I’m secretly jealous of guys like John Corcoran, our guest today on The Daily Interview.
It does take skill, intelligence, and action to succeed in a business – and these are all things that John possesses. But networking and building relationships is really the “secret” ingredient, and it’s a big reason why John has been so successful.
I’ve met few people who network the way that John does, which is why I’m so excited to have him here to share some of his best tips when it comes to building relationships the right way.
This is definitely an interview you’ll want to bookmark and refer back to later.
(As always, questions from The Daily Interview are in bold.)
John, I’m really excited to have you on The Daily Interview today. Your website, Smart Business Revolution, has a lot of awesome content about networking and building relationships, and how those actions can have a strong positive impact on the growth of your business.
Tell us about your journey and what your business currently focuses on. What led you to create Smart Business Revolution, and what role does your website play in your overall business?
Thanks, Eric. It’s great to be on The Daily Interview. I’m kind of unusual because I’ve had a very varied career. I was fortunate in that I basically got my “dream job” at 23 years old, when I got a job as a Writer in the Clinton White House.
I managed to get the job even though I didn’t go to an Ivy League School, come from a family of wealthy donors, or have any “insider connections” to land me the job. I got the job because I’m good at developing relationships with the right people.
I’ve also used the same relationship-building techniques to get jobs as a Speechwriter for the Governor of California, as an early employee for DreamWorks, working for a small law firm in the heart of Silicon Valley catering to startups, and now to start and grow my own, six-figure boutique law firm.
But I got frustrated watching friends who didn’t understand the basics of networking and suffered the consequences. I’ve had friends whose businesses have gone under, even though they were smart and talented, because they did a poor job of keeping in touch with their network and establishing new relationships with the right kinds of people.
So I created SmartBusinessRevolution.com to share my tips and advice on how entrepreneurs and small business owners can use relationships to grow their business. I still actively practice law, which I love because I get to work with entrepreneurs and business owners every day, helping them to grow their businesses.
And with Smart Business Revolution I get to also share my thoughts and advice on the more “soft” skills (though often equally important to a businesses’ success) like how to develop relationships with VIPs, how to use follow-ups to increase revenue, and how to use social media to nurture relationships.
Power networkers always seem to have the best or most interesting success stories (it’s no secret why: more/stronger relationships give you more opportunities for success). What has been your greatest success (or successes) so far in your business?
I’ll tell you what is most inspiring and rewarding about networking – you can really help a lot of people. I’ve introduced people who have gone on to develop great friendships, work together, interview one another or collaborate on a project, and even start a business together.
For example, I introduced two people who I had interviewed (Trevor Mauch, who is a successful online entrepreneur and marketer and Ben Settle, who is most well known as an email marketing specialist) because they both lived in Oregon and I thought they would get along. A few months later, I found out Ben actually moved from where he was living to Trevor’s hometown of Roseburg, Oregon, and they started a business together.
They do high-end marketing consultations. Pretty cool, huh? I love that.
(John didn’t even mention this, but his networking skills have even allowed him to meet the President of the United States!)
Unfortunately, even the most successful people have stumbled along the way. What do you consider to be your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
I don’t know if this was my biggest failure because there’s a lot of reasons it happened, but the California Recall election in 2003 is probably my biggest setback. I was working as a speechwriter for Governor Gray Davis who is now perhaps best known as the Governor who was recalled by Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had a lot of friends who worked for dot-coms that went under, so it was kind of like my own dot-com failure.
The biggest lesson of that experience was the importance of having strong relationships with friends and allies.
Gray Davis was never the warmest personality, and he didn’t have strong personal relationships with the people who had worked hard to get him elected. So when the Recall came along, when it was all hands on deck and he needed all the help he could get, a lot of the people who he needed help from didn’t feel all that connected to him, so they didn’t have the incentive to stick their necks out for him.
It was also an important lesson for me, because here I had what I thought was a stable job, and suddenly I was out of a job. You need to always be keeping in touch with your network and nurturing relationships so that if you are in a pinch, you have friends you can rely on.
There’s a silver lining to the experience though.
The Governor’s staff was really talented. It was just a great group of hard-working, very bright people. Instead of having a network of people who were all working under the same roof (in the Governor’s office or across state government), these folks all went out and got jobs at high levels in business, academia, other governmental positions, etc. So my network actually improved because I knew people at high levels all over the place.
I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to being lazy and putting networking on the “back burner.” What are some things that internet entrepreneurs, who already have a working business model, can do to kick start their networking, assuming they don’t have much experience “getting out there” and talking to people?
What strategies do you see that people aren’t taking advantage of nearly as much as they should be?
First of all, every business can benefit from relationships. Even if you sell a digital product as an online entrepreneur, you could develop relationships that could help you sell more of that product. Or you could develop a relationship with someone who helps you with some aspect of your business.
Here’s the problem most people have with their networks: they have a network that was put together at random, by happenstance: their network is comprised of friends and colleagues and old college roommates, neighbors, etc. So they people they’re connected with (and often socialize with the most) are not the right people to help them grow their business or achieve their career goals.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I give that no one else talks about is the importance of defining in advance who you want to network with, which requires an understanding of your own goals and aspirations.
So let’s say you’re an internet entrepreneur with one successful fitness site, but you want to start a new one on the Paleo diet. The network of people you have as connections now may not be the people who you need to have relationships with to grow your new business.
So what I recommend people do is they create what I call their “Conversations List,” which is simply a list of at least 50 people who they want to deepen relationships with over the next 12 months. It could be people they know already, or people they haven’t met, people they admire, leaders in their industry, etc.
Whoever you choose, it’s just a starting point, and I find by sitting down and writing out that list of 50 people who they want to get to know better, then it provides a road map for how you’re going to move your network towards your ideal circle of supportive friends.
I love the idea of the “Conversations List.” It sounds like a great way to kick start a network. How do you usually like to start off the relationship? What’s step #1 after the list is created?
Great question. It can seem really intimidating, especially if the person you want to meet is very famous or even just famous within your industry. And it can seem too intimidating to go up to some big VIP who has been incredibly successful and try to develop a relationship with them.
But I grew up with a father who was famous… my Dad was a TV news reporter on local TV. When I was a kid, he would get recognized out in public and approached by people who wanted to meet him because they had seen him on TV.
What I learned from that experience is even so-called “famous” people appreciate a sincere compliment and an honest fan.
As long as you are sincere and genuine, it is OK to approach someone you admire and to acknowledge their accomplishments (particularly ones you know they are very proud of which may not be the thing they are most known for) and to express gratitude for the work they do in a sincere way. If you’re doing this in person, be sure you are doing it at an appropriate time, like not when they are standing at a urinal.
Here’s the really good news: there are so many tools today that didn’t exist even five years ago that you can use to approach and get to know people on your conversation list, even if you live somewhere far away. Better yet, these are tools for them to get to know you at the same time. I’m talking about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instragram, Youtube, blogging, etc.
The key is to take your time and not try to rush everything. So, assuming the person on your conversation list is not someone who lives in your hometown, I would figure out where they hang out online and then following them and make an effort to engage and interact in a meaningful way in those places.
If they don’t hang out online (which is very rare), you can still often find out where a person is speaking throughout the year – perhaps at a conference. Then you can travel to that conference.
And of course, there’s the best tool of all, and my favorite: start a podcast. (you may want to check out a piece I co-authored in Forbes about how podcasting is the new informational interview.). Through my podcast, I’ve been able to interview dozens of incredible A-list VIPs who I never would have been able to meet otherwise.
If that’s not enough ideas for you, I wrote a post recently called Don’t Sweat It: 8 Strategies for Meeting and Connecting with VIPs that may give you some more ideas.
But the point is: give it a shot, be sincere, be genuine, and be giving, and you have a good shot at developing a relationship.
Let’s take a step back and look more generally at building a business online (or enhancing an “offline” business with a blog). If you had to take your best advice and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be?
Every business is a relationship business. Ignore your relationships at your peril. [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources?
I love Dropbox, Twitter, BufferApp, Evernote, and Lastpass.com (for sharing passwords). I also use a service called Contactually (you can check out my review here) which helps me to manage follow up communications with people in my network, and it’s excellent.
For someone who is just starting out creating a blog or attempting to start a business online (in other words, they currently have nothing established), what advice would you offer? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?
Focus on building your email list by doing guest posts early on. Spend about 3/4ths of your time writing guest posts for other blogs – the larger, the better.
Once your list gets larger you can eventually transition over to focusing more and more of your time on your own site and less time guest posting.
Finally, where can people find you online?
I definitely recommend you stop by Smart Business Revolution and download my free, 52+ page ebook How to Increase Your Income in 14 Days by Building Relationships with VIPs, Even if you Hate Networking.
Or say hello to me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/johncorcoran.
Thank you, John, for the very interesting and informative interview!
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