Let’s let go of the idea of the lone wolf, once and for all.
We have this idea of the entrepreneur as a solo figure — an ambitious, solitary adventurer willing to stand apart from the crowd and risk it all on the strength of a really great idea. That description does have some truth to it. Entrepreneurs do tend to break off from the pack and they do shoulder a lot of risk when they do so. But they shouldn’t be doing it alone.
The thing is, it’s vitally important for an entrepreneur to have a close network of people who they can rely on for support and advice, not to mention the ability to be able to spitball ideas and get honest feedback.
It doesn’t have to be a big group. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Your close network should be a small group of people immediately around you — people who you trust and speak to regularly and honestly.
This group should understand both you and your business on a level where they are able to help you identify opportunities and interpret your experiences, as well as help you find wisdom in the decisions you make on a daily basis.
Dennis Mortenson is the CEO and founder of x.ai, a cutting-edge technology company. x.ai has created an artificial intelligence personal assistant that lets busy people focus on more valuable tasks by taking care of the work of negotiating and scheduling meetings. When it comes to building up a close personal network, Mortenson has some key insights to share:
1. Trust is key.
There is little point in including people in your network if you are unable to rely on them, whether that means their trusting in their expertise or in their willingness to follow-through on promises. “I certainly like the idea of having a trusted network to the extent where you don’t have to look over your shoulder to see whether they do what you thought they would do,” Mortenson stresses. If you find yourself unable to count on a confidante, it’s time to reassess.
2. Build your relationships.
A network is most valuable when you know each others’ strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. Having a trusted group of advisers and partners, who you share a history with and know on a deep professional level, offers an element of security and comfort when venturing into uncharted waters. “Having some set-up in your corner that you have a pre-existing relationship with is extremely valuable. Anybody who is able to do that should try to take advantage of it,” advises Mortenson. “That’s not always possible, but if you can, you should really try to do that. I’m a huge fan of that.”
3. Don’t let go of a good thing.
If you have a group that you click well with, it’s a good idea to try to keep that going. It’s easier than starting again with a new group. “The way I’ve ended up solving that is simply by bringing over the team from my last venture. We’ve used the exact same investors with the exact same distribution in our prior ventures,” says Mortenson.
A lot of times, the biggest ideas are the ones that are totally out of reach. Building a great network isn’t. Your best network partners are already in your contacts list. Reach out and connect them in a meaningful way now.
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