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How Networking and Relationships Propel Entrepreneurs to Succeed Try not to be the smartest person in the room.

By Tom Popomaronis

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Birds of a feather flock together. Driven people gather at reunions, meet-ups, conferences, team-building events and company dinners. They inspire everyone in the room, give encouragement and connect founders with investors and experts. Like it or not, untrustworthy and pessimistic folks are kept outside of such circles.

Networking and business relationships are powerful for several reasons. Many jobs and sales prospects are actually secret: For whatever reason, employers or potential customers don't advertise that they're hiring or buying. They often move around anonymously at cocktail parties and eavesdrop on conversations. It's your job to uncover these people so you or a business associate can fill their business needs. You won't get there unless they're comfortable with you, or unless a friend or business associate opens the door for you.

Here's why you should form bonds with rising professionals and business owners.

Ambitious people converge on the road to success

Though we live in a modern world that's bombarded by ringtones and emails, humans remain tribal. We're inclined to trust referrals and recommendations by someone who already belongs to that business tribe or social circle.

I spoke with entrepreneur Benjamin Dinkins to get his thoughts on the importance of networking. He has a background in network marketing and founded software company Kodion Consulting. "Most successful and wealthy people that I know value comfort, so if they're not comfortable around you what makes you think they would value your time?" says Dinkins, who has leveraged partnerships to improve business strengths and cover weaknesses. "Will they get a positive thought when your name pops up?"

Related: Use Your Employee Referral Program in Social Recruiting

Between 70-85 percent of corporate jobs are filled by some type of networking. Which means well-connected job seekers have access to a large but hidden job market. And 40 percent of hires come from referrals. Similarly, startup owners can find sales referrals from connections. Managers, executives and entrepreneurs who are in-the-know open back doors through informal chats, barbecues, wedding anniversaries and late-night calls.

Life isn't fair. And while performance is paramount in business, it's not always "fair" either. Tribal back doors are a cheat code. A once-inconsequential MBA roommate can actually land you a massive government contract.

You learn beliefs and behaviors of inspiring people

We can observe empowering paradigms and constructive behaviors that are exhibited by powerful executives and business owners. And we can apply these to our own lives, and thereby eliminate negative or dysfunctional conduct that sabotage our dreams.

"Energy and enthusiasm are difficult to teach so I always keep in mind what I want someone to feel after our encounter," says Dinkins, who started his first business at the age of 14. "Lose the script when you meet people. Be authentic and become the most improved version of yourself."

The pandemic is making it difficult to network face-to-face. For virtual meet-ups, Dinkins advises professionals and entrepreneurs to cut to the chase: "With digital networking, you must get to the point with the least amount of words."

The pandemic has also led to millions in job losses, but well-connected professionals and business owners can be more resilient if they have a database of contacts. A consequence of Covid-19 is fast-growing opportunities in healthcare, finance and remote technologies. For example, companies are scrambling to hire occupancy planners who can coordinate social-distancing protocols.

According to LinkedIn's July 2020 research, fast-gaining jobs include contact tracers, health and safety managers, loan specialists, occupancy planners and medical product salespeople. If you're seeking business opportunities, you may already know people who belong to these sectors.

A relationship can become valuable years from now

In our lifetime, we are introduced to thousands of individuals, both personal and professional. They include classmates; college roommates; coworkers; business partners; customers; suppliers; extended family; neighbors; and everyone in between. The key is to stay in touch with uplifting and talented individuals.

"There's a difference between professional networking and trying to get something for yourself," says Dinkins. "Professionals understand the relationship may come to value five years down the road." He adds that the best networking advice he ever received came from his mother: "Dress nice, be kind, and meet a lot of people throughout your life."

People who are going places congregate with like-minded individuals. Their bond creates value and wealth for everyone involved. It's synergy.

Related: What to Do If You've Lost Your Job Recently

Building this type of network can increase your chances of success exponentially. That's because all tribe members are incentivized to help each other. Synergy creates win-win situations for participants. If you're an entrepreneur, you can catch a big break by meeting a large buyer; or by pitching an investor who knows your industry inside and out; or by interviewing an engineer who holds patents or innovations that you seek.

Keep networking. Build relationships and help people. A rising tide lifts everyone.

Tom Popomaronis

Executive Vice President of Innovation at Massive Alliance

Tom Popomaronis is executive vice president of innovation at Massive Alliance, a global agency that provides executive-reputation management and leadership-branding services.

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