Step 7: Tap your network. Your network is everything. It’s how you find good employees, figure out which lawyer to hire, and how you get people to take meetings with you. Ask any angel investor or venture capitalist and they’ll tell you that, nine times out of ten (or really 999 out of 1,000), they pay much more attention to the pitches they get via a contact than the ones they get cold.
So this week’s assignment is about building up your network. My friend Ari Wallach once told me that each week he scheduled two or three coffees with people he’s never met before. Usually he connects with them through friends, but when the well runs dry, he’ll just look around on LinkedIn for someone interesting (though even here, his network is important because he looks for friends of friends). To date, he says, these meetings have led to about 25 percent of his new business.
Through this adventure you’re on with SUCCESS magazine, you have a built-in network to tap into—nearly 2,000 other small-business people who are experiencing some of the same issues you are and who can share what they’ve learned with you. Take advantage of it! This week’s homework is to expand your network to include other SSWB contestants. Find each other on LinkedIn, like each other’s pages on Facebook, follow each other on Twitter and Pinterest. And if there’s someone who you feel could really be helpful (or if you think you could be helpful to them), schedule a call or a coffee. You never know what you’re going to get out of it. (While you’re at it, Like me on Facebook and find a free chapter from my book It’s Your Business.)
Just one quick note. When I was first starting my company, there was so much work to do that meeting people for coffee or attending events for which I did not have a specific goal felt like a luxury I couldn’t afford. That is the wrong attitude. Getting out there and talking to people has helped spark some of the most creative ideas we’ve had in my company and has provided important leads that were helpful down the road.
Editor’s note: This is the seventh of eight installments for SUCCESS’s 2nd annual Start Small Win Big entrepreneur challenge. At the conclusion of week 8, contestants will review their weekly homework assignments to write an essay explaining how they have used the contest’s eight steps to achieve their small business goals. More details to follow.