We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Usually, if you’re early in your career and struggling to move up, these words can be discouraging. But they do ring true when you consider that anywhere from 50% to 80% of jobs are filled through networking.
And this doesn’t apply to just recruiting: networking is a crucial part of raising money, landing clients, and marketing your business, especially in the early days of growing a startup.
As Sam Corcos, the CEO of Levels, recently wrote in a post for Lenny’s Newsletter.
“It’s not ‘how many people you know’; it’s ‘how many people all the people you know, know.’”
At The Swarm, we help founders and startup leaders bring together their collective networks to power recruiting, sales, and fundraising. Needless to say, we believe in the power of networks to accelerate company building.
Below, we dive into why super connectors are critical to your company’s success, how to identify them within your network, and how best to leverage them.
What are super connectors?
Super connectors are people who are skilled at connecting diverse individuals from within their (vast) networks. Not only do they know many people, but they’re adept at recognizing when one person in their network should be connected to another.
They’re the friend who connects you to a job opportunity, the angel investor who introduces you to their connection at a VC firm, and the candidate who turns down a job but connects you to their interested colleague.
And for young startups, the value super connectors can provide is immense.
“Networking with the people who are most connected in your leadership team and among your investors and advisors is a big key to success for startups,” says Olivier Roth, Head of Growth at The Swarm. He continues:
“Once you’ve tapped into your own personal network, you quickly need to learn how to effectively tap into the personal networks of your company supporters. They’re your team, investors, advisors, partners, and sometimes, your first and key customers. They’re the people who have the highest potential of helping you take off in a big way.”
How to identify your company’s super connectors
If you already rely on your network for certain requests, chances are that you have an intuitive sense of who your company’s super connectors are. But if you’re not sure, Brian Uzzi recommends, in an article for the Harvard Business Review, that you create a small worksheet to help identify your super connectors.
In the far-left column, you’ll want to write down the names of “people you rely on for the exchange of private information, specialized expertise, advice, and creative inspiration.” In the next column, write down who introduced you to each person. This can help you uncover the connectors in your network — those who you can rely on to expand your network.
Next, write down the name of someone you’ve introduced that initial person to. This will help you understand if you’re holding up your end of the deal as a connector. If you find that you’re often leaving this column blank, you may need to invest more time serving as a connector yourself.
Don’t have many names in your column of connectors? Uzzi suggests you break out of your bubble by taking part in new shared activities and connecting with new individuals, so that you can slowly build up your list of connectors.
How to leverage your company’s super connectors
Build your network for your needs
In the early days of building your company, your collective network will likely be small enough — so ensure those you’re bringing to the table are bringing value with them.
“The founding team is critical to the success of every company,” says David Connors, CEO & Co-Founder at The Swarm. “Getting those first five to 20 hires right is super critical to setting the quality, diversity, and experience that will take the company from zero to 100, 1,000, and 10,000 employees.”
This applies to more than just your first hires, as well: use this mindset when selecting your investors and advisors, too. Rather than seeing investors as simply a way to fund your company, consider what kind of connections they can each contribute to your efforts.
Aim for diversity of skill and experience, and the type of people in your extended network — the people that your people know — will follow suit.
Make your asks short and specific
Whether you’re asking your leadership team for candidate recommendations or your investors for introductions to other founders, your requests should be short and specific.
“Think about it from the perspective of the person receiving the request,” Corcos writes in Lenny’s Newsletter. “How do you make it easy for them?”
Nine times out of ten, you’ll be going to your network asking for introductions or recommendations. And this is precisely why we built The Swarm: it lets founders ask their connections to add their individual networks to their collective network in a matter of minutes.
That means going to your network with one short, specific ask that gives you continued access to their own networks — rather than having to reach out anew each month looking for a new recommendation or introduction.
Always be nurturing
Once you start to equate the success of your company with the health of your network, it becomes clear why you’re never done networking. Your company’s health depends on your ability to build healthy relationships, strengthen bonds, and bring new individuals into the fold.
If this isn’t a natural focus for your team, find a way to make its importance known. “Build it into the actual performance metrics for your executives and hiring managers, to be having these conversations,” suggests Connors.
If you and your leadership team are consistently focused on networking, it will be a lot easier for you to pull in new talent, investors, or clients when you need them — rather than starting at square one each time that need arises.
Leverage your company super connectors with The Swarm
The Swarm helps companies scale by leveraging the power of collective networks. If you’re ready to hire from the network beyond your network, get ready to test-drive The Swarm!