The average professional spends 31 hours per month in meetings, and receives more than 100 emails per day. With heightened professional demands and the constant pulse of social media, we’re all being pushed to the information breaking point. Amidst all that, it’s your job as an entrepreneur – somehow – to break through and get heard, in order to ensure your product or service succeeds.
That’s why I wrote my most recent book, Stand Out. I interviewed more than 50 top thought leaders in a variety of different fields – everything from business and tech to genomics and real estate – to understand how the very best in the world develop breakthrough ideas and get recognized for them. In the process, I learned three important lessons that women entrepreneurs can apply to stand out in the marketplace.
1. Develop a core group of trusted advisors
It is essential to develop a core group of trusted advisors. In Stand Out, I profile a woman named Kare Anderson who has maintained two mastermind groups for more than 20 years apiece. In a world where so many people lose touch with each other after changing jobs, or maintain their connections only haphazardly, her deep and long-standing relationships show what’s possible.
What would it mean for your business and your professional development if, instead of just responding to people who invited you out for coffee, you were deliberate in determining who you’d actually like to spend time with?
It can be a powerful exercise to think about the people you’d most like to learn from and emulate, and find ways to get to know them better. It doesn’t have to be a formal group at first; in fact, it’s often better to test the waters with some quality 1-1 or small group time. But as you begin to get to know each other better and build trust, making a concerted effort to deepen your relationships can help take your self-knowledge – and your business – to the next level.
Making a concerted effort to deepen your relationships can help take your business to the next level.
2. Leverage shared commonalities
One of the fastest ways to build rapport – whether it’s with potential clients, business partners, or new friends – is to rapidly identify shared commonalities. It enables the other person to start thinking of you as “one of us,” and encourages them to invest in the relationship. The commonality doesn’t have to be profound – it could be a shared love of dogs, or kids the same age, or carrying a handbag by the same designer. But it begins the conversation on a positive note.
Someone who’s harnessed the power of commonality very well is Robbie Kellman Baxter, a consultant I profile in Stand Out. She now draws more than 50% of her business from fellow alumni of the business school she attended – which is no accident. She’s invested a great deal of time over the years in alumni activities, using it as a focal point of her networking. From writing class notes for the alumni magazine to organizing a breakfast speaker series for her local alumni club chapter, she’s been active and visible, and that’s made it easy for her to make connections with fellow grads. Whatever your shared experience – being military veterans, graduates of the same school or program, members of the same gym, or residents of the same neighborhood – it can be a powerful way to build relationships that pay business dividends.
3. Get involved in charitable pursuits
Many people think of charitable involvement as a great way to give back, separate from their business efforts, but it can also be a major tool for business growth. In fact, if you view charity as totally separate from your business, you’re likely to limit the time and money you spend, because it’s “a nice thing to do”, but not essential to your core business development activities.
If you expand your frame, however, charity work can become a vehicle for professional development – you can volunteer for projects, such as social media or event planning, where you’d like to hone your skills, networking – you can form deep connections with others involved in your cause, and branding – because you’ll be recognized as a socially conscious business owner, and many consumers would like to support that ethos.
In Stand Out, I profiled Thalia Tringo, a realtor based in Somerville, Massachusetts who serves on three charity boards and is known in the community for donating $250 to a local charity for each transaction she closes. That’s become part of her brand, and clients, including me, often choose to work with her because it sets her apart from other practitioners.
We live in a world where it’s increasingly difficult to get noticed and stand out. But through smart, thoughtful relationship-building, it’s possible to build deep connections and ensure your true talents are recognized.