January 22, 2016
A Startup Guy’s Journey to 200 Active Business Relationships
I’m about to start off the first blog post in our business relationship building series by saying what we all know is true.
Networking really sucks and you’re probably really bad at it.
How did I come to this conclusion? Well because I suck at it myself – and I also hate it. I try to avoid it at all costs. I do however love to grab a drink with a fellow entrepreneur, marketer, or creative that I haven’t met before and discuss what they’re working on and perhaps extend them a piece of advice, referral, or lend them a hand in anyway I possibly can.
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t that just networking?
Nope. Now let me tell you why I think that’s far from networking.
Why I hate networking…. and why I suck at it
One of the smartest kids in my graduating class from my accounting firm (Yep. I was an accountant. Shout out to PwC!) is a startup junkie, and back in 2014 he was a lone startup junkie with a nonexistent network in the world of entrepreneurship. He knew he had to start building a strong network in order to be able to find the partners, and potentially the investors, that he would need to build the business he was dreaming of.
We talked on the phone pretty often and his networking dilemma would come up in almost every conversation. Naturally I would suggest going out and getting involved with the local startup community. He was Chicago based so I suggested going to some 1871 events and meeting up with some of the cool folks there..
Feeling frustrated and deafeated, one night he just flat out told me:
“Man, I don’t know if I’m cut out for this. I’ve gone to maybe five events this month alone, got business cards, and followed up to see if people would like to work together on projects or see if I can work on their team. I’ve never gotten a single response.
Can I do this?”
It was truly heart breaking to hear a fellow entrepreneur doubt himself at such an early stage in his startup journey. His intent was pure and he was willing to put in the work to build a network. That approach though…. It was really bad.
This is the kind of thing I want to help every entrepreneur, freelancer, real estate agent, coach, consultant, solopreneur, and anyone else that wants to build business relationships to avoid. I want everyone to stop thinking about “I” when they are networking. In fact, I want everyone to stop thinking about networking in general.
I want the readers of this blog to be masters of helping others and building relationships.
We’re not in the networking business anymore people. We’re in the relationship building business now!
I’m here to prove that if you help, engage, and take a genuine interest in others, you can build a vast network of active contacts.
This will be a case study on how I’ll be building 200 active business relationships from a starting point of 0.
I picked 200 contacts because of a guy named Robin Dunbar, who seems to believe the human brain can only maintain 150 stable relationships. Well, let’s see if you’re right Mr. Dunbar.
For the purposes of this challenge an active or stable relationship will mean a person that I have had a meaningful conversation through text, email, on the phone, or in person, over the last 6 months. I will have 9 months to achieve this goal.
What I’ll tell you
As you follow this blog, I will be authentic and vulnerable with you.
- I will tell you about my networking failures
- I will tell you how nervous I get before each and every meetup, conference, or 1v1 coffee date
- I will tell you how I get over my fear of speaking to a large group of people
- I will tell you how awkward I feel sending seven follow emails to the same person
- I will also tell you how elated I feel when I FINALLY get a reply with an sincere and apologetic response and an invitation to lunch
What you’ll learn
I hope this blog series will lead you all to a greater understanding of how to build deeper relationships that will start providing you with real business results. This will include:
- How to start a business relationship off on the right foot
- How to follow up on a business relationship after an initial meeting (with templates!)
- How to build relationships online, and not just on LinkedIn
- How to turn your network into leads for your business
- How to nurture your network
How we’ll be building
I’ll be building relationships through various mediums both on, and offline. My tactics will differ across all these mediums, but my overall strategy will be the same. I will add value to people’s lives in whatever way they find most valuable (and doable on my end!).
I’ll be forging relationships via the following channels:
- Meetup Groups
- Startup Conferences
- Marketing Conferences
- Social Sites (LinkedIn, Facebook Groups, Twitter, Reddit)
- Slack Groups
- Through my existing
- Our current and existing user base
I’ll be using karmaCRM to ensure I’m following up with my contacts at the appropriate times.
What’s up next?
There are quite a few big relationship building lessons I’ve learned thus far in my career that I’ll be posting about over the next few weeks. Over the course of this nine month challenge I’ll give you insights on things like winning my first $10k client as a freelance and why I then took a $200 job a month later. I’ll also be posting about my network adding 10 paying accounts to karmaCRM over the course of a month after I came on board.
This won’t be a blog just for the freelancers or solopreneurs. I’m going to be breaking down relationship building for individuals and companies in all industries from real estate agents and business coaches to accountants and lawyers.
Ready to learn?
Well, let’s go then!