thing is, is that if it stays red for a while, and you notice a staying red, you probably looking at it saying this might not be a super valuable person in my network. So I move people then to maybe a six month check in or a once a year check in even. So I have a number of business owners that that I that I talked to that I just talked to about once a year, once every nine months. And we just check in with each other. How's it going? Cool. Oh, wow, really? You got a baby? That's so great. Can we talk about baby stuff for a while? And you know, it's like, are you still looking for these tiny client? Well, things have changed a bit. We're actually we're pivoting a bit. Oh, this is good to know, actually, now that you're pivoting? I do know, four people in my network that I continue to you know what I mean?

Susan Tatum 22:25


Kurt Schmidt 22:26

so so. So again, this is about the long game. Susan, this is not about what can I get out of the conversation? What can I What can I provide to this person? And can they provide to me over the course of 10, 20,30 years? Right? Again, people are so when you talk about the stock market with people, they're like, Yeah, that makes sense. I put in I get a 5% return great. Your network, same way you put in his time and effort and into that thing, you get a 5% return. That's a great return.

Susan Tatum 22:50

Yeah. highly tactical question for you. When you're doing your three months, six months, whatever outreach, you're sending them an email or LinkedIn message or something.

Kurt Schmidt 23:02


Susan Tatum 23:03

Are you how are you asking this these questions through that message? Or are you asking for a conversation? Let's hop on the phone and catch up?

Kurt Schmidt 23:10

I think that the good that's a great question, Susan. I think it depends on what they're looking for. If it is something a bit more nuanced, right. So I'm sure Susan, you've talked to some consultants that are not very good explaining what their value is.

Susan Tatum 23:26


Kurt Schmidt 23:26

So they're like, Well, you know, I help I help, you know, leaders. Okay, how do you help leaders? Well, you know, when they're in trouble and okay, like, what's, what's the get? Tell me what the deliverable is? Well, we have conversations. Okay. So what I know, it's that type of person that I tried to make it a conversation, because context is really important. Yeah, if it's somebody who has more of, you know, those packages, right, that are like, hey, you know, I'm looking, you know, you can meet with me once a month for this much. And this is how much it is to hire me as a fractional CMO or something like those people, I might just email. But I think, again, it goes back to understanding that human is a human you're connecting with and so you got to make the call. I'm a very, I'm a very context heavy person, I need to have the context. That's one reason why I like doing the podcasts because just reading books, I don't get as much context from the books as, as I as I like so actually being able to interview and talk with people, especially with authors who wrote books, that's been really helpful for me to get even more context that is in my sort of, in my lens, you know, yes. So yeah, I would say it's, it's all about the context. Susan, what what works best for that individual or even that type of that type of role like recruiters, I try to get them on a call because they've got so many things going on in their heads all over the place. They're usually scrambling so

Susan Tatum 24:52

So was it you that mentioned to me that recruiters when you are network you want it you want to network with people that are are connected to a lot of people and and recruiters were

Kurt Schmidt 25:04

recruiters are great. Yep. Recruiters and bizdev people because that's what their job is. Right? So. So when I started when I started my business seven years ago, it was my first time having to do any sort of like sales, right? I've never done it before. And so what I did, Susan, the first six months is tried to reach out to people to buy my services, and nobody wanted to talk to me. And that was very frustrating. And I got very despondent about it. And I thought, I'm terrible at this, I need to hire a professional salesperson, bla bla bla, but I'm sitting there at my computer in the office, and other people are working and I'm, I'm supposed to be out trying to make a sale, and I got nothing. There's nothing on my calendar there. He was like, and I got pissed. I said, Honestly, I got this. I was like, You know what, from now on, I'm just going to talk to people who want to talk to me. So what I started doing was answering those spam messages messages on Linkedin.

Susan Tatum 26:01


Kurt Schmidt 26:02

you know, of like, Hey, I don't need your service right now. But if you want to connect and talk about, maybe I know people in my network that you're interested in. And it's really funny, once you start responding to those messages, about about one time, one or two times out of 10 is your actual person, and you can connect with them. And I build some cool relationships from some of those, those things, just like the other ones, they don't even respond like, if you don't say yes, I want a meeting, they don't write you back, which is actually a great way to stop them from contacting you anyways, so and then I started, I had lots of recruiters saying, Hey, are you hiring people? Do you want to hire some of my people? And I've reached out to say, No, we're not hiring right now. But I'd love to learn more about what your offerings are. Because in case I do in the future, it's good to know who you are and what you're doing. And then I can explain to you what we do and what we're looking for. And what I found Susan was in the in the next six months, all of a sudden, I had lots more meetings and lots more work starting to come in the door. And that's because I was getting a lot of referrals from the super connected people to the people that I should be talking to. Because their networks are very broad. When you're a professional recruiter, man. I mean, I'm talking about executive recruiters, you know, people who recruit for more entry level, like the whole whole gamut, and then consultants to connecting with lots of consultants. They're very highly networked people as well. It was fantastic. Susan, my whole world changed. And we started growing very quickly after that,

Susan Tatum 27:33

I can believe that. Well, I have. I am like halfway through the questions that I wanted to ask you and we are running out of time

Kurt Schmidt 27:39

This is why I do a podcast because I rant a lot Susan, I apologize.

Susan Tatum 27:41

No, it's this is fascinating. And it's, it's really helpful, because, you know, along with a new consultants, or any any kind of consultants that I talked to that hate the term networking, or the thought of networking, they're also like, I don't have time to do this. And I don't have a system to keep this. Yeah, I didn't have the

Kurt Schmidt 28:01

you do have the time you do your system. That's all there is to it.

Susan Tatum 28:04

Well, they have to read your book to get to the I do have the time part gets it is in there I know

Kurt Schmidt 28:09

it is in there I very a bit about you do have the time you do you do you're just not prioritizing it.

Susan Tatum 28:16

Yeah, that's true. But sometimes all it takes is a system to give you the time. Right?

Kurt Schmidt 28:20

Exactly. I mean, we I use systems all day long for managing our household. My wife is a as a as a VP at JPMorgan Chase. She has, she has systems on top of systems to make the house run and, and we have four kids. So it's, you know, we would we could you could make it work. It's, again, it's about we prioritize the things we find value in Susan, right. I find value in binging on network, Netflix show like Stranger Things, right? I find value in that. So I find time for that. But what I found was is like, especially when writing the book, like I had to, I had to stop binging some shows, I had to put stop playing as many video games, I had to not go to as many events for a little while while I worked on the book. And it was fine. I found the time

Susan Tatum 29:13

and and you came out with a great book

Kurt Schmidt 29:16

Thank you yeah!

Susan Tatum 29:16

So I'm gonna put a link to that. We'll put a link to that the book in the show notes and then for for you, if somebody needs software development, or if they just want to ping you about a question on networking. How can they do that?

Kurt Schmidt 29:31

Yeah, LinkedIn is where I'm most active. I also do a newsletter there called the roadmap so you can follow that or my posts things about my podcast or just general things in terms of leadership and networking and, and career development on LinkedIn. So yeah, it's just Kurt Schmidt you can find me. I know there's lots of bald headed white guys with glasses and beards on there. But Yep, yeah, fine. You'll find me it'll be just fine.

Susan Tatum 29:57

Well, thank you, Kurt. It was great talking to you again.

Kurt Schmidt 30:00

Yeah, thank you so much for the opportunity. Susan, I'm a big fan of the work you do. And I really appreciate you having me on the show.

Susan Tatum 30:07

Thank you. Have a great day.


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