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Looking for an Edge for Your Startup? Call in the Sharks. It helps to have some experts in your corner. Learn how to assemble your own review team of mentors who will provide unbiased, experienced advice.

By Dan Antonelli Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Building a business in today's economy is one dangerous undertaking.

As shows like Shark Tank depict, hungry competitors are waiting at the gates to snatch up the next big idea or service. You might overcome a major business barrier today only to be swallowed up by another menacing challenge tomorrow.

And while no one can predict the future, it helps if you have some solid predictions and counsel in your corner.

So how can you, some of today's startup hopefuls break through the barrage? By teaming up with a Shark team of our own. Here's how:

Related: Forget Advisors -- How to Find and Woo a Power Mentor

Know the Sharks in your industry. To be a true industry mover and shaker, do some homework. Who are the current influencers making waves? Who is their up-and-coming competition? Do any of these people have connections to anyone in your network?

Once you know who's changing the game, make a connection. You want your interaction to be meaningful and memorable, so think of a way to help this person before asking for something.

Step outside your comfort zone, become known on social media and make a point of meeting professionals within your industry. When you come across someone who seems like a good fit, send him or her a handwritten note, check up on that person's latest work and don't be dismayed if the message is not answered. Consistency is what will unlock the doors to new opportunity.

After you get a dialogue going with the professional you've targeted, ask if it's possible to check in with him or her on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Maybe it's a simple phone call or an email exchange. It might even be a lunch meeting or a special event. Whatever is the case, be explicit about intentions and easy to engage with. Keeping the meetups fairly frequent will land you atop that person's list of potential referrals for new opportunities.

Related: Shark Tank's Robert Herjavec on Great Business Pitches and Why Sales Reps Need to Be Chameleons

Building rapport. Once both of you have agreed to keep in touch, it's up to you to keep the link active. Remember, having concrete goals means holding yourself accountable. The onus is on you, so reach out consistently and make it a point to provide great insight to this other person.

All it takes is a hot tip, a business referral or a great book recommendation to keep the relationship meaningful. If you can do this for every interaction, you'll have something truly special.

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Schedule time on the calendar, spend some additional moments researching and try something dramatically new each month. You'll have a great story to tell and an endless reserve of material, allowing you to speak in a confident, engaging way.

Once you feel comfortable enough, bend that peron's ear about a pain point in your current business endeavors. How would this expert approach the situation or formulate a solution? Regardless of whether the response is informative or not, always show appreciation. You never know if this perspective will come in handy when the next big obstacle comes your way.

Related: Diversity Defines Our Global Economy. Do You Speak the Language?

Diversify your portfolio. An inner circle filled with professionals only from the same industry will only get you so far. That's why you need to be on the lookout for refreshing and creative characters, people with truly unique personalities and skill sets. You may have little in common with a given individual, yet his or her views and character could end up being the linchpin to your company's next innovation.

Don't limit yourself to a clique or common crowd. Instead, look to befriend those of different backgrounds and cultures. You're a part of a global community now. Take advantage of it! Surround yourself with positive, self-starting people and embrace the energy that comes with it.

Related: 6 Ways to Learn to Radiate Charisma If You Don't Have It at First

Choose wisely. Your dream team of inner-circle awesomeness will only be strong if you want it to be. Think about how each person benefits you professionally and how you can help them. The best professional relationships exist because both parties always try to outdo one another with kind, proactive acts. They share in celebrating each other's successes, cautionary tales of failures and aspirations for the future.

Forget the dog-eat-dog mentality and bitter competition. Put forth the strongest exertion of positive energy you can muster. It will always come back around, especially when you need it most!

Make a point to conduct yourself in a personable, professional manner and your praises will be sung long after you leave the room. Do this with everyone you meet and your personal brand will always be growing. And remember to have fun!

Related: Don't Let Your Ego Hold You Back From Success

Dan Antonelli

CEO and Creative Director, Graphic D-Signs, Inc.

Dan Antonelli is the CEO and creative director of New Jersey advertising agency Graphic D-Signs and author of Building a Big Small Business Brand.  

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