It took me a while to learn the power of networking. It took another several years to be able to verbalize the secret of truly successful networking. And it took meeting Marc Hernandez and Jeffrey Gund to make it all so easy to understand.
I had first met Marc Hernandez in July 2001 when he was a guest speaker at a Film Industry Network meeting. His story fascinated me. At 34 years old, Marc gave up a six-figure income in commercial real estate to pursue a life-long dream of working in the film industry. He took a job in the mailroom of a major literary talent agency for $350 per week. Upon graduating from the mailroom, he became an assistant to a literary agent. Placing about 100 phone calls a day for his boss, he would briefly chat with the assistants of the individuals his boss wanted to talk to. While talking to these various assistants, he would ask them for their e-mail addresses.
By the end of his first year, he had accumulated more than 600 e-mail addresses. He then capitalized on a relatively untapped resource by finding websites that listed script sales. Soon, Marc was sending out the latest industry news, what scripts were being sold, who was hot, who was out and where upcoming parties and job openings were to the now 2,800 people on his e-mail list. Information being power, he was handing other assistants and junior executives a rare gift.
His e-mail network became a kind of a Hollywood newsletter, a site where he and others could post information about what was happening in town. Wanting to get to know the faces behind the voices and e-mail addresses, Marc also became known for the mixers he'd organize, being able to fill up cool local hangouts with more than 500 "power assistants" at any one time. His e-mail list kept growing and eventually included top-level executives who were also eager to know what was going on. Marc moved up to become a literary manager with an independent management/
production company, and a year later, left to begin his own management firm.
Being in such a competitive business, it's rare to find people generous enough to gather and share so much information with so many. And not only has this information been the source of jobs and valuable connections to countless others, but building his massive network, helping others and making the effort to get to know as many people as he can has also been a key element to his own success. His first job as a literary manager was a result of sending out an e-mail asking if anyone knew of any openings. He now uses the same network in searching for clients and screenplays.
Marc was the first one I heard say, "It's not just who you know, it's who knows you." And he was able to get his name out with every single e-mail he sent—e-mails that, at one time, went to 6,600 individuals who would then forward his information on to others in their own network.
Jeffrey Gund has a similar story. Jeff is a composer and sound designer, and I knew his name long before I had ever met him. I'd be sitting at the sign-in table at crowded FIN meetings and would ask people I didn't recognize if this was their first meeting and how they had heard about us. A frequent response was, "I'm a friend of Jeff Gund's." Attendance was always higher when Jeff's friends showed up, and I soon learned that, like Marc Hernandez, Jeff had a very special e-mail network, and he was kind enough to pass on our meeting notices. He also had a lot of friends.
I finally met Jeff, a nice, soft-spoken guy who would come to FIN meetings when he could. I eventually asked him if he'd put me on his famous list and also if he'd come to speak to my USC students about networking.
Jeff's Info List, as he calls it, started out small. He simply read about a job in the trades he thought a couple of his friends might be interested in hearing about. Or he'd hear about a seminar or networking event or party, and he wanted to share the information. Pretty soon, his friends were forwarding the information on to their friends, and Jeff would be at a party, and someone would mention his e-mail list, and then a handful of people would ask if they, too, could be added to the list. This "list" soon became well known, and organizers of events and seminars started offering discounts to Jeff's friends if he'd send out their notices, because once out on Jeff's network, a good turnout was certain.
Jeff eventually ended most of his e-mail announcements with, "mention my name at the door," or "when you RSVP, let them know you're a friend of Jeff Gund's." He was able to get his name out there while allowing others to benefit from the information and the discounts. Jeff eventually started co-sponsoring events and parties, and his endorsement of any function was like gold.
Of the over 4,000 individuals on his e-mail list, Jeff knows a great number of them and is endeavoring to meet as many of the others as he can. Some end up on the list through a referral, so it's not surprising that several know his name before they know his face, like the woman he met at a party once. He struck up a conversation with her, and after a while, finally got around to introducing himself. After he said, "Hi, my name is Jeff Gund," she proceeded to say, "No, you're not!" It took him a while to convince her of who he truly was.
Jeff spends a large portion of every day sorting through a tremendous amount of incoming seminar, party, casting and job notices; deciding what to send out and adding new names to the now many lists broken down by where people live, what their particular interests are, etc. He has never charged anyone to be on his list, and to be able to keep it that way, he's currently seeking corporate sponsorship. Only recently has Jeff started receiving small fees for promoting certain events. Other than that, he's never been compensated for the endless hours he puts into this benevolent enterprise.
The purpose of the Info List remains to help others. The only e-mail Jeff has ever sent out on his own behalf was when he needed to move and asked for suggestions on apartment availabilities. Yet, while it takes up a good part of each day, and he has never directly asked for job leads for himself, work has definitely come his way as a result of his unselfish efforts. This, he was recently happy to tell me, has included a couple of truly exceptional high-level opportunities, which I was extremely pleased to hear about, because if anyone deserves a fabulous opportunity, it's Jeffrey Gund.
Anyone (meaning you, too) could start an e-mail list like Marc and Jeff did within your circle of friends, co-workers and contacts, or you could find your own way to give something back and provide a valuable service to others. It just requires a commitment of time and a desire to help. And while there is a considerable amount of responsibility associated with this type of undertaking, the rewards are equally considerable. Because in addition to the new friends, sense of community, gratification at helping others and/or the connections and job leads that come from it—the effort itself exemplifies the true meaning of networking.
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