You can’t win as an entrepreneur if you work alone. You need to have business relationships with team members, investors, customers and a myriad of other support people. That doesn’t mean you have to be a social butterfly to succeed, or that introverts need not apply.
It does mean that you need to look at, listen to and participate in the business world around you and network through all available channels, using business-oriented social networks online (LinkedIn), local business organizations (Chamber of Commerce) and events or conferences in your domain.
I hope that all of this seems obvious to you, but I still get a good number of notes from “entrepreneurs” who have been busy inventing things all their life but can’t find a partner to start their first business, while others are trying to find an executive, an investor or a lawyer.
What these people need is more relationships, not more experts, blogs or books. So I thought I would drop back to some essentials in building and nurturing business relationships, most of which apply to personal relationships as well:
- Build your network.These are people at all levels who have been there and done that, meaning people who know something that you need to know. See my recent article “Entrepreneurs Learn Best From Business Networking” on how and where to get started. You don’t need a thousand friends, but a few real ones can make all the difference.
- Give and you will receive.Relationships need to be two-way, and can’t be just all about you. If you are active in helping others with what you know, they will be much more open to help you when you need it. The more you give, the more you get in return, both literally and figuratively.
- Work on your elevator pitch.This is a concise, well-practiced description of your idea or your startup, delivered with conviction to start a relationship in the time it takes to ride up an elevator. It should end by asking for something, to start the relationship.
- Don’t skip all business social settings.Face-time is critical, even with the current range of social networks, phone texting and email. Studies show that as much as 50-90% of communication is body language. That’s usually the important part.
- Nominate someone as your mentor.Build a two-way relationship with several people who can help you, and then kick it up a notch with one or more by asking them to be your mentor. Most entrepreneurs love to help others and will be honored to help you.
- Cultivate existing allies.These are people who already know you and believe in you but may not be able to help you directly in your new endeavors. But don’t forget that each of these allies also has their own network which can be an extension of yours if you treat them well.
- Nurture existing relationships.We all know someone who claims to be a “close friend,” but never initiates anything. They never call, they never write, and they wait for you to make the first move. If you don’t follow-up on a regular basis with someone, there is no relationship, only a former acquaintanceship.
On the positive side, many attributes of an introvert lead to better business decisions, such as thinking before speaking, building deep relationships, and researching problems more thoroughly. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, is currently the most famous introvert entrepreneur, so don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.
One of Mark’s secrets seems to have been to surround himself with extroverts like COO Sheryl Sandberg, and people who have a complementary energy. But working alone doesn’t get you very far. It takes a team to win the game of business, so take a look around you to see how you are doing so far.
Image credit: CC by torne (where’s my lens cap?)