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It's Who You Know If you really know how to work your connections, a successful startup is less than 6 degrees away.

By Nichole L. Torres

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The saying goes that every person on earth is separated fromevery other person by only six degrees. That means yourfriend's brother's nephew's wife could know MichaelDell, Donald Trump or Martha Stewart. You could conceivably be onlya few networking steps away from someone who could help you getyour business off the ground--be it an industry contact, a toplawyer or a state government official. You've heard all aboutthe importance of networking, but what about harvesting your ownnetwork to uncover someone who just might be able to get you intouch with a stellar business contact? That's six-degreenetworking.

Even if you don't think you know someone who can help,you'd be surprised. What about an old schoolmate you sendholiday cards to? Who might she know? Or could your softballteammate have a brother in the same industry in which you hope tohang your shingle?

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using the "six degrees ofseparation" method is that you have an "in" withthis new person. Since your friend of a friend is opening the door,you're not exactly a stranger. "The whole key to sixdegrees is you're coming with a reference; you're not coldcalling," says Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationshipat a Time and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a marketing and salesconsulting and training firm in Los Angeles. "You'recoming with a warm lead, so to speak."

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