Crain’s Most Connected New Yorkers: The ingredients for a power network

By Deanna Cioppa
The Brief
Strong networks are not about how many business cards you collect or hands you shake. As ?Crain’s “Most Connected New Yorkers”? demonstrates, it is about diversity, access and influence.    

The saying, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” is the battle cry of every college grad, entrepreneur and job-seeker these days. Internships are now sold on the connections they offer. An entire industry has sprung up dedicated to putting people in a room together so they can hand small cards to each other. And you know what? All those clichés and anxieties and alumni associations are not unfounded: who you know does matter. What that actually means, though, is a bit more complicated than it seems.

As with most things, context is critical. The quality of your relationships, the number of connections to influencers and their connections and the diversity of your network all contribute to your connectedness, your relationship capital. So when Crain’s New York Business and RelSci began their work on the Crain’s Most Connected New Yorkers,” released today, the goal was not to see who simply had the greatest reach—the most friends on social media or contacts in their smartphones. Real relationship capital, the one we set out to define, is measured by how much you can do with what you’ve got (or rather, who you’ve got). 

Industry influencers and thought leaders get to where they are by surrounding themselves with smart people. Those influencers certainly have their own inherent value to your network, but it’s their connections that are just as likely to open up doors for you. That’s why it’s important to know people who know people who can offer help—a solution to a technical or organizational issue, an introduction to a potential client or just an experienced ear.
“Real relationship capital is measured by how much you can do with what you’ve got (or rather, who you’ve got).” 
Take Crain’s number one most connected New Yorker (why not aspire to the top?), C.V. Starr’s Chairman and CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. Alone, he brings powerful influence to any network. But take a peek at his connections: CEOs of national brands, top players in asset management, hospital executives and philanthropists. The access he provides to those decision makers and influencers is why he’s so very valuable in any relationship portfolio—and thus a big reason for his position atop Crain’s list.

Crain’s list represents New Yorkers who travel in circles as varied as they are rarified. Take Greenberg again. His relationships reach across the worlds of international affairs and national security; higher education and government. And the third-most-connected New Yorker, Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co? His current board members alone come from technology, childcare, private equity, hospitality and commercial storage services. 

“Crain’s list represents New Yorkers who travel in circles as varied as they are rarified.” 
As we’ve discussed before, relationship capital isn’t merely a numbers game. The more diverse your network (and diversity can refer to any number of variables: age, industry, gender, experience level, ethnicity, etc.) the greater the chances of your finding what you need. For entrepreneurs and business owners, cross-sector collaboration can breed innovation by infusing static processes with new ideas. For nonprofit organizations, corporate partnerships can mean missions accomplished. This is how members of Crain’s list translate their relationship capital into intellectual, strategic, and financial capital. 

So, yes, it’s about who you know. But as Crain’s who’s who of the whos you most want to know makes clear, who they know matters even more.

Deanna Cioppa is a freelance writer who has written for AARP, ESPN The Magazine and Fodor’s. She is a frequent contributor to this blog.
RelSci helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers.

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