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Finding New Opportunities: Relationships Really Do Matter

Neil McDonough, CEO

Research has shown that one of the primary sources of information regarding new opportunities comes from a person’s personal network – who you know and who they know. That’s because opportunities seldom arise within a bubble. We don’t build products and services and then hope we can find opportunities for them. Rather, opportunities have a tendency to present themselves in the form of conversations among colleagues and acquaintances, which then reveal complementary capabilities or technologies that can solve a problem. What starts out as a conversation about how the Red Sox are killing it takes a turn, and we find ourselves discussing a current idea, obstacle or pain point. This can spawn new ideas or awareness about a capability not previously known.

Quite often, the individuals involved are instrumental in uncovering an opportunity which may not have been revealed among a different group. Each person may have a piece to the puzzle, which creates a complete picture only when combined. Such was the case with Polestar Technologies. A contact at a company we’ve worked with in the past suggested Polestar contact us to collaborate on a particular project. After getting to know us better, Polestar realized that our two companies were also an excellent match for yet another project, which involved coating of their sensory product onto a pressure-sensitive film for CO2 sensors. We collaborated on that project as well, and Polestar now has a commercialized product set to go to market. Who knows where the project would be if not for our mutual connection? Research has shown that one of the primary sources of information regarding new opportunities comes from a person’s personal network – who you know and who they know. That’s because opportunities seldom arise within a bubble. We don’t build products and services and then hope we can find opportunities for them. Rather, opportunities have a tendency to present themselves in the form of conversations among colleagues and acquaintances, which then reveal complementary capabilities or technologies that can solve a problem. What starts out as a conversation about how the Red Sox are killing it takes a turn, and we find ourselves discussing a current idea, obstacle or pain point. This can spawn new ideas or awareness about a capability not previously known.

Stick figures denoting networking concept

Staying in contact with the people in your network – suppliers, co-suppliers, customers, social media contacts, even college roommates – increases the chance that such discussions will take place. These same conversations can present opportunities for you to get noticed by second level contacts, allowing you to tap into their networks as well as your own. This is where you can tell them about your business and demonstrate your expertise. You may simultaneously expand your own knowledge, get advice, and learn from their successes. You may also identify recurring themes – ideas or pain points that get someone excited – which will help you identify how you can contribute to solving a problem or enhancing a project.

Opportunities have a tendency to present themselves in the form of conversations among colleagues and acquaintances, which then reveal complementary capabilities or technologies that can solve a problem.

– Neil McDonough, CEO

 

One great way to expand your network is to volunteer for a cause. It’s common for conversations at volunteer board meetings to turn to professional topics where you can demonstrate your assets to individuals who may need your services or know someone who does. By working alongside them, you earn the trust of an entirely new set of contacts. An added benefit is that the leads from these impromptu conversations tend to be of higher quality, mainly because these folks know you, so at least a portion of their due diligence is already complete. Furthermore, it’s less likely that they’re just kicking tires, especially if you’ve had an in-depth conversation about the project at hand. Board work coupled with participation in social media groups that align with your business goals can establish you as a go-to resource in your industry. By commenting intelligently on trending topics and broadcasting your professional updates within those networks, you can remind everyone of your value-add.

Of course, not every conversation is going to present an opportunity, but nurturing relationships over time can lead to someone contacting you over someone else based on the value that you were able to demonstrate before the need for your services was even identified.