“I Got a Guy”

7/20/10

A friend of mine likes to make fun of me because I often say: “I got a guy.” You want to find the healthcare plan to fit your needs? I got a guy. Need your apartment cleaned? I got a guy. Need a social media maven with a joint drama and business degree from Yale? I got a guy gal.

In business, this is simply called a network. And for an entrepreneur or a venture capitalist, a network is vital.

Does it ever feel like every great venture has at least one “brand name” investor? If it is not Fred Wilson, then maybe Ron Conway. If not Brad Feld then maybe Josh Kopelman?

What do these investors have in common? Deep and talented networks.

For a VC, the depth and quality of her network dictates the quality of deals she sees and when she sees them. The “brand name” VC sees the best deals before almost anyone else. Why? Because she can and will introduce her portfolio companies to the highest quality talent, the most important clients, the vital industry contacts, etc.

For an entrepreneur, a healthy network may be even more important. A typical Fortune 500 employee can call a human resources department to help hire, fire, and support employees, a corporate mentor to get timely advice, a marketing department to design and deliver collateral materials, and so forth. She has an organization full of resources around her. In contrast, nobody on the receiving end of an entrepreneur’s call has a professional mandate to help. Thus, an entrepreneur must build a network full of people who want to help.

Keith Ferrazzi a networking expert and best-selling author, uses this tag line on his blog: “Business is human. Relationships power growth.” The importance of a strong network is clear. It is less clear, however, how such a network can be built.

Here are some recommendations:

Bring value to every conversation.

No matter how small your network, you can help someone else with ideas, introductions (potential hire, client, funding), or simply as a sounding board. If you can’t think of anything during your chat, do some research and send information about a relevant event, book, website, or industry news source as follow up.

Be brief.

Nothing can end a potential relationship more quickly than a lack of respect for someone else’s time. Begin every chat by asking: “Is this still a good time?” Ask for a live meeting if you can, as this is where the strongest connections are made, but do not expect more than 30 minutes and be prepared for 20. If you are asking for something, be tight in your pitch.

Be specific.

One way to get what you want and save time, is to state your request clearly. “This is what I need.” “This is what I am trying to do.” Even better: “This is how you can help.”

Get Introduced.

If at all possible, do not cold call. Get an introduction. Use LinkedIn to find a common contact, no matter how indirect. An introduction is a stamp of approval and provides at least some assurance to the recipient that you are worthy of help.

Follow up by staying relevant, but do not be annoying!

A contact may appreciate it if you send articles, event invitations, updates on progress, or introductions. Try to keep some kind of record, even if just your outbox, to track the timing of your correspondence.

At the end of the day, creating a network takes work. One must constantly be thinking about others and acting appropriately on those thoughts. Networks are built by being consistent, thoughtful, selfless, and active. In the end, the goal is to be able to say in any situation: “I got a guy.”

Matt Shapiro is the Author and Founder of the Entrepreneur’s Census (www.bit.ly/entrecensus) and the Chief Executive Officer of Tooble, a new educational software venture. Contact: matt.shapiro@yale.edu. Follow: @entrecensus Follow @

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • Pingback: Xconomy: “I Got a Guy” « 2010 Entrepreneur’s Census

  • http://www.freshtilledsoil.com Richard Banfield

    Love this approach. We call it the “you should meet” method. In every conversation we train our team to think about how they can help the folks they meet by introducing them to others. It’s amazing how quickly the good karma of introducing people to each other comes around again.

  • http://www.bit.ly/entrecensus Matt Shapiro

    I love that Richard. Even more to the point. The site looks great. Congratulations!

  • http://www.deepskyaccounting.com W. Michael Hsu, CPA

    Hey Matt. Thank you so much on the share and you are absolutely right on the importance of a network. Always helpful to reconfirm the idea and act on it.

  • http://www.bit.ly/entrecensus Matt Shapiro

    Agreed Michael. Reminders help as it certainly requires consistent effort. Thanks!

  • Mark

    The word “thoughtful” rings true. So very important to provide something of value in those interactions, and the recipient needs to clearly see that value. Sending along market intelligence or self serving info. can really backfire, at least initially. The time will come for that, after you have shown how you can assist that person in other areas. Great article, nice and concise.

  • http://www.bit.ly/entrecensus Matt Shapiro

    I agree completely Mark. Thanks for sharing your insight and for the kind feedback.

  • http://STORMSassociates.com Mary Storms

    Matt, this is excellent & practical perspective on what we glibly call networking. I’ve been replacing the word “networking” with “resourcing,” a concept which makes EVERY conversation worthwhile, even if it doesn’t immediately advance a sale. Thanks for the quick refresher course. Mary

  • http://www.stpetersburgwebdesigner.com dubROD