How "Who you know" Matters...
Hearing the phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know" used to scratch my proverbial chalkboard. It resonated with me as "unless you know that 'someone', don't bother..." Being a hard-working go-giver, I never wanted the cynical side of this statement to disrupt my Pollyanna belief that my diligence would prevail.
I do get it - some people appear to schmooze their way ahead of an existing line-of-succession, bumping you from what seemed rightfully your promotion. Someone with better connections than abilities lands "your spot" and up goes the victim's violin.
Having spent 20 years in retail management, I'm no stranger to that experience. Looking back now, I realize that it was also a mantra of doom. "I'll never get that position, since every new director brings in their own arsenal of people to block my next rung of the ladder."
YES, there will always be the turds-of-life, who appear to be paid to spew their dysfunctions, vs. investing in leadership training, or better, counseling. Similarly, there will also be the cheaters who copy or squelch your work to claim the merit of your work. In either case, these hypothetical turds are like a mirror to show us who we are and what we are made of.
But what if neither of these is the case? What if it really was something missing in your own formula?
Now 21+ years self-employed, I discovered that my accountability has far more bearing on my fate than pointing at exterior forces. For me to grow my business, I really DO need to "know the right people". More than that, it's really not who you know, as much as it is, knowing the right people, that know the right people...
We all share common-denominator clients, and sometimes they are the least expected industries to consider connecting with.
As example, I now specialize in headshots. In the 90's, I ran from this service, since it seemed that only realtors were seeking it, and nearly every one of them offered me "great exposure" (of my work/their photo) if I'd do it for free. Little did I know, that my lack of confidence was likely more to blame than some imbalanced quid pro quo offer. I raised my session price to $249 (in 2006) to project a different statement, and began to attract more clients that saw the value.
Today, there are huge numbers of businesses that now seek this service. Growth-savvy entrepreneurs and salespeople, who know better than to project amateur to their LinkedIn profiles. (Car selfies and "big game" kill are not the greatest relationship-building messages - IMHO)
Realtors are still a noteworthy percentage of my headshots, but today they will invest. Knowing that they are inundated with competition, the name of the game is to build credible, professional working relationships.
So, if my goal is to reach more realtors, I need to be front-of-mind not just to my potential subjects, but to the people who realtors spend a great deal of time interacting with. Title, escrow, mortgage brokers etc.
As example, I have a great ally named Justin Stoddart. He is much more than a title guy - Justin is an educator. He has a value proposition that he brings to our shared clients - realtors. In the first few months of our friendship alone, Justin referred me a half-dozen realtors that he knew were in need of some marketing content and/or headshots.
Some of those have become loyal, growing/returning clients, all because a photographer made friends with a title guy. What I call a "WHOA moment" (Wisdom Happening on Accident) So, "who you know" really does matter, but not in derogatory terms.
What's even better, it goes both ways. I used to believe that I really needed to connect with marketing professionals, so that I could be their go-to source for marketing images. Striving and seeking now feel like scarcity (scare-city) behaviors. Today, I seek for an opportunity to give them the boost in business.
I am in contact with countless inventors & entrepreneurs that are just getting their products or services launched. Because of this, I have become a great resource and solution for web designers and SEO/SEM champions. Rather than being the go-getter, I am honored to do what I enjoy even more as a go-giver!
Connecting my clients with these resources that they need is one of my favorite parts of my work. A part that has perpetuated the growth of my business, all just by giving what I love to receive.
So, butt-kissers aside, there really is a charm to the formula of making sure that you know the right people. You don't have to suck up to move up, you merely need to remember who you know, that others might benefit from knowing. When you make these connections, for no intended gain of your own, the rewards will surprise you.
Best of success! You ARE your own economy!