Below you’ll find an unedited chapter from my upcoming book 40 Rules for Internet Business Success. To receive updates about the book and get a free digital copy of my book in its current form, enter your email address in the sidebar to the right.
The people that do the best in the business world aren’t the smartest people that have the most knowledge or the best skill set. Consider how many very intelligent software developers and engineers take salaried jobs that have no upside potential with large corporations. They know a lot more about the technical work of their business than their manages do, but they make less than their managers do. While having specialized knowledge can be helpful in business, the people that do really well in business are those that have the best connections, know the right people and know how to leverage the skills and abilities of others. When you have a wide network of friends and contacts in the business world, you’ll be able to access the wisdom of other business leaders and get access to opportunities that would be otherwise unavailable to you.
A Quick Example…
Consider the case of Brian Gramm, CEO of Peppermint Energy in Sioux Falls, SD. He freely admits that he has no technical or engineering background, but he was able to start a company that sells solar power generation products into remote areas of Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and other countries that don’t have a reliable electric grid. While Gramm didn’t have a strong technical foundation, he had a wide network of connections in the business community. When he thought there was an opportunity to create portable solar power generators for the developing world, he used his connections to find people that he could hire that had the necessary technical background. He had a friend that connected him to an economic development group in the region that then connected him to some graduate level engineering students at South Dakota State University that were able to create a proof of concept of the technology. He was able to leverage that proof of concept into a successful KickStarter campaign in 2012 and has since gone on to raise venture capital funding. If Gramm hadn’t had a network of friends in the business world, it’s unlikely that he would have been able to get connected to the right people to help get his product off the ground.
You might think something along the lines of “Well, that sounds great for other people, but I don’t know really know anyone, so I’m out of luck.” Remember that every friendship and business acquaintanceship started with an initial meeting somewhere. Business relationships are not a have and have not situation. If you don’t have the business connections you would like, you can create them. A great first step is to strategically attend events where the types of people that you want to meet will be. Ideally, you’ll know who will be attending any given event ahead of time if the event is listed on Facebook, EventBrite or Meetup.com. Identify a few people that are attending that you would like to introduce yourself and come up with three or four questions you would love to know about their business. Don’t worry that you won’t have anything to talk to, because people love to talk about themselves and their businesses. After any given event, take the time to connect to the people that you talked to on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook if appropriate. If they accept your invitation, you’ll regularly show up on their social feeds and will be reminded who you are on a regular basis.
Reaching Out Directly
If events aren’t your thing, you can also reach out to someone directly. Don’t assume that people are automatically going to want to take the time to meet you for lunch or coffee just because you ask them to, especially if you’re reaching out to someone that’s a lot more successful than you are. You’ll want to give them a good reason upfront to say yes to your meeting. If you can, find a way to provide value or insight into their business. Don’t just tell them that you want to pick their brain, because you’re telling them up-front that the only reason you want to meet with them is so that you can get something from them. When you reach out to someone, show that you have something to contribute to the conversation. If you have a mutual friend or acquaintance, ask them to make an introduction on your behalf. If there’s a gatekeeper such as a secretary that’s not forwarding your calls, do whatever you can to befriend the secretary or call at a time when the secretary’s not likely to be in the office. You should be persistent about your attempt to create a connection, but don’t be annoying about it. You can still do everything right and not get a chance to talk to the person you’re reaching out to.
Here’s an example of an email I might send out to someone I want to connect with:
Dear John –
My name is Matthew Paulson. I recently read your blog post on pricing strategy for software-as-a-service companies. You had some interesting points. I was wondering if you had ever considered offering a biennial payment option in addition to offering monthly and annual payments? I’ve personally had good luck with offering two-year subscriptions to my customers.
I’ll be in your city in a couple of weeks. If you have time, I’d love to get together and have coffee or lunch to connect and chat about business.
Let me know.
There are a few basic guidelines that you should always follow concerning business relationships:
- Don’t be the person that only calls on someone when you want something from them.
- Regularly touch base with your connections to see if there’s a way that you can help them or even for purely social reasons.
- Don’t be the person that brags about their business success all the time. If you have to tell people “Look how great I am!”, you’re probably not that great.
- Take the time to respond to email and voice mail in a timely manner. Don’t be the person that other people have to chase down to get anything done.
- When you’re having a conversation with a business contact, do more listening than talking. Don’t be the guy that can’t stop talking.
- Don’t pretend to be more successful than you actually are. Real entrepreneurs will see right through this.
Networking in the World of Internet Business
There are some unique dynamics to networking in the world of Internet business. There may not be a large number of people that are running Internet businesses in your community. The people that you should be networking with might be in another state or half-way around the world. There are a number of on-line communities that have sprung up to address this problem, such as the 48 Days Member Community (www.48days.net), the Dynamite Circle (www.dynamitecircle.com), the Fastlane Forum (www.fastlaneforum.com) and the Silver Circle (www.silvercircle.com). You have the opportunity to chat with and learn from other Internet entrepreneurs through these communities. Many of these communities have in-person events that you can attend as well. I’ve reached out to a number of people through these types of on-line communities and have made some great business connections as well. While you might not be able to get an in-person meeting with someone half-way across the world, you can certainly reach out and see if they’d be willing to chat with you for a half-hour on a Skype video chat. Finally, consider pitching yourself as a guest to be on podcasts for the industry that you’re in. I’ve been a guest on a number of Internet business podcasts and have had a number of people reach out to me as a result.