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12 March 2013
It’s that moment so many of us secretly dread. You walk into a crowded room 
of businesspeople – perhaps at a conference or dinner event. Some turn to see who the new arrival is. And then a quiet but insistent voice in your head utters the command you have been nervously waiting for: “Network! Network!” It sounds like such a simple idea. Professional people need to network, to get together and share ideas. No-one has all the answers to every business problem. In terms of managing your own career, 
it makes sense to see and be seen. And yet not everybody has the confidence or enthusiasm that make attempts to network feel natural. So there you stand – a pocket full of business cards, but without the appetite to start distributing them. How can the reluctant networker overcome these recurring first night nerves? Where many of us go wrong is to think networking is something we have to do to other people. We think we need to project an exaggerated version of ourselves on 
an unsuspecting public. This is quite wrong. The secret of effective networking – and the key to effective knowledge-sharing and teamwork – is reciprocity. It is that exchange of mutually beneficial information that helps to establish long-lasting professional relationships and even friendships. We need to lighten up about networking. It should not be some sort of terrible ordeal. It is not a question of putting on an act, or thrusting yourself at unwilling interlocutors. It is about shared interests. It’s a question of give and take: only give out your business card if you really want to take one back from somebody else.   Horse meat scandal: putting supply chains on the map I’ll say this for the horse meat scandal: at least procurement professionals now have an easy example to give when people ask you what 
you do for a living and what a supply chain is. We’ve probably all heard enough horse meat gags for one lifetime, so I will try to get to the
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end of this piece without adding to the list. It is, of course, a serious business: the food we put on our tables. And this emphasises the importance of the unseen work that supply chain managers do for our fellow citizens every day of the week. As shoppers, whether online or in the mall or high street, most of us give little thought to supply chains. But every so often a major news story – whether the fuel strike of over a decade ago, or now the horse meat scandal – lets all of us see how fragile our economic way of life can be. Whitehall veterans of the 2000 fuel protests confirm that they sat there in London SW1, at the centre of the Rolls-Royce machine of government, powerless to get the petrol tankers moving. 
We were only days away from a collapse of the logistics network in this country: no supermarkets being restocked, no petrol at the pumps. So the next time someone teases you about “boring old procurement”, or jokes about horse burgers, tell them that you are what stands between them and complete national meltdown. ☛ Stefan Stern is director of strategy at PR firm Edelman and visiting professor of management practice at Cass Business School
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