Let’s talk entrepreneurial success. It’s who you get to know. I’m stealing a good line here from LBJ. Lyndon Baines Johnson, as in Speaker of the House, Vice-President, and then President of the United States. He used it to explain how he went from being a little-known lawyer from backwoods Texas hill country to holding the most powerful offices in America. In politics, it’s who you get to know.

It’s true in business as well.

Entrepreneurial success: It’s Who You Get To Know

I focus on some key “entrepreneurial mantras” with client entrepreneurs. These mantras help build habits essential to success. They work with startups or when re-envisioning existing businesses.

It’s who you get to know. And you can be very intentional about who get to know for your business model successful.

I’m a VentureWell Lean LaunchPad instructor with more than twenty years’ of experience in venture capital and technology transfer and commercialization. I organized and operated a venture fund through a full-cycle of investing. I’ve worked with National Science Foundation SBIR/STTR grant applicants and with existing companies seeking new growth or even survival. It’s noteworthy that the themes and lessons are recurring.

Chasing Angel Investors Or Not

Ironically, one of the lessons learned the hard way is that outside money can be destructive of the entrepreneurial dream as often as it is constructive. The leap in accountability to outside money is a tough hurdle for inexperienced management teams. Fortunately, chasing the angel or venture capital money is not the only way to grow an entrepreneurial business model. Nor is it even necessarily the best way.

With my clients, I emphasize creating lasting relationships with strategic customers and key partners. Build a relationship with the right customer and the money will follow. Leverage the pre-existing strengths of a key partner and you don’t have to build essential elements of your minimum viable product (MVP) from scratch. You can scale and repeat on tempo, leveraging the power of your partner.

Yes, you’ve got to keep your unique value proposition in-house. Don’t give up the golden goose. But partnering, for instance leveraging a partner’s distribution channel, can be a far faster and more efficient way to deliver your brand promise to your bulls-eye target customer. It takes effort to develop trust relationships with customers. Can you really do it better than someone who has a pre-existing trust relationship, in the time window required for success?

The questions and answers depend on your business model, your target customer and more.

Intentional Relationships

The idea that you can be intentional in the relationships you cultivate is not a unique idea. It’s networking. It’s relationship selling 101. But it’s still a useful idea. Many people self-limit their potential by explaining success as a product of pre-existing connections. They tell themselves, “I could never do that. It’s who you know. They were lucky. They were connected.”

I like to break false stereotypes or perceptions.

Therefore, this favorite entrepreneurial mantra both tells a truth and exposes a misconception. “It’s not who you know. It’s who you get to know.”

Figure out who you need to get to know to make your entrepreneurial vision, your business model, work. Be intentional in cultivating that relationship, whether it’s a strategic customer or an essential key partner. Get these relationships right and the money will follow.

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