When Michael Roderick went from being a high school English teacher to a Broadway producer in two years, he realized it was made possible by relationships. After stints both on and off Broadway, Michael founded his own company, Small Pond Enterprises. Small Pond Enterprises is a consulting firm focused on relationship design. Michael advises people on their professional relationships, providing guidance on where to invest time and energy.
In our recent conversation, he acknowledges the negative connotation often associated with networking, which he blames on “people who don’t do what it is that they say they’re going to do.” Notably, Michael differentiates networkers from connectors. While both parties focus on professional relationships, networkers, stereotypically, are focused on their own advances, while connectors are more focused on the success of others.
Michael offers a simple step people can take to practice the traits of a connector: “I think if you are just taking even a couple of extra minutes a day to think about what the other people in your life actually want, what is actually important to them? If you do that, you can start to move toward being more of a connector.”
He also offers a useful way to categorize the various types of connections — his ABCD concept. In his own practice, after a meeting, Michael notes what category the person falls into at that moment. Below are the categories with brief descriptions:
Advocates: people who are supportive and thoughtful
Boomerangs: people who are focused on reciprocity
Clients and Celebrities: people who have let you know they want you to work for them and people that it is “fancy to know”
Drains: people who are needy at that particular moment
Michael clarifies “that everybody is a celebrity to somebody.” He offers the example that if if a connection is a CMO, that person would be a celebrity to a company seeking to hire a CMO. He also notes that these categories are fluid.
Michael strives to learn beyond just the professional side of new connections, seeking out the personal and inspirational aspects of their lives, as well. In conversation, he notes any references they make to their personal life (where they live, their family situation) and their inspirational life (what inspires and excites them). He explains: “those little things are things that you can remember that really add an additional layer.” By writing down these facts after the introduction, the next meeting already has some common ground and talking points.
He also offers practical advice for people striving to make connections, including the “double opt in,” originally derived from Fred Wilson’s blog. In his own life, Michael has made a point of utilizing the double opt in which consists of approaching both parties and asking if they actually want the introduction. The practice helps to ensure the introduction is both wanted and warranted.
On the crucial difference between networkers and connectors:
“Networkers are people who are very focused on themselves and when you’re a networker, you’re really thinking about things in regards to climbing a ladder, so your thought process is often like who can I meet, what can I do and how can I get the things that I need to get?
…If you’re a connector, you’re really more focused on the success of other people. You have your own things that you want to make happen, but you don’t put those at the forefront of all your conversations…You’re not thinking about it as a game that you can sort of fix for yourself.”
On a metaphor for people who do not organize and evaluate their connections:
“If you had a bucket of change, you could have $2 in that bucket or you could have $2000, but until you dump it out and actually see like how many quarters you have, how many pennies you have, you don’t really know. So with wherever you are in your business, you know which people are the power players, you know which people are normally pretty helpful in terms of the work that you’re doing. Just start by, at the very least, sorting that out.”
On simple, practical advice for introverts striving to network:
“If you’re an introvert, rather than being like I’m going to go to this 200-person, 300-person thing, think about five to six people that you really like… Maybe you just put together a breakfast or a dinner…One of the things that worked really well for me when I first got started was this idea of hosting. Because when you put yourself in the position of a host who invited everybody over, you really don’t have much of a choice. Like you can’t sit in the corner, because you’re the one that invited everybody. So it kind of pushes you a little bit, but it’s not so uncomfortable as going into a room where you don’t know anybody.”
You can listen to the podcast on SoundCloud and subscribe on iTunes. In his own words, Michael strives for listeners (and readers) “to learn to be more thoughtful about the access that they have in their lives and how they treat other people.” Below are a few selected highlights, as well as the full transcript of our conversation.
H: Let’s do it.
M: Okay, you got it.
H: Are you ready?
H: Okay, maybe if you don’t mind, just introducing yourself.
M: Sure, not a problem. My name is Michael Roderick. I’m the CEO of Small Pond Enterprises and I focus on relationship design. I help people take a look at their existing relationships and figure out where they should be investing their time, who they should be investing their time with, really thinking carefully about that.
I came to that having been a high school English teacher and moving from being a high school English teacher to a Broadway producer in under two years. So as a result of that, I decided to study the ways that we develop relationships and the ways that we build relationships and use these opportunities and connections to grow our own opportunities.
H: If people just listening to the first 30 seconds of this podcast, what do you think they will learn by the end of it?
M: I think they will learn to be more thoughtful about the access that they have in their lives and how they treat other people.
H: Hmm, fascinating. The reason why I was fascinated when we spoke the other day was because I think that people who network are often pretty annoying, right? So when somebody was like hey, here’s a guy who knows a lot about networking, I was like ohh, one of those guys. You made the difference between connectors and networking, because you think there is a subtle but important difference in the way people conduct themselves, but also what their objectives are.
H: Do you mind explaining a little about that?
M: Sure. Networkers are people who are very focused on themselves and when you’re a networker, you’re really thinking about things in regards to climbing a ladder, so your thought process is often like who can I meet, what can I do and how can I get the things that I need to get?
So you’re probably a little more savvy than people who are just sort of like bulls in china shops and just knocking down all doors. But for the most part, when you’re making introductions, you’re probably making introductions to people who are at the same level or lower and you are always trying to cut yourself in, in terms of that dynamic.
If you’re a connector, you’re really more focused on the success of other people. You have your own things that you want to make happen, but you don’t put those at the forefront of all your conversations, do you understand? There’s more of a balance, that some things will work out for you and some things will not. You will resonate with some people, other people you won’t. And you’re not thinking about it as a game that you can sort of fix for yourself.
The other thing that I think really distinguishes a connector, is that you’re willing to let somebody else leap frog you. So even if you know somebody that could make something pretty substantial happen for you, you will make the choice to introduce somebody slightly below you to that higher-level person that you know because you feel for that that person on that lower level. You’re almost like an agent and you’re saying: “I think that this person could be very, very helpful to this person at the higher level, even more so maybe than I could be.”
H: Do you think people can be a connector without that being almost their profession? It seems that most people — including the people listening to this — are actually interested in meeting and probably don’t see themselves as either a networker or a connector. How should people think about how they use their network? Can you be just a little bit of a connector?
M: Sure. I think so. I think if you are just taking even a couple of extra minutes a day to think about what the other people in your life actually want, what is actually important to them? If you do that, you can start to move toward being more of a connector. The other thing is that a lot of the time people don’t actually make introductions, even though they can see that there could be an opportunity there or people could be helpful. They just don’t take the time to think: “Okay, who in my life could actually really benefit from knowing somebody else in my life?”
So I think while you’re not going to be this major connector and doing all these things, just being a little bit more thoughtful on a daily basis of who are the people in your world and how might you be able to help and whom it might even be cool for them to know each other, even just once a week, being able to make one introduction can kind of change the dynamic of what you’re currently doing.
H: It’s such a subtle balance, right? Because I think a lot of people just like the idea of giving but at some point people also just need to think of their connections as being some of the value that they’ve got.
H: I read…have you read Influences? That book?
M: By Robert Cialdini?
M: Yeah, I loved that book.
H: It’s a really, really nice story about fear. I think it was originally monks who came up with the idea — they give flowers to people before they asked for a donation?
H: They basically will see the donations go up because of factor X.
H: Again, maybe it’s a little bit the same, there is actually a science that proves being good actually helps you.
M: Yeah, there is, I mean there is a psychological aspect of reciprocity, where if somebody gives us something, we are inclined to give something back. So if we’re in the supermarket and we get the free sample, there’s a good percentage of us that will buy the full product because they liked the free sample, right?
H: So one of the reasons why we got to talking was because the partnership that I have with the database with all their contacts…and we have 25,000 people, whatever.
And we’re constantly looking for good people to join the projects and stuff like that and at one point it dawned on me: “Hey we probably know all these people, we just forgot we knew them.” And so you’ve been helpful in trying to help us basically sort out how we should think about that.
What would be your advice to somebody who is into their career, and has a contact list, is there something that they should really just start doing tomorrow that will make it easier for them to act as a connector and then also generate value out of that?
M: Yeah, I think if they haven’t taken the time yet to put that somewhere where they can kind of categorize it, they should. For some people it’s a spreadsheet, for some people it’s a CRM, but if you just sort of have like this massive list of contacts, you have no idea what sort of value you have.
The metaphor I often use is that if you had a bucket of change, you could have $2 in that bucket or you could have $2000, but until you dump it out and actually see like how many quarters you have, how many pennies you have, you don’t really know. So with wherever you are in your business, you know which people are the power players, you know which people are normally pretty helpful in terms of the work that you’re doing. Just start by, at the very least, sorting that out.
So if you’re in the real estate world, you know who has sent you good opportunities and good business. So you can say: “Okay, it looks like these 10 people seem to send me a lot of business. I wonder what the commonality is between these 10 people? Oh my god, they’re all lawyers, oh that’s interesting. I wonder why this is the case?” And then you start to dig in and you start to figure out, why is it that this group of people seem to send me more opportunities than this other group of people?
H: When you’ve done that for yourself, have you figured out where the patent is?
M: Yeah, I would say that the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is that the people who…I like to refer to them as advocates…they are people who are very thoughtful, some of them are connectors, some of them are not, but they’re really thoughtful, they’re always asking you really good questions and they really take the time to figure out what is an actual referral versus a connection?
And I think a lot of the time people mistake the idea of a referral and a connection. So they’ll say: “Oh I sent you a referral.” But you get on the phone with the person and they have no idea that you have a service, no idea what your price point is and they’re almost flabbergasted that you’re going to talk to them about you know buying something or using a service.
Whereas if somebody takes the time to find out what is your price point, what type of service do you provide and then tells somebody, has that conversation ahead of time, they’re in essence handing you a warm lead. So what I’ve found is that my advocates are people who have taken the time to talk to me about what it is that I do, talk to me about who I serve and what my price point is and then actually send those people my way.
H: How do you change people from being referrals to connectors?
M: You have to have an honest conversation. I think a lot of the time we don’t want to have those uncomfortable conversations, so people will send us things that aren’t really useful for us and most of the time we’ll just kind of sweep it under the rug. Like well you know, that’s just who that person is, but you’ve got to go back and have that conversation.
You’ve got to go back to the person and say: “Listen, you know, I really appreciate you thinking of me. It means a lot that you think of me. Right now when I talked to this person, they had no idea what my service was, what I was actually doing. So would you be willing to, in the future, give them a little bit more color before making the introduction? Or have a conversation with me before making the introduction?”
And certain people are going to be like screw you, you’re way too specific, I hate you and go their way. And other people are going to be like thank you so much for the feedback, I really appreciate that. And they’re going to think about ways that they can do better.
H: I think that’s an interesting thing because I think we all have people who are very kind to refer people to you and sometimes the high-quality introductions happen because they need something from you. You talk a little bit about double opt in…
M: Yeah, double opt in. Yeah, it was originally introduced by Fred Wilson on his blog. The concept is you basically go to both parties and you ask them if they actually want the introduction. And I have made it a point to start doing this with all of my introductions, because you never know what is going on in somebody’s life.
And you may make introductions between two people, and think wow, these two people are fantastic, they’re going to love each other, but you just made an introduction at a time when somebody is about to launch a business. Or you just made an introduction at a time when somebody just lost a family member.
And now this person on the other side is thinking your friend is a jerk because they haven’t gotten back in touch and they have no idea what’s going on in that other person’s life. But, if you take the time to ask both parties, they’re going to give you an honest answer as to whether or not they even have the bandwidth right now to take that introduction. And, also to let you know whether that introduction really is warranted and really is useful and helpful.
H: It’s interesting because after we spoke, I started to ask people about it so sometimes now when I get these cold indirect directs and I email back and say: “Hey, it’s a really busy time, I’m traveling over the next two weeks and I don’t want you to look bad so would you mind sending me an email next time just kind of saying, ‘is it okay to make introductions?’” People seem to very open to that. Yeah, they seem to think it’s a good idea.
M: Yeah, it’s one of the things where a lot of the time we worry so much about how people are going to see us when we ask for something, especially when we ask them to clarify or help but very rarely does anybody come back in and just be like a total jerk.
I mean my attitude about that is if somebody comes back after I’ve politely asked them you know to help or solve a problem and they come back in and they’re just absolutely rude, then that’s what anybody I send their way is also going to experience, so I don’t want them in my network and in my world because that ultimately reflects back on me.
H: You have a framework for how you are talking about people, you mentioned one of them. Could you talk a little bit about the ABCD concept?
M: Sure, sure. So the ABCD concept is that your first serve top tier people are your advocates, which I spoke about. These people really support you, they’re really thoughtful, they’re really helpful. Your Bs are what I like to refer to as your boomerangs.
And your boomerangs are people who are very focused on the idea of reciprocity, so often you’ll encounter people in life who are brokers of some type and they will say if I do this for you, I get this percentage or you know, whatever the situation is. And very rarely do they send anything your way, unless something is sent their way. They’re very, very focused on what you are going to do for them and then they might send something back. It’s very transactional.
Then you have your Cs, which have two categories. Your clients and your celebrities. So clients are people who have let you know that they want to work with you. They’ve asked about your services, they’ve kind of broken it down, in some cases they’ve asked about your price point, etc.
And then your celebrities are people that it’s fancy to other people that you know this person. And that could be a Hollywood celebrity or it could be something as simple as a CMO of a particular organization. Because if you have a company that is obsessed with finding CMOs and that’s the most important thing to you, the fact that somebody else knows a CMO, for you that person is a celebrity, that CMO is a celebrity. And it’s really important when you’re thinking about this idea of a celebrity, that everybody is a celebrity to somebody, so really thinking through who you are connected with and what do people think of that particular individual.
And then the last one…the last category are the Ds, which I refer to as the drains. And it’s really important to understand that this is not that drains are bad people, it’s that drains are people that are significantly more needy in life, at this point in their life than others.
Which means that you, as somebody that can help or support, you only have so much energy to deal with people who cannot even comprehend being able to support or help back because they’re in such a state of need or pain.
So it’s important to understand the people who are draining you of your time and your resources and not necessarily to always say like you know there’s folks that I don’t want in my life, but to understand that I can’t give three hours of my time to this person who is not going to ask me anything about me and basically spend the entire meeting or conversation trying to get as much as they possibly can.
H: And so you categorize people as A, B, C, D…do you actually write that down or do you just think about it?
M: Yes. I always document it. So when I finish a meeting, I write down what my first impression is and that can change over time. People can start out as advocates for you and over time they start to become more boomerang-ish, where it’s much more trading. Or some people you may meet and at the very early stages of their career and maybe two, three years down the line…they’re a celebrity. You never know where people are going to end up.
H: Why do you think that networking and connecting has such a bad rap? I would imagine most people either feel neutral or cringe slightly.
M: I think because there are people who are out there who don’t walk their walk. And I have this saying that it’s very unfortunate in life that many times your heroes are only your heroes until you meet them face to face.
And there are lots of people who will present this idea of networking, connecting, helping each other, and supporting each other and then you’ll get on the phone with them or you’ll meet them and they will basically treat you like crap because you were not at the level of whoever they want to meet or whoever they want to connect with.
So I think that one of the main reasons that networking, connecting ends up having a bad name is that there are a lot of people who got to a certain place as a result of being sort of savvy and smart about networking and connecting, and maybe they’ve even started to teach other people sort of this process. But then when those same people come to them and try to use those principles or get to know them, they’re still treating them like second-class citizens.
So when you have that many people who get burned by the experience, what happens is then there’s sort of this hubbub of like networking is BS or connecting is like ewww. So all of a sudden you’ve got this murmuring amongst the crowd, I think that’s what happens. I think that people get introduced to these concepts but then there are a lot of people who don’t do what it is that they say they’re going to do.
H: Do you have any good advice for people who might be more on the introvert side? Networking seems to be an extrovert’s game.
M: Yeah. I’m very introverted myself, though, every once in awhile I’ll have extroverted tendencies, but I love one-on-one conversations and I actually get very drained if I’m in a large crowd for any long period of time.
So I think that if you were an introvert, the very first thing is you don’t have to go to a gathering of 200 or 300 people. You do not have to go to that. If you want to go as a way to stretch yourself, fantastic. But you don’t have to do that to build relationships. If you’re an introvert, you need to make it on your own terms.
So if you’re an introvert, rather than being like I’m going to go to this 200-person, 300-person thing, think about five to six people that you really like and maybe you could find somebody that might be a co-host. Maybe you just put together a breakfast or a dinner, or some sort of gathering where you get a bunch of people together but you’re the one hosting.
One of the things that worked really well for me when I first got started was this idea of hosting. Because when you put yourself in the position of a host who invited everybody over, you really don’t have much of a choice. Like you can’t sit in the corner, because you’re the one that invited everybody. So it kind of pushes you a little bit, but it’s not so uncomfortable as going into a room where you don’t know anybody.
The other thing that I would say specifically for introverts who get stuck…I have this concept of when you’re in a crowded room, it’s sort of like the ocean and within that ocean there are a couple of archetypes.
So you have your sharks, who are the people who are like running around handing out business cards, dominating conversations, right? You have your dolphins who are the people who are clustered together and won’t let you into their circle, right?
You’re at this event and the dolphins just want to stay with each other and you’re like hovering on the outside and you kind of feel awkward, right? And then there are those who are drowning. And these are the people who are like sitting at the bar, they’re like standing with their phone or they’re hovering outside of a conversation and they’re feeling very uncomfortable.
The last group are the lifeguards and the lifeguards are the people that basically look around and say: “Who is feeling uncomfortable and why don’t I go up to them and have a conversation?”
I would say if you’re an introvert and you’re freaked out, one of the best things that you can do in social situations where you’re really worried is to be a lifeguard, because very, very rarely will you go up to someone who is feeling uncomfortable and miserable, say hello and have them be like get the hell away from me. They’re going to be like “thank you so much for talking to me.”
H: So you coach the person standing looking awkward at phone…what would you open with?
M: I might just ask them: “So what brought you here?” Or something very, very simple, like, “did you see the most recent speaker?” Just something to get the conversation going? Heck, if they’re on their phone, it might even be the new iPhone, and that can be a conversation starter, too.
Just something to make them feel less uncomfortable. Because I know that was something that I struggled with — going to an event where I didn’t know anybody and then having to sort out who I should talk to. And many times the people who I ended up building the best relationships with were the people that came up to me while I was standing there sort of awkwardly and said: “Hi, I’m so and so. What are you doing here? How are things going?”
H: I like that…be a lifeguard.
M: Yeah, it’s so, so useful…it’s so, so useful.
H: If you are just starting to think about your contact list and this idea of putting it into associate and taking long notes after one sounds kind of daunting.
What do you do to get things going without committing too early?
M: Yeah. I think it’s one of those things where the how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time kind of scenario fits. What is something really simple that you can do to just make it a little more expensive for yourself?
So maybe you start by taking a notebook with you to meetings and after the meeting, you jot down the things you remember. Maybe you’re not sitting there voraciously taking notes, right?
Maybe you have a great conversation and at the end of that conversation, the person leaves and you take a couple of minutes to say: “Okay, they told me they loved dogs, they told me that their wife is a doctor, and they live in Brooklyn.” And now you’ve got three points of conversation, that then you can sort of add that knowledge into the mix and you know more about them.? You remember those pieces. So I think something just that simple can really help that process.
H: When do you see connecting go really wrong?
M: Oooh. Definitely when people don’t ask. When people don’t ask, they don’t do the double opt in and there are circumstances that we just don’t know about. I’ve seen instances where somebody’s like I think these two would really enjoy meeting each other and they make the introduction and they’re competitors. Or the other person dated this guy or this girl, and it was a horrible experience for them.
I’ve seen instances where people have made an introduction and please don’t ever do this: If someone makes an introduction and you’re interested in dating the other person, don’t use a professional introduction from somebody else to ask somebody else out on a date. It’s just awkward. I had somebody come back to me one time, and be like what the hell? Why did you put me in touch with this person? They just asked me for a date. And I’m like ohhh, ewww, I thought that they wanted to talk to you about business, I guess not.
H: You mentioned a framework for what to ask about when you are in meetings with people, which I thought was pretty interesting. Most of us, ask what they do, what kind of a transaction and maybe there might be some kind of a personal kind of an introduction as you’re leaving.
But you’re trying to get a much more realistic picture of people when you’re talking to them because you think you can…I hate to use the word “use” but let’s say a good piece of information for creating rapport in relationships going forward.
M: Exactly, it helps sort of deepen the relationship if you’re able to touch on more than just the professionals.
H: So what would those be?
M: The first one, as I said is the professional, where you sort of get a sense business-wise, of where things fall. The second one, is the personal, where even if it is something as simple as finding out where somebody lives or if somebody just lets you know that they’re married or that they have kids…just the little things like that. Sometimes they’ll talk about the type of things they like. If you’re offered coffee, sometimes they’ll talk about the type of coffee they like.
You know, those little things are things that you can remember that really add an additional layer. In addition to the professional, I also like to look at the idea of inspirational. So what is it that inspires this person and why does this person like to do what they do? Because sometimes you can connect people around inspiration.
Sometimes, even though professionally they’re not doing the same type of thing, they’re both inspired by similar concepts and similar ideas, so you can kind of put them together, which is a really interesting dynamic when you start to look at what is it that excites this person, right?
So if somebody is a really great connector or loves being a connector or loves geeking out about connecting, their industry may be completely different from somebody else, but they’d be willing to meet each other because they both geek out about connecting.
H: When you have a person who wants an introduction to somebody else and it’s kind of more in the favor of one person than the other, but you’d still like to make it. Do you have a trick or method for doing that? Or do you just right straight up when you do the double introduction say: “Hey you might not be able to get a lot of stuff out of this person, but please be nice to them because they’re a nice person or I owe you one.”
M: Yeah, I try to. If I think that they have the potential to do something or help in some way, I will try to sell that to the other individual. And in some cases it could be who they worked with before, what types of things that they have worked on or it could be you know, I met this person and they’re just a phenomenal person, I’m not sure where this could go, I’m not sure how much you guys would be able to help each other, you may be able to help them a lot more, but I can tell you that this person is a great person.
H: Are you ever worried that you kind of caught by the intro? Sometimes when I know a founder who has a job opening and somebody emails me and asks for an introduction, I feel caught.
H: I sort of feel that way. I might know them from social events or stuff like that. But, I sometimes feel, that if they hire them and it doesn’t work out, then I feel on the hook because I made the intro. And so now increasingly I do a little bit too much of explaining: “Hey, I know this person, they seem to be super nice, I’ve never worked with them, but you know, they seem to be a perfectly good candidate for this opening you have and so do you want an intro?”
H: Do you think it’s worth it? It’s obviously a gift back to the original intro, but it’s also…it could be like a big gift and the downside could be pretty big because if they suddenly are a horrible person…
M: Yeah, I think what you’re talking about is so important because what you’re letting the person know is that you don’t have a very solid connection with this person. You are letting them know that you don’t know them that well. And you’re like, from their qualifications it seems like they’d be a good fit.
So when that person has that poor experience, what are they going to do? They’re going to go back and look at what you wrote, right? If you wrote, I don’t really know them that well, I think they have these qualifications, then, if it’s a bad experience, well it was a bad experience, but Henrik never knew, so that’s the thing.
A lot of times when somebody comes to me and they want an introduction, I’m always going to ask them what it is that they want to talk to the other person about. Especially if they’re coming sort of randomly, and what’s interesting about that, and this can work really well if you’re in a position where a lot of people come to you for introductions. Many times, just going back to the person and asking them why will tell you immediately what kind of person you’re dealing with.
Because people who are just trying to get something very, very quickly won’t even take the extra effort to explain to you why they want the introduction. They’ll just ignore you and sort of go on…
H: Or they’ll just ask for a meeting. And then you’re up against your back and wondering what they want to meet about?
M: Yep, exactly.
H: I’ve done that a few times. If I’ve been traveling and I don’t have time for coffee, I’ll email back and say: “Hey, I’m on the road but maybe you can list down a few things where I might be able to tell you whether or not I can help you over email.”
And you’re right, there is definitely a big drop-off rate of people that just can’t be bothered.
M: Right, where they just won’t give you that information. And I think anytime you’re thinking about making an intro for somebody, where it could be for a job opportunity, you definitely want to ask them why they want a job at that place. What is it that they’re actually interested in? Because if somebody is interested just because it’s a job, they’re probably not going to be the best fit for that organization.
But if they’re like: “I read about them. I really like what they do.I really respect what they do. This is a company that I’m really interested in.” That is a different dynamic than somebody who’s just like, oh my god, I need a job.
I really think that serendipity is a really good way of solving problems, right? If you know somebody that you really respect and like and think do great stuff, then chances are high that when you go through them you’re going to get good people. And that definitely works on the inbound. When somebody that you really like introduces you to someone they like, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll like them, too.
H: Do you ever use that in a reverse way? For example, if I have a problem to solve and I actually don’t know if this specific person will be able to solve it, but I’m sure that if I asked them and they know somebody who could solve the problem, I would like them. So I email somebody I really like and say: “Hey, I’m trying to find a person for this or I’m trying to find a good solution for that or for something else.”
H: Do you ever do that? Is that part of the framework?
M: Oh yeah, all the time. There was a study done by Mark Granovetter that was referenced in Gladwell’s Tipping Point. It was known as “The Strength of Weak Ties.”
Basically, they took two groups of college students. One group asked their close friends and family for jobs and the second group asked people that they kind of barely knew or maybe met like once or twice in their lives for jobs.
And the second group outperformed the first. So, if our strongest results come from our weakest connections, then it would make sense that if we reach out to people who really like us, those people have access to people that we have no idea that they have access to. And, they don’t even know that they have access to those people until we ask them to solve a problem.
I notice that some founders do this really well. They will send investor updates and then at the end of it, they’ll say here’s three things you can do to help. And they’re like we’re looking for this person, we’re looking for this person and then they…I find often that it’s a pretty useful way to solve those problems, because that’s such a good point. I suddenly look at it and to choose somebody that they didn’t know themselves and yet that was useful for that problem.
H: Do you have any like tools that you can recommend to me? Like do you have a new app or is there a new service online that you just recently just discovered that people should just know that this exists?
M: Yeah, there’s one that’s in beta right now. I imagine right now you’d probably have to just like put your email address in and maybe it will get to you kind of thing. But it’s called Brief and it’s an algorithm type of thing. Basically you put your info in and every day it reminds you of three people that you just haven’t touched base with. And it’s very, very short. It’s connected to your Twitter and your email.
It will send three things every day and it basically says you haven’t talked to so and so in 11 months, retweet their post to let them know that like you know they still exist. Or you have not answered so and so’s email and it’s been like seven weeks or something like that. I think that where this app is doing something different from a lot of the other apps that are out there is it’s brief, right? It’s three things, so it’s easy for you to do. Just three reminders or three sort of ideas for you to take care of.
H: That sounds cool.
M: Yeah, it’s been cool. I’ve definitely been finding like oh wow, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t touched base with that person in a while.
H: You also introduced me to Contactually?
M: Contactually, yeah. Contactually is incredible because it gives you this ability to do your curating and research in your emails. You can tag people and take notes about them while you’re sending your email. You can put them into buckets and all these different types of things, so it’s much easier than if you were sort of sitting down trying to sort all of it.
I sort of live in my spreadsheets, but it’s a very useful tool to be able to just sort of tag people within your email and have that information. And Contactually has a similar feature of reminding you when you haven’t been in touch with certain people, but you can set it. So unlike Brief, which is sort of random, with Contactual you can say, you know I want to make sure that every 30 days I reach out to Henrik, then it’s there and you know it. I like the fact that they do that.
H: If there is something to leave people with that you think is important or if they want to learn more, is there kind of a go to resource or…
M: It’s interesting; it’s sort of a collection of resources that you can go to. I mean I think that if there are people listening to this, this is kind of your first step. It’s kind of the benchmark of understanding psychology, like psychology 101. They want to figure out why people say yes to things and why they say no to things. I think that at the core is a really solid starting place, but you know there have been a lot of books that have started to tackle this concept, of how to win friends and influence people.
H: Switch I think is really good.
M: Yeah, Switch is incredible; it is incredible because it gets you thinking about why we make these decisions, why we make these choices. Another one that I really enjoyed was Smartcuts, by Shane Snow. What he did in that book was take a look at all these different people, who in essence, kind of skipped the line. Like, they started in one place and all of a sudden they were like way the heck up here and he starts to identify these very specific principles as to how they did it. He gives some very, very specific subject matter, ideas, and concepts and I like that because there’s not a lot of stuff out there that does that.
H: That’s cool. I’ll leave a link to it in the notes. Thank you so much for spending time talking with me.
M: Thank you, it was a blast.
H: It was really, really enjoyable.