Why You Need an Entourage: Create a master plan for building long-lasting business connections (as featured in HR Magazine, November, 2013)

Why You Need an Entourage: Create a master plan for building long-lasting business connections (as featured in HR Magazine, November, 2013)

December 6, 2013

All great leaders have an entourage. So do royalty and celebrities. So why shouldn’t everyone have an entourage? After all, no one can do anything of significance alone. Today’s leaders have a new kind of entourage – a mutually collaborative entourage.

The true test of whether someone will be a long-term member of your entourage is that they encourage you to achieve your vision and have a fulfilled life and successful business. Members of your entourage make introductions, give advice from their own experiences and offer support, and you do the same for them.

Thomas Edison did just that when he encouraged his employee Henry Ford, then an engineer at Edison’s Illuminating Company, to build his self-propelled vehicle on weekends. Until Ford received financing for his ‘automobile’ he had been a loyal and devoted employee at Edison’s company. Edison introduced Ford to all kinds of business people, including Harvey Firestone of the tire and rubber company fame. All contributed to the development of the automobile. The Ford-Edison-Firestone entourage is legendary.

Once you get started, your entourage will not only support you, they will also connect you with new people who will come to believe in you as well, and together they will help you thrive. It’s important to realize that an entourage is not just about you. In fact, in building an entourage, the first step is to ask the other person about their vision and goals, and then share yours. Second, look for ways to help them. The more generous we are helping the other person, the more trust is built and the more willing that person is to want to help us. An entourage is a collaborative relationship.

These are the strategies I share in my book, Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections (Wiley, 2013), which provides a master plan for building long-lasting connections with people who will support you, while you simultaneously support them. When you link out, you literally get out, get away from your desk, your computer and smartphone, and build face-to-face relationships — relationships which when nurtured can last a lifetime. Once trust is built through in-person communications, members of your entourage bring their chain of trusted relationships to you, just as you will do to them. They will willingly link out to their connections on your behalf. This is how your entourage grows – not only in numbers – but also in influence.

Here are five reasons to invest more time in linking out to build an entourage:

1. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, who create social media, connect with each other and with investors in person at breakfast meetings, association gatherings and events. That’s how they build powerful relationships which open doors to their newest start-ups, products, and collaborations. Surprisingly, they don’t make these valuable connections through social media.
2. Customers buy products and services from people they trust or from referrals they get from people they trust. Trust is only gained through face-to-face relationships. An entourage can serve as a good referral source for business.
3. People who invest time in being active in nonprofit causes and business associations, build strong relationships with people who open doors and make introductions in new circles of influence. Too often, women don’t see this as a priority to grow their business or career – they spend too much time executing work instead of exiting their work to connect with people.
4. Location is not an excuse for going it alone. With Skype, Face Time and Google Hangouts, we can still have face-to-face communications, no matter where we are based. My friend and entourage member Runa Magnus, executive coach, speaker and trainer, and I have regular conversations on Skype. I would almost swear she is in the same room with me, yet she is in Iceland.
5. It’s never too soon or too late to launch or grow your entourage. Whether you are a new business owner, in your first job or are transitioning later in life, once you start, your connections and relationships will flow. In fact, consider evaluating your current business relationships – are they collaborative or a one-way street? It may be time to make a shift to a new entourage.

The Link Out strategy delivers an entourage of people willing and eager to make introductions, connections, and referrals. Why go it alone? An entourage could propel your business or your career to the top.
–Leslie Grossman is a leadership and career development expert, Chair of Vistage CEO Peer Advisory Boards, and author of LINK OUT: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections (Wiley, 2013)