The Business Network Definition - According to Benjamin Franklin

Introduction to networking


In 1727, Benjamin Franklin founded the Junto or the Leather Apron group. The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds.  Some of the original members were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, and a bartender.  They all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others. 

This was part of who Franklin was.  He was an outgoing extravert always on the lookout for interesting people he could learn from.  Franklin was known for forming all types of informal social groups everywhere he went.  Some lasted, some didn’t.  Forming groups became his fallback solution though as he began solving problems.  In most of his groups, there were stories, laughter, new ideas and of course a little drinking.  (Our founding fathers and their generation drank 4 times more alcohol than we do today.) 


During their Friday meetings the Junto members focused on “mutual improvement.”  Benjamin Franklin wrote that, “…every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discussed by the company.”  Every three months each member would write an essay, to read and discuss among the members.

At the time Franklin organized the Junto, he was only 21. He was still an apprentice learning his trade.  The members of the Junto were very much his Sr.  Besides the original members, the membership of the Junto included prominent merchants, astrologers, glaziers, mathematicians, inventors and wealthy gentlemen.  From the group, members learned about the latest in science, business, philosophy and more.  What was the value for the 21-year-old Benjamin Franklin? Most 21-year-old young men probably would have other places to be on a Friday night.

In retrospect, it seems brilliant.  I’ve often wondered how Benjamin Franklin became such a prominent business person so quickly.  These types of groups gave the young Benjamin a huge advantage in business.  It was a fast way to develop strong relationships with other prominent business people.  By the time he was ready to buy his own business, he already had backers, customers and friends to help him. 

It also seems to have worked.  Benjamin did become, one of the wealthiest and most prominent business leaders in the 13 colonies.  It’s obvious to me that from this, and the many other groups that Franklin created, he met the right people.  These meetings also a place to learn from each other.  In his Junta and in the other groups he learned from the top scientists, business leaders, philosophers in the colonies.  This helped fill in the gaps and taught to be a better business person, to be a scientist, a politician and an ambassador. 

Eventually from these groups he also met the foundational people needed to start a revolution.  Then later save a foundering nation at war with a global super power.  Franklin understood early the value and purpose of a network.  He leveraged this network well.  In France as an ambassador he continued to join groups.  This helped him find tutors to learn French, understand French royalty, culture and become a French cultural icon.  Eventually working meeting and negotiating French intervention with the king of France.  Without the help of France, the United States would probably have lost.  All using a simple networking tactic, building Junta’s to meet the people who could help him get things done.

Franklin learned very early, to do something significant in life we will always need help.  Where do we find that help?  We find it, just like Benjamin, in our network.  There is a myth in American about the “Self-made Man.”  We are taught that in America, we can do it ourselves without help from anyone else.  Yet over and over again we learn that the men and women we thought were self-made, actually had a lot of help.  The biggest successes were accomplished with the help of friends the leader has trusted for 10, 15 even 20 years.  These friends, are the secret behind every “Self-made Millionaire.”

If networks are so important,
let’s define what a network actually is. 

A business network Defined: A group formed with a commitment for the mutual benefit of each member in the group.

Franklin’s Junto was setup as a club for “…mutual improvement.”  The group provided fellowship and a purpose.  Those that were in alignment with the purpose stayed and participated.  Those that weren’t in alignment probably found other drinking partners.  In these groups trusted relationships were build.  From these relationships came opportunities to provide mutual benefit to each other.  For Franklin this meant in business and eventually in founding a country.  There are lots of networking groups around today.  Franklin’s Junto was also a type of networking group.  In the world of networking there are good networking groups.  We also see networking groups that have lost the vision.  In this book we’ll be discussing groups you can join and groups you can start.  In determining what group works best for you, starts with your personal vision.

Topics: Business Networking Building a Professional Network