Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to help your business connections?

One of the most important resources in business is the number of useful or potentially useful contacts that a person has. Business is all about making money and this might sound harsh. There is no point in having a lot of contacts if you have not been able to or will not be able to gain any advantage in your business by having these many contacts. Business is a different game than a regular employed job. Since you would like to make most out of your contacts you should also in turn try to help your business contacts in whatever way you can. This is the only way a good business networking system can be built. A person running a regular job, as part of his employment, probably would not require any kind of help from anybody else, other than those who have already been assigned to help them. And for those who have been assigned to help them it would be their responsibility to help the person whom they have been assigned to help. The person who is being helped can request/order the person who is helping him/her to help him/her. Simple isn't it. Unless the person is extremely selfless or totally foolish he/she would not (and should not) do things that he/she is supposed to do. So everything is supposed to be run like clockwork.

Additionally an employed person does not need any help in his/her work (other than perhaps when looking for new jobs and some marketing help if he/she is into marketing) from his set of friends and relatives. Even if they wanted to they would not be able to help him/her too much since things are mostly defined and predictable(more often than not) in a regular employment.

However in business there is a small difference. A business owner would be dealing with potential customers all across and all throughout his operations. He/She would be competing against a lot of other players in the market and would be able to use any and all help he/she can get from his/her friends and relatives. Unlike in the previous scenario, a person willing to help would probably be able to massively impact the success or failure of the businessperson.

Now here is the slightly tricky issue. Most of the regular employed friends/relatives of a businessperson would not have any clue about how to help a businessperson. They would always have been employed people and would probably have never needed any professional help from any of their non-co-worker friends and their relatives. They will very likely not understand the position the businessperson would be in and in most cases would not lift their little finger to help the businessperson in any way. This would apply even if the friend/relative sincerely wants the businessperson to succeed and thrive.

At the same time a businessperson would understand the position another businessperson would be in and would gladly lend a helping hand under the unwritten condition/assumption that the other businessperson would help him in a similar scenario. By doing this they would not only help their friend but in turn would be helping themselves in the future indirectly through a return favor.

Each of these businesspersons would know that the other would come to some help in the future or that they would prove to be useful to the other in the future and would therefore not hesitate to ask each other for help and would normally get help when asked for. This is the foundational principle behind business networking. You build more business connections so that these connections would prove to be useful at some time in the future. Effectively you invest in building your business network.

I can give a perfect example of how a simple good word about a businessperson could possibly help the businessperson. In the beginning of this financial year I had written a post on Zyxware Website thanking all the service providers of Zyxware who had rendered us valuable service during the last two years. One of the people whom I had thanked was a DTP center near us. A professor in the US who was searching for somebody in Trivandrum to do his DTP works came across our post and this resulted in him giving regular work to the DTP center. In yet another case another person who was looking for places to get visiting cards done came across the post and got in touch with our service provider and gave him his work.

Now let us come back to the friends and relatives of the businessperson. The probability of a businessperson proving to be as useful for his friends and relatives as for other businesspersons is relatively very low. This is because his/her (non-businessperson) friends and relatives would be normal employed people and they would normally not need any help from the businessperson. If the businessperson asks for help he/she would effectively be soliciting a transaction where he/she would most probably remain a debtor to another person. In my opinion no self-respecting businessperson [with a reasonably big ego :)] would want to do this and put himself/herself in such a position.

One of the easiest ways in which people can help businesspersons whom they would like to help is to put in a good word or two to other people they know and to possible customers of the businessperson. This might sound trivial but the impact could be statistically explained as highly significant. It has already been proven and well accepted that word-of-mouth marketing is the best marketing strategy. Now to put some numbers to the claim let us consider the following example :-

Suppose a businessperson has 200 friends and relatives, then of these 50% (by a conservative estimate) would want him/her to succeed in her life. Now if an average person has 100 contacts and if the 100 people who wants his/her businessperson friend to succeed tells half of the people they know about this businessperson friend then this word-of-mouth marketing would easily have reached 5000 people. Yes there would be intersections between the sets of contacts but this example should convey the general idea.