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7 critical steps from a lone business founder to a winning team

You can’t win as a new venture founder working alone. You need to have business relationships with team members, investors, customers and myriad other support people. That doesn’t mean you have to be a social butterfly to succeed or introverts need not apply.

It does mean that you need to look, listen and participate in the business world around you and network through all available channels, like business-oriented social networks online (LinkedIn), local business organizations (Chamber of Commerce) and events or conferences in your school or industry.

I hope all this seems obvious to you, but I still get a good number of notes from “technologists” who have been busy inventing things all their life but can’t find a partner to start their first business and others trying to find an executive, an investor or a lawyer.

What these people need is more relationships, not more experts, more blogs or more books. So I thought I would drop back to some essentials in building and nurturing business relationships (most of these apply to personal relationships as well):

1. Build your network

These are people of all levels who have been there and done that, meaning people who know something that you need to know.

See this article from a while back, “Why Professional Networking Is the Missing Piece to Your Success,” on how and where to get started. You don’t need a thousand friends, but a few real ones can make all the difference.

2. Give and you will receive

Relationships need to be two-way, and can’t be just all about you. If you are active in helping others with what you know, they will be much more open to helping you when you need it. The more you give, the more you get in return, both literally and figuratively.

3. Work on your elevator pitch

This is a concise, well-practiced description of your idea or your business, delivered with conviction to start a relationship in the time it takes to ride up an elevator. It should end by asking for something, to start the relationship.

4. Don’t skip all business social settings

Face time is critical, even with the current rage on social networks, phone texting, and email. Studies show that as much as 50 to 90% of communication is body language. That’s usually the important relationship part.

5. Nominate someone as your mentor

Build a two-way relationship with several people who can help you, and then kick it up a notch with one or more, by asking them to be your mentor. Most entrepreneurs love to help others and will be honoured to help you.

6. Cultivate existing allies

These are people who already know and believe in you, but may not be able to help you directly in your new endeavours. But don’t forget that each of these allies also has their own network, which can be an extension of yours, if you treat them well.

7. Nurture existing relationships

We all know someone who claims to be a “close friend,” but never initiates anything. They never call, they never write and wait for you to make the first move. If you don’t follow up on a regular basis with someone, there is no relationship, only a former acquaintance.

On the positive side, many attributes of an introvert lead to better business decisions, such as thinking before speaking, building deep relationships and researching problems more thoroughly.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, is currently the most famous introvert entrepreneur, so don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.

One of Mark’s secrets seems to have been to surround himself with extroverts like COO Sheryl Sandberg and people who have a complementary energy.

But working alone doesn’t get you very far. It takes a team to win in the game of business, so take a look around you to see how you are doing so far.

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