The worst mistake a small business owner can make is to believe that they can go it alone. For starters, as the phrase goes- a business is simply a hobby until someone pays you for your product. No business can make money without a customer and therefore you are never working alone. If you break down the process of product creation to purchase, you’ll also see the need for an incredible number of people to achieve that sale. Who are these people? How can they make that sale easier? What if I can’t pay them?

As a solo-entrepreneur or small partnership team behind a start-up you need to constantly be cultivating connections through communication. It doesn’t mean pitching every person you meet, but it does mean listening to everything they say and understanding how the people you know might be of help to others and how they might be of help to you. The next person you come into contact with could be a future vendor, partner, supplier, investor, client, customer, mentor or simply a bridge to someone of value. Your dog just sniffed another dog at the park? Apologize to the owner and strike up a conversation. They could be the person that solves that lingering problem for you.

You might be thinking, “But I’m shy, I’m not a people person and I’m unpopular!” There is no valid excuse. Those are all surmountable obstacles given a bit of training, practice and encouragement. If a conversation doesn’t work out the way you hoped- move on to the next one. As you grow confident in speaking about your business you will attract people interested in helping you see it succeed. It takes time and effort, but so does everything.

So, how do we build these powerful connections in the modern era of high-speed, tech fueled communication?

3 Tips for Becoming the Connected Entrepreneur without Leaving Your Office

Join professional social networks
Such as Google+, LinkedIn and Klout. Immediately add your contacts from your email database and invite those not participating to join. Then, start grooming your direct connections for indirect, secondary relationships that might be able to contribute to your business. Ask for an introduction and suggest an informal conversation or meet-up. Do this weekly and build out exponentially.

Create a link driven content strategy
Write a blog. Run a Tumblr page. Curate a Twitter feed. Generate a Pinterest movement. There are dozens of platforms, but it is the execution that breeds success in terms of establishing new connections. Each time you choose to share something across any one of these mediums, take the time to reference where your inspiration is coming from, credit other experts, direct your audience to the websites that you love and admire… eventually your influence in driving traffic to others will help drive traffic to you. Today I retweeted a comment by someone I look up to: @seanaiken and soon after found that he was following me too. We may not be in direct contact yet, but grounds have been established for communication. (For more on Sean Aiken and his amazing mission checkout his TEDtalk video here)

Identify partnerships
Does someone do something complimentary to you or perhaps even the same thing? Do they provide a service to the same target audience that your own customers would be interested in? Does their product or service potentially enhance your own offerings? Every time you encounter a fellow entrepreneur or fresh brand you should be asking these questions. If the answers are yes, then you should investigate the possible benefits of a partnership or collaborative agreement.Good brands become great by leveraging other great brands through mutually beneficial strategies that enhance the consumer experience.

Start checking out industry related websites and contacting other executives to learn more about what they do. I recently came across an impressive new e-commerce venture called FiveFourClub while watching a favorite news program. Their service of sending hand selected, business casual clothing items to men each month seemed like a perfect match for the busy entrepreneurs that I work with. Within minutes I had contacted them directly via their website and secured a partnership for offering my clients memberships via a referral program. It generates added revenue for me while also giving my customers another piece to their personal brand building process: a professional wardrobe makeover without setting foot in a store.

3 Ways to Tell if Your Online Connecting Strategy is Working

Empowering partnerships come to you
Just recently I was looking at a friend of a friend’s profile on LinkedIn because they worked for a brand that I admire and would love to work with. Serendipitously, they noticed I had visited and contacted me because they wanted to know more about what I do. Lucky? Perhaps. However, I put myself in position to be seen. Put yourself in position to create connections.

Your traffic and audience grow
By endorsing others you are positioning yourself to attract their attention and receive their endorsement in return. With that comes the possible attention of their entire network- who may just start listening to you and inquiring about what it is you bring to the market.

Your reputation becomes more credible
It is hard to argue that popular people often speak the loudest, but what many people also fail to recognize is that popular people are also viewed as more credible. As you grow your network and more people both know and support you, you will find that your sales conversions take far less work and seemingly handle themselves. Suddenly your brand awareness turns to brand loyalty and that, my friends, is what every entrepreneur hopes to sustain.

While I appreciate you reading and absorbing, I hope you also see this as a chance to connect with me. Please comment below or email me: jeff@c2bseen.com or follow me: @c2bseen on Twitter and let’s build some lasting bridges. 

-Jeff Tomczek, Founder and Lead Strategist

 
 
Being clear of the worst, I am now able to comfortably state that I spent the last year engaged in a medical crisis. As June approaches I am reminded of where I was this time a year ago and still surprised at how naive I really was when my body began to shut down on me. Then 27 and a lifelong athlete with no prior medical problems, I simply told myself that the strange dizzy spells, bouts of weakness in my legs and sudden shortness of breath I was experiencing had everything to do with my devotion to my business and lack of dedication to diet/exercise.

As a busy solo entrepreneur transitioning from part-time consultant/freelancer to full-time business owner it became the norm to grab whatever was convenient for meals- like a slice, burgers and burritos, drown each bite with caffeine and then neglect the gym in exchange for a few drinks at the bar to unwind.

As the strange symptoms went from occasional moments of oddity to blatantly obvious reasons for concern, I went through the excuses: I’m not eating that well, I’m not sleeping that well (I had a terrible habit of staying up until 4am working and starting again at 10am) or I’m not getting enough fitness. I was also devoting a considerable amount of time to my then girlfriend and ignoring my own needs in regards to time and emotional fulfillment from friends/family.

In other words, I was neglecting all of the critical factors for personal health: physical fitness, nutrition, human connection and rest. For the average person looking in it was pretty obvious that I was in need of a massive shift in lifestyle. As an entrepreneur I simply didn’t have the time to deal with it. If only I could go back and shake myself for such ignorance.

When I began feeling an aggressive and uncomfortable aching in my lower abdomen I knew that I had walked to the end of the line with whatever was impacting my health. On June 3rd, after weeks of encouragement from those close to me, I casually ventured into the emergency room. Of course, I had saved the trip for the end of the day- as I made time to take a lunch meeting with a friend and preview a venue for a client event with my intern first. Once again, taking care of me was my last priority.

When the ER nurse at check-in first looked at me she blurted out, ‘you look terrible’.  I was pale, weak and immediately worried. It was becoming evident that my self-diagnosis of needing a simple prescription to correct some small dietary imbalance was far from reality. The average human has a hemoglobin level of 13-17, which is really a measure of the amount of oxygen in your blood. Tests indicated my level was 4.7 that day. I was later told I should have had a heart attack or stroke weeks before. I was admitted for a barrage of follow-up tests. It was already known that I was severely anemic. A few days later, like a silent bullet ripping through me while I walked down the sidewalk, the true diagnosis came.  

‘You have leukemia’. I was no longer the founder of my own company, a soccer player or a writer… the only title that now resonated with my identity was the one that we all dread: cancer patient. It was a term I had heard before and immediately associated with death.

Fortunately, I was built for the battle that lay ahead and I had the support around me to fight through the 5 months of treatment, stem-cell transplant and on-going maintenance that followed. Luckily, I am able to write this blog feeling near normal health again and with a new found vigor for bringing C2Bseen services to socially-conscious and passionate entrepreneurs who are working to realize their own visions. However, without a mix of luck and miracle involved, my fortune could just as easily been tragedy.

In recent weeks I have had some transformative conversations with individuals exploring their deepest inner purpose and wishes for a life of fulfillment. While financial concerns, professional aspirations and ambitious tangible goals are a piece of that puzzle, our talks always seem to come back to the simple things that construct a real platform for happiness and success; the same things I was ignoring while blindly believing all my time and energy had to go toward my start-up.

The lesson I learned the hard way, but am richer for knowing, is that without self-preservation of your innate human needs you are depriving yourself of the possibility for professional longevity. A sick, exhausted, discontent and disconnected entrepreneur at the helm will only breed a similar culture. An absent entrepreneur forced into the hospital won’t be able to work at all. The rule is clear: when you ignore you the work will suffer, growth will be stunted and creativity will stall.

There are a thousand quotes that claim that the successful business person gets there by burying their head and digging in. In theory this is accurate: you will need to work as hard as or harder than everyone you know and most certainly your competition. However, there is such a thing as a business that fits your lifestyle and you should be open and honest about what you need on a personal level in order to build a prosperous company.

Entrepreneurs that fail to recognize the need for purity in mind, body and soul are setting themselves up for almost certain ruin. Heed my warning before an irreversible wake-up call does it for you.