We had the pleasure to speak with connector, entrepreneur, business developer, speaker, creator of ConnectorCon, and founder of Small Pond Enterprises, Michael Roderick! Michael also has the prestigious and unique credit of going from a high school teacher to a Broadway producer in under two years.
Small Pond Enterprises is a consulting company and educational resource for solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs who want to accelerate the success of their business. Small Pond Enterprises help their clients to do that through relationship strategy.
Below are some highlights from our conversation. Click here to listen to the entire podcast.
How does one go from being a high school teacher to a Broadway producer so quickly?
Top-tier level producers have a stable, ready-to-go set of investors. Producers earlier in their career are looking for people to help raise money. Michael noticed that a lot of the early career producers had a lot of projects without stable investors. He identified a selection of people he thought were doing great work, and then helped support them. He either worked for a credit on the show or by making an introduction to capital or other producers (and not taking a credit).
“They can’t be investing in a show for the money,” Michael thought. Michael knew immediately that very few shows become blockbusters—in fact, only a small number of shows even recoup their investment. Mike would tell his investors, “This has to be money you’re willing to lose. This is gambling.” A lot of people found that approach refreshing.
Despite the financial challenges in financing a Broadway play, many will still back these projects. Some will invest for the experience that they normally would not get. Some want a picture with a specific celebrity at the opening night party. Others will invest in a show for associate leverage. If you’re in the same room or get a picture with someone at a higher level than you (by money, status, media/press, etc.), you will then be associated with that level of ability or money. Then once that higher level is perceived, they may begin receiving bigger and better opportunities.
Connectors Versus Networkers
According to Michael, everything is transactional for networkers. Your conversation with them will feel like a two-way pitch session. “This is what I do in terms of business. What are you doing in terms of business?” They’re focused on an idea, and, like a boomerang, will send something your way if it will be returned to him/her.
Connectors are more thoughtful. They’ll take the time to learn as much about you as possible. They won’t talk about themselves and will learn about you and how to help you; how to make things happen for you.
Connectors make introductions vertically—always thinking about how to get you to a higher level— to get you the big thing you’re looking for and to make your life better. Conversely, a networker will usually introduce people to someone who is at your same level or lower.
Connectors aren’t concerned about industry, constantly moving back and forth between them. They associate with a diverse group of people. Networkers tend to stay in one industry or float in the same circles without leaving those circles.
How to Go Beyond Customer Service and Cultivate Your Customer Relationships
We had a question from an entrepreneur about customer service: “How do you build bigger relationships with regular customers? How can you cultivate the relationships with those regular customers and turn that into more sales?”
One of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking of customer service just in terms of business. Taking it back to Broadway, young producers will ask, “How do you find investors?” First, stop calling them investors. These are people with histories and stories. They’re not just check writers. Your customers are more than people who need your service.
Get on the phone with your customers. Learn what they are inspired by or aspire to be. Deepen the relationship. You can become a resource even outside of the business. Send them things you found that you think they’d be interested in based on your conversations. You want your customers to be regular and consistent but you also want them to refer you business. You don’t know which customers will do that, so you need to treat every one of them in the same personalized way.
Do Conferences Have Any Real Value?
We had another question from a business woman who explained that her most valuable connections have all come from social encounters.
Michael recommends hosting your own thing. It doesn’t take much to put together a dinner or breakfast. Find a co-host and invite 5 or 6 people that you think are interesting. Have those people invite 5 or 6 people you don’t know. No one will be selling. There will be a relaxed mood and business will get done. No one’s guard is up.
In regards to attending industry conferences, don’t count them out. If you’re going to a conference, see who is going to be there, and host something before or after a session. Opportunities lie within these get-togethers. Of course there will be people there who are focused on getting business. But there will also be speakers or panelists who will be open to having a conversation. After the conference, assess how it went and what you can do better to maximize your time there.
The ABCDs of Connecting
Michael keeps a master spreadsheet of everyone he meets. On it, he gives them a grade that will help him in future meetings.
– A = Advocate – These people are interested in helping. They’re thoughtful and proactive. They ask good questions. They may or may not be a connector, but if you get an introduction from them, they’re most likely going to be an A as well.
– B = Boomerangs – These are networkers focused on reciprocity. By the end of the meeting with Bs, you don’t know where this will go.
– C = Clients and Celebrities – Clients will show genuine interest when speaking with you. They’re going to hire you or will be asking for more information. Celebrity is someone impressive to know. Not only can they be your standard TV or movie celebrity, they may be a decision maker at a certain company or just a person who another person really wants to meet for whatever strategic reason. Everybody can be a celebrity to somebody.
– D = Drains – By the end of the meeting, you feel physically and emotionally drained. You don’t want to put someone else through that nor do you want to go through that again.
For regular wisdom on connecting, follow Michael on twitter.
Listen to our entire conversation with Michael here.
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