My friends and colleagues have called me a business unicorn, a manifestation fairy, and the most connected person they know. I’m very grateful for the compliments, and it’s true that I love connecting people to opportunities and making introductions among clients, colleagues, friends, friends of friends...you get the idea.
Not only do I love doing it, I couldn’t turn it off if I tried. I’m happy that that people see me as someone who is eager and willing to facilitate connections because that’s the truth: I truly do love it. Why? Because it’s rewarding for me to share the contacts, resources, and services that have helped me, or that I’ve seen help other people. Having worked eight different jobs in ten years prior to becoming a small business owner, I’m lucky to know people in lots of different industries.
I enjoy staying connected to people and hearing about the exciting things they’re working on. Most of all, I enjoy incorporating my passion for connecting into my coaching and leveraging my network to introduce my clients to people and opportunities that can advance their businesses.
For example, I have a client who just launched her own coaching business. She needed a headshot photographer, accountant, web developer, and lawyer. While she is new to the industry, I’ve been working and living it for three years now, so I leveraged my network to help her find trustworthy and reasonably priced professionals to support her.
It’s been especially gratifying for me to develop and leverage connections in the small business and entrepreneur world, which sometimes gets a reputation for being lonely or isolating. I credit my desire to support my coaching and entrepreneur colleagues as one of the reasons my young business is succeeding. I have a group of three coaching friends that I speak with on a regular basis, and we freely share ideas, resources, and connections among us. We are tapped into the needs of each other’s businesses and can make introductions as we come across amazing service providers, potential clients, and available opportunities.
And the truth is, not everyone feels that connecting comes naturally. I completely get that; we all have things we don’t feel will ever be comfortable doing. (For the record, mine is driving a car.) Other people aren’t sure how to leverage their networks, or if there are unspoken rules around connections. Personally, I get a lot of joy from making successful connections, and I encourage others to be generous with their networks whenever they can. If that’s something you’re striving to do, here are some tips to help you dive in.
1. Listen. It couldn’t be more simple. You don’t know what people are looking for unless you are listening. For example, a few months ago, I was trying to limit the amount of time I spent on Facebook, and I realized what I missed most was being able to tap into my networks and see what people needed in their businesses and lives. Whether someone is looking for recommendations for an accountant, the best vegetarian restaurant in Paris, or an app to track their time, I enjoy being able to share the amazing things, people, and places I’ve come across. And when it comes to making recommendations, timing is one of the most important factors. If you’re listening, you learn what people need in that moment, which is when that unicorn magic happens.
2. Acknowledge what connections have done for you. Realizing how far connections have brought you can make you want to leap into action yourself. While much of your success is undoubtedly due to your own hard work and persistence, it’s also very likely that people helped or supported you somewhere along the way. Maybe you were introduced to the most amazing web developer as you were gearing up to launch your website. Or you were connected to an incredible resource who has become a mentor for you. Even if you simply got a recommendation for an amazing hotel, consider how memorable the experience was. Connections can truly be life-changing, which is why it’s so exciting to make them happen.
3. Don’t overthink the etiquette; just use common sense. If you’re stressing about the etiquette of making connections, don’t overthink it. You’ll be fine if you let common sense prevail. As a general rule, you don’t want to give out contact info without permission, so check with the person that you’re recommending to make sure it’s okay to make an intro or pass their info along. It’s great to speak broadly to how their services have benefitted your business, but don’t get into the specifics of rate; let them hash that out together. If you’re unsure whether someone is looking for more clients, or is interested in potential partnerships, just ask! If the answer is no, they’ll still appreciate that you thought of them, which might lead to them recommending you to others in the future.
4. Be open to small and spontaneous moments of connection. Even if you don’t consider yourself a networker at heart, you can still reap the benefits of connecting with people in your orbit. Be open to small, spontaneous connections, like making friendly conversation with a stranger behind you in the grocery line, or saying hello to someone you recognize on the street. Sometimes these moments can turn into surprising conversations, and occasionally, they might even send business your way. For instance, my friend, who is also a coach, recently got to talking with a stranger at a concert They rode the subway together, and the next thing my friend knew, her new acquaintance had sent an email to her close friends, talking up my friend and saying how amazing a coach she is. My friend now is taking on a ton of new clients within this one group, all because of this one spontaneous moment of connection.