Why human connection is key for your small business

One of the best things I ever did before I started my business was create a list of people I wanted to meet in person. 

The list gave me the confidence to get started.

It was 2015 and I knew I wanted to resign from my executive marketing role, but I didn't know exactly how I was going to make the leap. While on holiday with my husband and son, I took a notebook to a sun lounger, lay down and literally started scribbling down names of people that could help me create my own business.

The list included people who had ever said, "Oh, I need help with my marketing" or "Fiona, how do I write better copy for my website?" or "Do you know anyone who could help me with social media?". These were friends of friends, my sibling's friends and even my husband's cousins. 

Next, I added anyone I'd ever come into contact with at work who had taken the leap to start their own business, as well as people I'd seen speak at events who I'd found inspiring. I also made a list of all the companies I thought were doing good things in Australia, where I'm based. I didn't have contacts for these companies, so I simply wrote 'CEO / MD' next to them.

By the time I'd finished I had a list of 62 names. Even just looking at it gave me the confidence to know that someone, within those 62 names, would hire me or help me get hired.

How I used my list to grow my business

When we returned home I started meeting with these people, one by one to discuss how I - as an independent business owner - could help them. I took to LinkedIn and contacted the CEOs and Managing Directors at the companies I'd listed. Surprisingly, 90% agreed to meet me for a wine / coffee. Within a month I'd locked in three clients, one of which was a 6-month project allowing me to resign from my job with security. 

The point of this story is that we often forget the networks we already have or we stay safe and don't get outside our comfort zone when it comes to meeting others, even when we know they could help us. 

Who’s on your list?

Spend some time writing your own list of people who could help your business grow. They might be people you've seen at events, people who run a similar business to yours who might act as a mentor, people you've read about or seen on TV or heard in podcasts, friends of friends, people you've admired on social media or even family relations that you may not have felt confident approaching in the past.

Some good places to start include:

  • exporting your LinkedIn contacts

  • reviewing your social media followers and friends

  • sifting through any business cards you have received

  • flipping through business-related magazines or publications in your area. (Hunter is a great tool for getting direct email addresses). 

People are people and most of them savour the idea of meeting someone who's shown enough courage and drive to contact them. The CEOs I met were all intensely "busy" people running huge companies, but 90% of those I contacted were willing to share their experiences and offer advice to me all for the cost of a wine or coffee. Some of them have become friends I can go to with questions about my business now and, in turn, I've helped them through sharing my own contacts or tools. 

Reach out and make the connection

If you've been thinking about reaching out to another business owner, a friend, a past colleague or someone you just saw speak at an event, transform that thought into action. What's the best that could happen? 

Need a little more courage before making contact with people? I've found this quote so useful in pushing me outside of my comfort zone (it was even the catalyst for me buying a one-way ticket to London at age 20 when I didn't know a soul there). 

Fiona Killackey