I can remember hearing my mother say this for years before I was ever in business and I really didn’t understand the profound impact of this principle. It helps to have strong technical skills in your field, to understand your market, to be organized and have follow-through, etc. However, when it comes to business building, especially when you are starting out I believe the most useful skill you can learn is how to leverage your network. The good news is everyone has people that can either directly help them or indirectly connect them to someone who can. And most people are very willing to help you if you ask.
A year ago I decided to make the move from a 25 year corporate business career to start my own coaching practice. In the beginning it felt like I just landed on a new planet (the work from home, social media, no parameters planet – yikes). After years of structure and being the veteran I almost forgot where to start. It was so very different from my past life and overwhelming. I lay awake at night questioning my decision and thinking maybe I had made a huge mistake.
I had many decisions to make and wasn’t sure exactly what my final destination would be. I now realize this was the painful yet very necessary transition phase. I have good news for you if you are there right now. You WILL find your way to the other side. You will determine your niche, and how you want to serve using your unique and special gifts. All the learning will manifest into a business if you just keep taking steps forward.
How can I say this with such confidence? Because, I have made it to the other side of my fears and doubts growing a profitable coaching business, that’s why. Would you like to know HOW I did it? Of course I would be oversimplifying it to say it was just one thing that made it happen. However, I can honestly say that the one thing that made the biggest difference was using my network. I focused on the people I knew that could connect me, support me, provide testimonials for me, and I stopped spending time worrying about “what” I needed to know to be a successful health and business coach. We covered that already in a previous blog if you struggle with this question (Are you still afraid you don’t know enough to be a health coach?”)
I would like to share with you what I know about using a network and leveraging your past experience and reputation to get your business started and moving in the right direction. Below is my step by step approach to turn your relationships into your single biggest business building asset.
Step 1: Make a list of everyone you know who could help you
What are the various “groups” that you are involved in? These can be formal or informal. Think about your neighbors, church members, past business acquaintances. Think about people who are respected and have influence because of their personal reputation. Make sure those you connect with and ask for help align with your own personal values. At this point you are brainstorming. Get the list on paper (getting it out of your head will help you manage the overwhelm you may already be feeling). Ask your family or those closest to you who they know that you could also tap into for introductions, or for potential target clients.
Commit a minimum of 2 hours per week reaching out to people you haven’t talked to in a while to tell them what you are doing. Ask them if they know others, or know others who know others. This is called the “Kevin Bacon” or 6 degrees of separation rule that says someone you know is somehow connected to someone you need to know to grow your business. Test the principles and see how much fun you can have meeting new people through the “bacon” method.
Be willing to return the favor in helping others out. For every hour you spend asking for help I believe you should be giving an equal amount of help to those who ask you, or where you think you could provide unsolicited assistance. Here is the surprising and fun part. In many cases where you think you are helping, you end up getting helped instead. When you approach life with a giving spirit amazing things will start to happen.
Step 2: Turning WHO’s into HOW’s
Once you have a long list (at least 25-50 people) – you know you can come up with at least this many directly or indirectly. Now you are going to put them in categories for HOW they can help you.
Referral partners – People in non-competitive but closely related businesses. Chiropractors, holistic doctors, fitness trainers, health clubs, healers, massage therapists, etc. You will develop “win-win” arrangement to help each other get clients.
Future referral partners – Ask your network to introduce you to people who have been successful at starting a health coaching business or a similar venture. Once connected share ideas. Then ask them if they know others that might be able to help you get started. Don’t view them as competitors view them as co-creators and future referral partners.
Testimonial Champions – People who you want to coach first and maybe even for free who can act as you unpaid sales team. These are people who are “influencers” and have a broad network of your target customers. They should also be people who tell others how great you are and what you did for them. Once you have testimonials using social media to “post” these statements of endorsement and share them broadly is a great way to get known.
Health Centers/Coaches who are hiring coaches – Consider being a health coach “on staff” to gain experience or a clientele. Research what is available in your area or talk to as many people as you can about what you are doing so they can “connect” you to those further ahead. This is where you can focus on coaching and build revenue to fund your own venture.
(By the way…I used this strategy in business coaching and it was the single best connection I made in starting my consulting practice.)
Business contacts for corporate coaching – Are you considering working for companies to offer classes on health or group programs for employees? If so, finding connections to people in human resources is essential. Think about all the people you know at various companies. Target companies who you think would be open to providing health classes or services to their employees. Use LinkedIn as a resource to reach key business contacts.
Health Workshop Opportunities – Think about churches, community centers, health & fitness clubs, women’s organizations, the possibilities are endless where you already know people that can allow you access to your target clients where they “hang out” in groups. Teaching a class or a series of classes to get known for what you do will undoubtedly bring you clients if you do a great job just ‘giving’ of yourself to those who come to the class.
WHO else do you know that could help your “gardens grow?”
There may be other “buckets” that you want to put your network into to grow your business. I’ve only listed the ones that I personally used very successfully to get my business started and moving in a profitable direction. Get creative and utilize all those great relationships you have built over the years.
Step 3: Investing in your network
The skill of networking and using your personal relationships is a lifetime pursuit that will pay dividends in so many ways. The idea here is to use all the “leverage” you have so you reach more people. Then others who genuinely believe in you can talk about you positively to key contacts. This opens doors for you that may not otherwise open and allows you to have much more productive, trusting conversations with potential partners & clients. In sales this is called a “warm lead”. It’s becoming increasingly important as people become more skeptical and cautious of working with someone that they consider a complete stranger. Especially in a business as personal as health.
Don’t get discouraged if some of your contacts or networking doesn’t appear to produce “fruit” or monetary rewards at first. Some never will, and some will be longer term investments. It is also fun to find out something that you invested in 2 years ago is suddenly showing up in your new business basket. And a seed planted one place may actually “blow across to more fertile ground” and end up showing up in an unlikely place.
Keep in mind that you should make this commitment in time to building and nurturing your network forever if you want to be successful in business. Social media has helped us all in that it is a very efficient and effective way to do this. First, update your profile and let people know what your business is all about.
You already know and are so closely connected to people who can be a huge asset to you in your growth. Don’t underestimate the power of your own personal network. If you are stuck and don’t think you have much of a network ask a close friend or family member to spend 30 minutes brainstorming all the people you and they know who you could contact.
In future blogs we are going to cover how to more specifically communicate to some of the groups above like referral partners. In the meantime start working on your list and get out there, and cast a wide net. The world is waiting for you to make a difference in so many ways. Just think how broad and wide your raving fan network will be when you serve them well. Let that pull you forward.