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Book Review: Never Eat Alone

Networking, the thing no one wants to talk about but everyone realizes they need to be doing. Despite our reluctance to openly discuss networking, the value of developing professional and personal relationships is well understood at HBS. In fact, I am certain a large percentage of our HBS essays included references to the alumni network and the future potential of our classmates. The question for most of us is not how valuable are relationships, but how do we go about forging deep relations with our classmates, professors, alumni, and everyone else beyond our ivy covered walls? In his new book, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets To Success, One Relationship At A Time, Keith Ferrazzi (HBS 92′) takes on the issue of savvy relationships building. Ferrazzi delivers a book that may turn out to be our generation’s version of the successful book How to Win Friends and Influence People. Ferrazzi, CEO of FerrazziGreenlight, a marketing consultancy, has meticulously crafted a blue print for turning sheepish professionals into master networkers.

In Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi attempts to banish the myth that relationship building is centered around the crude “glad-handing usually associated with networking”. The impetus of the book was an article that appeared in Inc. Magazine entitled “10 Secrets of a Master Networker” (now part of the Power & Influence course). Ferrazzi was disappointed because he felt the article painted him as a stereotypical networker who works excessively hard to meet as many people as possible and is concerned about quantity and not quality. Ferrazzi does not believe that the article captures the essence of his philosophy, which is “relationships are probably the most important thing to [a person’s] success.”

Never Eat Alone attempts to draw a distinction between the antics of a “hyper-Rolodex-builder and card-counter [who] fails to grasp the nuances of authentic connecting and a true connector”. To help make this distinction, Ferrazzi discusses openly his own networking blunders and relationship building successes. Through the book, he reveals the strategy he uses to effectively reach out to connect with his impressive list of friends, associates, and contacts.

For starters, Ferrazzi puts forth the suggestion that relationship building is a mind set. He credits his rise from a self described “country boy from southwestern Pennsylvania,” to the chief marketing officer of Deloitte Consulting, and later Starwood Hotels and Resorts, as well as CEO of YaYa Media to his realization early on that “when you help others, they often help you.” The most poignant, but subtle example of this is in Chapter One. It is a story of Carol Poland, wife of the owner of a big lumberyard in Ferrazzi’s hometown. Ferrazzi, who caddied for Mrs. Poland as a youth at their town’s exclusive golf club, explains that he went the extra mile for Mrs. Poland, such as testing the greens and walking the course the day before to help ensure that Mrs. Poland won every tournament. Mrs. Poland, in appreciation of his efforts, helped him in life, including making sure he “got to know everyone in the club that could help [him].”

Never Eat Alone offers tips, suggestions, and strategies for navigating conferences, building your personal brand, attracting other connected people, mastering the art of small talk, finding mentors, and much more. Fezzarri masterfully mixes simple advice and concrete steps, such as “don’t keep score”, “ping constantly”, and “never eat alone” that leads readers down the path to improvement. In the book’s “Connector’s Hall of Fame Profiles”, Ferrazzi explains how people like Vernon Jordon and Benjamin Franklin improved their positions by forging deep relationships with others.

This book is a must have for anyone who thinks they know the rules of getting ahead. Never Eat Alone convincingly makes the argument that the best way to become successful is to help make everyone around you successful. “Connecting is a philosophy of life, a world view. Its guiding principle is that people, all people, every person you meet, is an opportunity to help and to be helped.” Ferrazzi points out that success today is not about rugged individualism, but relationships: “Flat out, people do business with people they know and like.”

February 28, 2005
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