Being Great: Sometimes It’s Not Just What You Know, But Whom You Know

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On August 11, 2014

WhoYouKnowIf you want to create a great company you know that everything starts with you as the leader. That’s why you discipline yourself to out-think, out-read, out-plan, and out-execute others.

It may start with you—but it doesn’t end with you.

You probably know the famous line from John Donne’s poem: “No man is an island.” It’s true in business as well. No individual can possibly know everything he or she needs to know in order to stay one step ahead of the competition. We need the knowledge—and perspectives—of others if we’re going to grow our businesses.

Some of us, however, can be a little clumsy when it comes to building those relationships with others that can make such a big difference. Just showing up at “networking” events isn’t going to yield the kind of relationships that get you where you want to go. Here are three tips that can help you begin, and develop relationships that can actually make a difference.

  1. The One With the Most Cards Isn’t the Winner: If your goal is to collect more business cards than your competitor, you’ll probably end up with a huge collection of (largely worthless) scraps of paper. Instead, you should be on the lookout for the right kind of person—someone who understands a business problem that’s stumping you, or someone who has expertise that you don’t have. It’s fine to trade business cards with someone like that. But simply having a big stack of cards doesn’t accomplish anything.
  1. Leverage Existing Relationships: Sometimes you need the help of a friend or colleague to meet the right kind of person. I’m not talking about using (make that abusing) your friends or acquaintances to meet influential people. But there are times when a personal introduction really helps. Ask you friends and colleagues if they know people who could give you new insights or perspectives. Than ask if they would be comfortable introducing you.
  1. It’s Not Just About You: Nobody likes being used. If you’re introduced to someone, offer that person something first before asking him or her to give you anything (time, advice, expertise, etc.). This means actually listening to the other person to find out what he or she might be facing. Maybe you don’t have what he or she needs—but perhaps you know someone else who can help. But don’t walk up to someone and say: “I hear you’re really good at distribution. How would you solve my distribution problems?”

It’s impossible to be great all by yourself. And often, whom you know has a huge impact on what you know. Want to grow your business? Don’t just “network,” build relationships that are mutually beneficial.