The Networking “Fix” For the Problems of a “Helping” Business

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“We all have, at least, heard stories of magic happening with the right business partner. So, the search is on, but, where are these magicians hiding? They’re actually not hiding at all – you just have to know where to look.”

I recently embarked on a marketing research project that had me conducting about 15 individual conversations with social entrepreneurs and coaches. The social entrepreneurs were varied and the coaches were a mix of business, wellness and alternative/spiritual healing. Still others used their talents to help solve personal problems, like dating, confidence building, and breaking bad habits. Each social entrepreneur and coach cared passionately about their work, and, while they had already helped many, their primary concern was to continue making a difference. Their vision was to realize that what they provide to individuals manifests into significant impact for them and others. My goal was to determine what specific challenges these “greater-good” focused entrepreneur/helpers faced in getting to a place of continuous reach. In so doing, I would discover common gaps and needs where I could find ways to use networking to provide targeted solutions in future programming.

Here’s what I learned:

Apathy is a killer. Lack of interest and education on new quality-of-life and quality-of-business opportunities creates a problem for those in the business of helping others. We know that people will live with pain and frustration longer than they need or have to because they don’t know the possibilities that exist and/or don’t seek out solutions from professionals sooner. Are people too busy? Are they only interested in high-end, media-promoted solutions? Or, are they afraid to try something new because it might actually change things? Sometimes, people get comfortable in their chaos. For social entrepreneurs, apathy can be tougher to manage, as passion is not only required from the entrepreneur, but also must exist in all parties involved. It’s a long trip from apathy to passion…or is it? Keep reading.

Partners are a requirement. Some solopreneurs, creatives, and others who may have had bad partner experiences, may disagree. Sorry, kiddos; you need ’em. Nobody accomplishes anything significant all alone. There was a survey done a few years ago by a respected firm (and published in Forbes) that shared why so many startups fail in the first twenty months of operation. Turns out that arrogance is a big factor. We have passion, we have some (emphasis on some) resources, and we have this great big idea. We are going to lead this parade and get a Nobel for it, right? Nope! The coaches and social entrepreneurs with whom I spoke ALL were looking for partners of some kind. Some were looking for investors and contributors, while others were looking for joint venture and referral partners. And, there were a few who

Partnership is key

Partnership is key

would have considered more of a traditional business partner. We all have, at least, heard stories of magic happening with the right partner. So, the search is on, but, where are these magicians hiding? They’re actually not hiding at all – you just have to know where to look. Help you with that in a minute.

People have trouble seeing how behaviors relate to mindset.  An example of this was when one coach shared that people don’t realize that a consistently cluttered office reveals a disorganized mind. Another example I heard from a social entrepreneur was when she was asking local businesses to help out on a fundraiser for startups. She received some positive response, but, a rather unexpected and vehement “no” from a business owner/community leader left her feeling he had a negative mindset about startups being able to make it in the community. Given his leadership status, she wondered how that would impact her own ability to make a difference in the community. How do you fix mindset? How do you get past deeply rooted thought patterns that negatively impact change-making efforts?

While, there were a few other challenges I learned from my research, like, finding funding sources, boosting visibility, and getting proper organizational documents prepared, what was shared above seems to be larger sticking points. As I see it, the “fixes” are simple in one respect, and complex in another. Apathy is combated with a drive to either a) jump on board a big party boat, or b) grab a life jacket because they sense they are drowning. Creating a big party boat (or flashy campaign) might require social proof of your work, research/stats, and a major endorser who will partner to get the message out there. The life jacket approach only works when someone feels the issue or problem is paramount, but, this approach is definitely the larger draw. Example: smoking causes cancer and cancer kills…slowly. Hence, the patch exists. In the life jacket approach, one must then become the “patch.” Since, I believe there is always a “people solution” to a problem, networking for the right resources to help you validate your offering seems a smart thing to do, especially, if you could find a well-known blogger or podcaster who has the pain you can fix and the ear of your target market. Shoot for a big outcome. You can Google top bloggers by industry. Here’s a site that updates the best 100 bloggers annually – http://dailytekk.com/2016/01/05/the-100-best-most-interesting-websites-of-2016/ Or, you can Google the pain you fix plus the word blogger or podcaster and see what populates.

As for partners…well, who wouldn’t love having a great partner who invests time, energy, and/or resources in your business…the people who hate sharing their “baby”…that’s who. Get over it, decide the type of partner or collaborator who would work best, and start connecting. I’d steer clear of family and friends unless you are prepared to lose them. The easiest way to search for these types is on Linkedin and other professional networking sites because you can check profiles and get a sense of prospects before engaging in conversation. You want to search for types experienced in your field, but that would bring a different skill set to the table. People who are serial entrepreneurs or have invested and exited well could be good. I just searched Linkedin for “tech investors” in the LA area and came up with one who has some interesting legal and business development skills, and promotes himself as a mentor/advisor. A few years ago, I introduced a composer client with lots of Hollywood cred to another composer with more entrepreneurial interests in the games industry. They ended up developing an LLC and launched a project together. Have a set of questions handy for your initial conversation. Don’t jump at the first person – let the relationship mature, first.

And, lastly, I’m no psychologist, but, if prospects aren’t associating their behaviors with the mindset they are revealing, then, I think there are ways you can point that out without being rude. Educate via marketing materials and create a prospect self-diagnostic or pre-

Relationship Development leads to Opportunity

Relationship Development leads to Opportunity

onboarding form. I’m using Typeform (free) for my self-diagnositc tool. For individuals you come across that present you with a situation that screams a negative mindset, you need to determine the value of personally pointing that out. But, the way that networking helps to solve this issue is to network with these people in advance of trying to conduct business with them. Relationship development is important before making big requests or when priming a prospect. Practice the “3-touch rule” a lot of salesmen use in prospecting.

If you are in the business of helping…then helpfulness needs to be what is #1 on the to-do list when networking and conducting business. Educating and relationship development seems to me to be the primary solutions here. Your thoughts?

Many thanks to all of the coaches and social entrepreneurs who provided information for this project and became good stewards of entrepreneurial fellowship. I would recommend all of them without hesitation. Eli and David Adelson, Eve Keith, Linda MacDougall, Dr. Ashley Arn, Mary Tataryn, Abby Rohrer, Barbara Hemphill, Nicky Stansbury, Joan Hughes, Lulu Karangwa, Zach Wigal, Lynn Ferguson, Connie Livingston, and Jean Palmer-Moloney

Mary Kurek is a the founder and Chief Networking Officer for the Mary Kurek Professional Networking Agency. The Agency not only trains others to network more effectively, but also makes business introductions for clients in entertainment-related industries. Quoted on msnbc.com, NBCNews.com, USAtoday.com, AOL.com, CNN.com, and fastcompany.com. www.marykurek.com