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How to Build a Stateless Trading and Referral Network

Written by Subject: Activism

The division of labor is a wonderful thing. You don\'t have to be an auto mechanic, handyman, doctor, farmer, oil refiner, plumber, and appliance repairman, you just have to know or know how to get ahold of people who do such things. As a producer and consumer, you are no doubt included in various formal and informal trading networks ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to yellow page listings.

At the heart of a trading network is the directory. Its depth and breadth are determined by the strictures placed by the sponsoring organization. Obviously, to be listed in the Chamber\'s directory, one would have to be a dues-paying Chamber member, while a listing in the yellow pages is given to anyone who purchases a commercial telephone line. While still useful, these are basically listings of complete strangers.

The lists you really want to be on (and have) aren\'t available publicly. They are the lists of names and personal numbers carried around on a Blackberry or hand-written on a worn sheet of legal paper tucked in a top desk drawer. These are the lists the owners keep of people who can get stuff done.

Every name on those lists is a personal referral. When someone asks the list owner, "do you know a good _____," those are the names and numbers given out. A good measure of your skills and reputation is the number of times your name is given out as the good ______.

There is only one way to get on one of those lists; you must provide the owner with good quality, timely, valuable work. Then, in one of those moments of truth where you solved a problem, received a second order, received a thank you, fixed a foul-up, or the like, you (gasp!) ask to be that good ______ on their list.

When they agree (and, they will) you (double gasp!) ask for a full or partial copy of their list!

There are a few good reasons for wanting copies of these lists. First, the list owner found your services valuable, so chances are other people on the list will find value in your services. Second, the list owner found the other people\'s services valuable, so chances are you will find value in the services offered by the other people.

Third, and more to the point, these lists are all nascent Stateless trading networks.

Think about your own list. The ongoing relationships listed there are already conducted without regard to the State; if the State is considered at all (consciously or unconsciously), it is secondary or tertiary. It\'s a short, but profitable, trip from there to relationships conducted with specific disregard to the State.

You probably already have barter relationships that could be formalized as Stateless. Those people could do the same with their relationships. If you have chickens and a car, you probably know a shade-tree mechanic who knows somebody who wants fresh eggs. They may have tomatoes, or be able to fix your plumbing. Most of all, that person knows other people that would be interested in Stateless economic relationships.

Soon, even a Stateless trading network of just three becomes seven, then fifteen then thirty-one, and so on. As an added bonus, all of those people have non-Stateless relationships with people who will ask, "do you know a good _____," sending you referrals from outside the trading network.

Establishing a trading and referral network is not hard or in any way time consuming. Once it is established, maintaining it takes no more than conducting business in your normal fashion (and providing referrals to people on your list).

For a good start, you can use the tried and tested Team 100 referral worksheet, modifying it as needed to encompass all the skills you and your new trading network possess or would like to possess. Fill in the names and contact information for your trading partners and send the list to them, asking them to make referrals to the list of people they know and conduct business with.

Take a leadership role in managing and distributing the list. Not only does that guarantee you have the latest and greatest copy of the list at all times, but it also makes sure your name comes immediately to mind whenever someone asks, "do you know a good _______?" Just make sure that every time the list gets updated, everyone on the list gets an updated copy.

Organizing and extending your trading and referral network is a great marketing tool in the best of times; in bad economic times it may be the difference between paying rent on time or paying rent at all. Combined with the potential savings of switching to Stateless transactions and the joy of activism that really makes a difference in your life right now, you should be done reading this and working on your Stateless Trading Network already!

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