It's Who You Know

Six Degrees of Success

It would seem that using your six-degree network of contacts is not only smart for business, it's essential. "It's amazing to think that we are connected to every other person on the planet by only six steps, which means there are unlimited business opportunities out there," says Levine.

And if you've learned anything, it's that this isn't just an easy, one-time gig. It's important to keep your six-degree network thriving as you grow your business. "It's a never-ending process. It isn't just going to events and collecting business cards--it's about finding people you can build something with and cultivate a relationship [with]," says Harper. "It's a lot of hard work to build that trust and rapport, but you'll be rewarded handsomely because you're willing to put the time and effort into it." Cultivating your six-degree network is a deliberate and valuable act, so tend to it as you would a garden, and watch the business opportunities grow.

6 Ways to Start 6-degree Networking Right Now
Ready to build and cultivate your own connections? These six action steps will help you get your six-degree network up and running:

  • 1. Make a list of the 250 people most important to you. Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a marketing and sales consulting and training firm in Los Angeles, suggests you consider business leaders, community leaders, friends and family--basically anyone who can help you and to whom you might have something to offer. Start cultivating those relationships.
  • 2. Become a master at relationships. It's not just about picking up the phone; it's about creating long-term connections and developing a real rapport. Ferrazzi says to remember things like your contacts' birthdays and favorite hobbies.
  • 3. Join business and social groups. Start attending meetings, luncheons, mixers, whatever--anything that will build your contact list. "As you grow [your] business, your circle--your network- should grow as well," says Zoe Alexander, networking expert and founder of Divas Who Dine LLC, a women's business networking group in New York City.
  • 4. Assess your attributes. Clearly define what you can bring to the table for all your new contacts. The more you bring to the party, the more willing people will be to help you, Alexander points out.
  • 5. Engage in conversations. No matter where you are, start talking with your seatmate or line buddy. Ask questions about their business or industry and talk a bit about yours, Levine suggests. You'll get ideas, inspiration and, if you're lucky, a really good six-degree contact.
  • 6. Bone up on current events. "Leaders are readers," says Steve Harper, author of The Ripple Effect: Maximizing the Power of Relationships for Your Life and Business. To be relevant to your desired contacts, you've got to stay abreast of news, happenings and the like. Doing so will also give you good conversation-starters for any networking situation.
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This article was originally published in the December 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: It's Who You Know.

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