By Phil D'Amico, Director of Business Development
I have always been fascinated with the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” law. This phenomenon ties and connects any actor in Hollywood, or for that matter any one person, to, somehow, an affiliation with Kevin Bacon. The real Six Degrees of Separation law is the notion that all people are SIX or fewer social connections away from each other. As a result of this, a “friend of a friend” chain reaction occurs, whereby a connection occurs for any two people in a maximum of six steps. So, we are in fact connected by a friend of a friend, who has friend, whose friend is connected to our friend, who also has a friend; thus, we are all connected. Whew! Follow that? I’m glad you understand it.
The whole point of this explanation is that, through the power of networking and building our networks, many relationships are formed today that can have a long-lasting positive effect on the success of our businesses and our bottom lines. I know I am preaching to the choir here, but probably never in our nation’s history of modern business commerce, has networking been more instrumental in our abilities to grow our organizations.
Sales vs. Business Development
The term “salesman” or “sales representative” has been replaced by business development or business developer. The sales term has a kind of negative connotation, in that when you make a sale there is a distinct beginning and end to a transaction. The sales concept can be described as, I have a need, you have a product or service; I will purchase said product or service from you in terms of our agreement; then said sale is over. When you describe the sterile sales process like that, even I can’t get excited by a transaction creating wealth for a company. There is a sense that the “sale” is a finality to a process. The “sales” process is a 100-yard dash with a start line and finish line.
On the other hand, a business developer starts the relationship with a less formal process, then continues to cultivate business, developing a relationship with the client based on mutual trusts, interests, commonalities, and an informal agreement to continue to look for ways to strengthen the relationship that will help lead to even greater growth for multiple organizations in the future. The business development process is more of a marathon than a sprint. You may start out slower knowing it is a long race, gain a steady pace, then close with a strong sprint. Like a marathon, you cannot immediately see the finish line, but with endurance you will get there.
Relationships & Networking
I know I am preaching to the choir here part two, but companies today must get creative with how they build and strengthen their business relationships and networks. Recently within our industry (the construction industry), our organization has participated in “Lunch and Learns” with key sub-contractors that add significant value to determining the success of our work on a project. We bring in a sub at lunch, have them present a little on their business, discuss business trends, opportunities where we could utilize their organization in greater ways, as well as have open dialogue on how our two firms can work more closely together to help each other succeed and increase the bottom line.
We have recently done a couple of these in our office where key people from our vendor’s firm come visit many of our key and strategic people within our company. Having the company visit our location gives the vendor a chance to meet a host of people that they may never have a chance to meet, as it is almost impossible to get 20 key people out to see or visit their company. The vendor can connect with several people that they may never have had a chance to see. Recently we also had an open house for any sub-contractor who wanted to visit and learn about our company, tour our facility, and again meet as many of the people that they have heard of but never met, talked to before, or had a previous affiliation within their business circles.
Another networking game changer has obviously been social media. So many social media sites allow people the ability to network and connect with others they normally would never have a chance to meet otherwise. I look at my LinkedIn for instance: I have over 10,000 connections in my portfolio. Do I know them all? Absolutely not. What LinkedIn does allow a person to do is to learn more about what products, services, skills and professional opportunities are out there that companies can better learn about, work closer together, and see how a potential partnership can beneficial to both bottom lines.
Research of power and influence has shown that people who are highly networked tend to be five times more influential than those not as networked. Network power does not just stop at the connection stage. Network power and influence is built on how effectively you develop a relationship; one that is built on trust, desire to help, and the provision that you will provide an exemplary product or service. You never know when you may be able to utilize one of those 10,000 people to help you solve a real problem.
Lastly and most recently, we at Holladay at a chance to attend the South Bend Chamber of Commerce Business Expo. While most trade shows can be very costly and a huge amount of key company stakeholder’s time and attention, this regional expo provided a more intimate feel of connecting and reconnecting with old friends, new friends, and friends that we may over-look from time to time. The one aspect of a business to business regional trade show like this the ability to connect with anyone and everyone from the President of an organization on down. You truly get a big opportunity to spend real quality time with people who ultimately are the ones who make things happen in their communities and are considered the key stakeholders for the region.
My Six Degrees
As you can see there are several ways to create that “Six Degrees to Separation”. I have been very fortunate to have a chance to get involved in each-and-every way possible to build upon my network using all resources. By the way, I recently had the pleasure of meeting and talking to NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq played for the Los Angles Lakers where he won three NBA titles. Guess who sat courtside and used to talk to Shaq before home games? Kevin Bacon. I now know Shaquille O’Neal, who knows Kevin Bacon, therefore, I too am connected to Kevin Bacon and so are the thousands of people I have ever met or come in contact with. That Kevin Bacon Law really works. Happy networking everyone.