Business is all about whom you know. Fortunately, it's easier to get to know the right people than ever before.
One of the biggest challenges as a small-business owner is effectively competing with those who have more resources than you do. And when it comes to resources, there's one that's infinitely more powerful than even money: people. The right connections and relationships can make all the difference in the kind of shots you get to take, the deals you bring in, and the speed at which you grow.
Luckily, the 21st century economy offers myriad opportunities to build relationships with power players that can give you a leg up. It just takes a little creativity and the right kind of persistence.
Here's how to do it.
1. Find a side door
While you may not be able to pick up the phone and ask for favors from the world's captains of industry, there are more indirect ways to get an audience. Even the most powerful CEOs and business celebrities are human beings with personal interests. While everyone else is trying to get a piece of their time or money, try engaging them around the things they love.
Start with social media. It's amazing how much you can find out about the sports, music, movies, books, hobbies, and family matters of even the most sought-after business leaders by simply watching what they talk about on Twitter. Once you've gotten a feel for what they're into, talk to them about it.
Don't try to talk business. Not yet. Definitely don't try to pitch them. In a world where everyone is trying to walk through these people's front door, you'll be amazed by how much easier it is to gain access though the side.
2. Collaboration versus domination
Once you've created ongoing conversations with power players, find a way to invite them to collaborate. For example, let's say you host a weekly podcast. Plan an episode around a topic that will allow one of your new online buddies to share an idea or project that is important to him or her (as long as it's a good fit with your show, of course). Then invite them to appear on it.
By giving a power player the opportunity to gain exposure, it will be more likely that they'll want to help you in the future. More importantly, inviting them to collaborate with you will build the kind of bond that not even the golf course or country club can stand up to.