Sometimes it feels as though a PhD in linguistics is a ‘must’ to be able to interpret the incomprehensible management speak present in today’s top companies. Business is stuffed full of jargon, egos and clichés but there is one phrase that rings true above most others: it’s who you know – not what you know – that counts.

I too am guilty of using this phrase on more than one occasion but in giving it more thought, I believe the phrase is wrong.

I appreciate the power of strong networks, both in my business and personal life and due to an early awareness of ‘it’s who you know’, have spent many years growing and cultivating mine.

I am now 15 years into my career and have seen the detrimental effects of ‘it’s who you know’ in business many times over. Sometimes it works beautifully and a personal recommendation is often worth ten times that of a recruitment consultant but it can have a negative effect on the wider team, company performance and even the profit levels.

My opinion and something which is reflected in my own life is that the phrase should read as follows;  ‘It’s who you know AND what you know that counts’.

It’s fantastic to be given off-market opportunities, that the less-connected may never be privy to but once you have that opportunity, an element of ‘it’s what you know’ must be brought to the table.

If it isn’t, the phrase backfires – you gain access to an opportunity and ‘what you know’ isn’t worth the paper it’s written on, you may perform badly or unethically, whatever it is, the ‘who you know’ will find out and bad news travels fast, like the spreading of a disease, eating away at credibility within your perfectly networked circles.

I have seen operating profits plummet to inexcusable levels, staff bullied in their own work place and financial dishonesty to levels which blew my mind… so whoever it is you know and whatever opportunities you’re privileged enough to be presented with; Please, please, please be sure to compliment this with ‘what you know’.

So if you don’t know; ask! If it is inappropriate to ask; learn! You can never know enough. Keep evolving your skills, your knowledge and never stop learning because to cease to evolve is to cease to exist and extinction isn’t anything anyone wants… be it within their personal circles, on their cv or indeed in their business.