How to Build Networks in Business & Gain Support

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Bold" by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you need to make business connections? How do you build networks in business?

According to Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s book Bold, one of the most important parts of starting a business is building connections. It’s necessary to have a support network—both in a professional and a personal sense—to keep things running smoothly.

Continue reading to learn how to build networks in business.

Build Credibility With a Closed Network

Your support network will help advance your innovation from the infant stage—a good idea—into a large-scale success: a publicly-endorsed innovation that has changed the world in some way. 

To learn how to build networks in business, create a closed network of people that you have personal relationships with. These people will help you build credibility by offering the critical feedback, connections, and resources necessary for you to accomplish your micro-goals. The people in your closed network are specifically chosen by you.

Keith Ferrazzi’s Four Types of Support Networks 

In Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi agrees with the Bold authors that building support networks is key to gaining professional success. While Ferrazzi’s framework is similar to the open and closed networks discussed in this guide, he recommends forming four specific types of networks rather than two:

1) A network of people who will help you achieve your goals. They actively help you identify goals, create plans to reach them, and hold you accountable. These actions align with those of your closed network members.
2) A network of mentors. They provide professional advice, skill-development techniques, insider information, contacts, emotional support, and inspiration. These actions also align with those of your closed network members.
3) A network of super-connectors—people who have dozens or hundreds of professional connections that they can share with you. The Bold authors don’t discuss this specific type of network, but the role of these members would align with that of closed network members. In turn, they can help widen your open network of people you don’t know personally or work closely with, but who may be willing to support your innovation.
4) A network of prominent or famous industry leaders. They teach you, boost your credibility, and attract outside supporters to your innovation (such as investors, customers, or other supporters: in other words, potential members of your open network). These famous leaders may be part of your closed network, if you know them personally or develop a close business relationship with them. Or, they might be more distant, open-network acquaintances who are nevertheless happy to support you.

How to Create a Closed Network

There are two ways to build a closed network. First, you can recruit in-person members who already know you and who have seen you succeed in the past or want to see you succeed in the future. For example, you could recruit family, friends, colleagues, mentors, or past employers.

(Shortform note: The authors recommend first approaching people who already know you and want to support you. However, this isn’t always an option—what do you do if your family and friends aren’t supportive of your goals? One option is to build close relationships from scratch by finding like-minded people on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, or other public forums. There are likely many other people in similar situations to yours who would be happy to trade their support for yours.)

Second, you can recruit online members who will work closely with you for a small fee—this is a common strategy called crowdsourcing. The authors note that this technique is especially useful because the internet now allows the average person to hire experts to do small but extremely helpful tasks. They recommend recruiting online members through websites like Freelancer or Fiverr

(Shortform note: While many experts agree on the benefits of crowdsourcing in today’s age of technology, there are also a few downsides that you should be aware of before getting started. For example, ensure that you’re handing your intellectual property over to someone whom you trust to maintain confidentiality—if not, someone else could steal your idea. Further, crowdsourcing multiple freelancers adds complexity that makes your project harder to manage.)

In the sections below, we’ll discuss the three primary ways you can use your closed network members to accomplish your micro-goals and build credibility.

Use #1: Critical Feedback

The first and easiest way to use your closed network to accomplish your micro-goals is to ask for their critical feedback—their opinions and advice. For example, imagine that one of your micro-goals is to hold a conference to discuss animal welfare. You can make a request to your closed network—in-person members, online members, or both—to review the schedule you’ve designed for the conference. Or, you can request that they review and critique your topics for discussion or add topics to the list.

Use #2: Connections

According to the authors, the second way you can use your closed network to accomplish your micro-goals is by borrowing their credibility and connections. The people in your closed network have likely built credibility in their own industries and have their own closed network that they can extend to you. 

For example, members of your network might know important people who’d be interested in your animal welfare conference, such as veterinarians, animal shelter owners, welfare society presidents, farm owners, pet foster parents, and so on. 

Gaining public support from these secondhand connections will boost your public credibility. Some of these connections might even decide to become a member of your closed network, extending your web of connections further.

(Shortform note: In Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi also emphasizes the importance of borrowing the credibility and connections of network members. As previously noted, he calls these types of members “super-connectors.” He explains that there are eight types of super-connectors you should try to recruit to your closed network: high-class restaurateurs, headhunters, political lobbyists, politicians, fundraisers, PR professionals, journalists, and social media gurus. These people are likely to have dozens, if not hundreds, of professional contacts that they can share, and who can help you succeed.)

Use #3: Resources

The third way you can use your closed network to accomplish your micro-goals is by gathering resources. The authors recommend requesting that your in-person closed network donate resources to your cause. For example, you could request your network members make donations for your conference—money, podiums, chairs, tables, food, and so on. You can also request that specific members donate specific resources—for example, if one of your network members owns a hotel, you can ask to use their conference room for the event. 

Online closed members can be recruited to provide resources in exchange for a small fee. This will be especially useful to complete smaller tasks that are important but that you might not have the time or expertise to do yourself. For example, you might want to create a poster to advertise your company, but you’re not a design expert—you can hire someone to do this for you. Or, you might want to create a video introducing your innovation at your conference, but you don’t know how to edit—crowdsourcing allows you to easily find someone who does.

How to Build Networks in Business & Gain Support

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Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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