Yes, 2012 is all about turning your business on its head. This is a different economy, a different time, and it requires a different approach. If you want to grow your business you need a fresh attitude, a new strategy and the guts to do things that you may find a  little unorthodox.

Let’s begin with your network. In this economy, where competition is strong and customers are in control, your network is one of the most important assets you have. To succeed, you need to grow your network.To grow your network you need to limit your connections. Yep, you heard me, limit your connections! Now, I know what you are thinking: lady, you’re crazy. The whole idea of networking is to get to know as many people as possible. Well, that’s true, however just knowing a lot of people may build your network but it won’t build your relationships or your business.

To build a quality network you have to  build relationships.  The very definition of the word “relationship” is an emotional connection between people. I love that, as it speaks to the importance of limiting your connections. If you are truly going to connect with people, you need to understand that to do so takes focus, investment and follow-up. In other words, it requires time.

The truth is, I believe you are already a great networker, but this is the year I want you to become a master networker. To become a master networker, you must limit your connections — sort of!  Understand, I believe in networking and I believe if you build your network you will change your life. For me, networking is a lifestyle, it is not a task. So while I want you to continue to take advantage of every opportunity, I’d like to see you go one more step and really focus your networking energy in 2012. Focus your networking energy on smaller groups of people, and focus your energy on deepening your connections rather than increasing your numbers.

So where do you start?

1. Take control — Take the time to decide who you want to know, need to know and could benefit from knowing. Look to the contacts you already have, look to the people in your community you want to know, and look to those in your industry who are leading the way. Take control of your networking and develop a list that requires you to take charge of developing the relationships you want.

2. Take action — Once you create the list, you need to set aside the time to not only make those connections but to build those relationships. If you want to move from being a good networker to becoming a master networker, then you need to create the time and space to build relationships. This requires getting to know people on both a personal and professional level. Invest in spending time with them, understanding their challenges and helping them achieve what is important to them.

3. Take initiative – Networks are not static, and relationships are meant to grow. So you need to take the initiative to keep challenging and developing your relationships. The people you meet, the relationships you build will lead to new opportunities, new experiences and ultimately a more connected network. Take the initiative and be open to what your network offers. The value of networking and the power of limiting your connections allows you to connect with people on a whole different level. This connection results in a relationship built on trust and value. Relationships like these provide you with a network that you not only enjoy but one that brings a high rate of return on investment.

Make 2012 the year you become a master networker. Begin by defining the relationships you want, creating the space and time to build those relationships, and being open to the new ideas and opportunities your network can offer.