If you look at a majority of successful individuals you will see that none of them made it to the top exclusively by themselves.
One of my favourite examples is of the PayPal Mafia business tree. The founders and employees of PayPal would go on to start YouTube, Tesla, LinkedIn, and Yelp among others. They also helped fund other successful startups including Facebook, Last.fm, and Digg. When you start looking to the top of business trees, you will find that it is actually endless and someone is always mentoring another.
There are thousands of entrepreneurs who all have the potential to be the next Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs. The only way to reach that level is to build strategic relationships with other individuals with more means to help you reach your goals.
Now the key to riding coattails is to not suck, because ultimately no one will carry you to the top and set you down there. In fact, if you count on that you may miss the opportunity all together. The people that successfully ride the coattails of others are people that have talent, passion, and drive to build their own success.
Here is a blueprint on how to ride coattails:
- Step 1: Identify where the majority of businesses for your industry are located. For many this will mean relocating to a different location. Examples: actors moving to Hollywood, tech startups to Austin or Silicon Valley, or investment firms to New York.
- Step 2: Find where those key players within those businesses live, hangout, network, and work. Although this may seem a bit like stalking, it’s necessary to spend your time most effectively. In Spokane a lot of the key business leaders of the city are part of a athletic club called the Spokane Club. In other cities it may be at an investment group, or particular neighbourhood in town. Simply picking the right part of town can lead to great chance encounters. For example, I ran into the president of BumbleBar while walking my dog in my neighbourhood park.
- Step 3: Build a real relationship. So you’ve done all the hard work of finding the people that can help take you to the top, now you have to build a relationship with them and build trust. People do business with others they like and feel comfortable with and this process is not a sales call. Think about dating – your first words weren’t “will you go out with me,” but more likely you getting to know the person. After that trust was built the next step is the first date. This can take a few months to several years.
- Step 4: Show off your skills. After building a relationship you will uncover opportunities to show your skills. This is the make or break part of the process. You have to be able to do what you said you could do. Don’t over promise and under deliver; if anything under promise and over deliver.
- Step 5: Ride the coattails. After you have proven yourself, and you have built a trusted relationship you can now ask for help. Now, don’t expect your mentor to automatically say yes; in fact it’s most likely they will say no. Don’t be discouraged if they say no because as long as you continue to build relationships you will eventually find where the situation makes sense for both parties.
- Step 6: Repeat until you are a billionaire. Or at least repeat until you are content with your career (which may never happen). As long as your are successfully showing your skills to people with more means to make things happen you will find yourself climbing up the success ladder.
With any dream you are chasing it is important to analyse your current path and see if you are on the right path. If you love computers and you are working in a restaurant in Toledo, you are wasting your time. But if you love computers and work in Silicon Valley at a restaurant that a lot of tech business owners go to for lunch, it may make sense to be there.
A lot of this is also like training for a sport. If you really want to become a better athlete you must train with people that are better, stronger, faster, and more talented than you. That is the only way that you will be able to push your limits to reach your true potential.
Ultimately, you may have to make tough sacrifices to follow your dream. Sometimes being close to family, staying in a certain city, or other personal reason is more important than building your career, and that is totally OK. Only you will be able to prioritise your desires in life. Certainly you can become a multimillionaire without being in your industry’s core market, but it will be a lot more difficult.
Let me hear some stories from y’all that have had success connecting with mentors.
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