3 Cool Web Tools to Deepen Relationships With (Other) Entrepreneurs
BY Eric V. Holtzclaw
Use technology to build stronger, more meaningful (virtual or real-life) relationships with small business owners. Here's three examples I love.
As you build and grow a company, it's important to establish, foster, and maintain relationships with others. You need the support, advice, encouragement, and--most importantly--referrals along the way.
Here are three new interactive tools that can help you build and maintain new relationships:
1. Grow your network.
Couchsurfing-meets-meetup, StartupStay helps you maximize your business travel while you build your network of contacts.
Using the site, you can take advantage of the down time you will have on a business trip by uploading your travel itinerary, and finding a fellow entrepreneur in another city to invite to coffee. Or you can use the site to reach out to fellow businesspeople visiting your city. An entrepreneur that is in a local city has more information not only on the right restaurants to eat at, but also inside information on conducting business there.
If you are short on your travel budget, you may even be so lucky as to find a local entrepreneur who has an extra place for you to stay, and can help you save money on hotels. The site uses personal references to build trust among users.
Even if you don't use StartupStay to make an in-person connection with someone in another city, the site serves as a great way to discover others with similar interests and establish virtual connections.
2. Learn more about your connections.
Before you meet a new contact, you should of course spend time learning more about her. Social media makes it easy to track what people are posting and publishing, but, with multiple networks to research, it can be a daunting task. Posts from one social network may not offer up a complete picture because people sometimes segment or censor their content according to medium. For example, some use LinkedIn strictly for professional content, whereas a Twitter feed or Facebook page might include more clues to hobbies, family, and other interests.
This is where the new site RebelMouse fills a gap. It presents a page that looks like a cross between Pinterest and a news site. It displays your latest Tweets and status updates (on various social media) in the form of big headlines and pictures. You can edit the page to control what you are displaying and how.
But a RebelMouse page really isn't for you. Like Pinterest, it is for hosting information about what is interesting to you, so that others can understand you better.
By reviewing your contact's RebelMouse page you can learn a lot about her, even if you already follow her on other social media channels. It aggregates content and highlights patterns in postings that you miss from a rudimentary review. And this is done in a visually interesting way, which, as a marketer, I appreciate.
3. Build stronger business relationships.
If you start a company with someone else, you are moving into a relationship that is very much like a marriage. Similar to a marriage, a business relationship will not prosper if the partners are constantly at odds over values or even over basic working styles. I used to do my taxes with my wife; now I do them with my business partners.
There many couples apps which help improve the communication between two people in a relationship. The founders of one such app, TheIceBreak, thought it was equally as important that start-up co-founders communicate on a better level. From this idea and their experience in facilitating better personal relationships, they created the Cofounderly App.
Instead of asking questions that would improve a romantic relationship, CoFounderly poses questions that help the founders understand where they stand in the creation, daily work, and growth of the company. For example, the app might ask: "Do you work better alone or surrounded by other people?" The answer to that question would provide insight into what your business partner might need when under the pressure of a tight deadline. Not knowing the answer and not responding to your partner's preferences can lead to constant conflict and frustration for both.
Cofounderly is not meant to replace real-world conversations, but instead improve them. It facilitates learning over assuming, and makes suggestions of creative things for you to do with your business partner to make communication stronger and build a positive working relationship. Working on a problem that is outside your standard business scope reveals much about how your approaches differ and how each of you think.
ERIC V. HOLTZCLAW is a serial entrepreneur who has founded multiple startup companies, including one of the first profitable Internet enterprises. His last company appeared on the Inc. 5000 list three years in a row. Eric advises clients on the “whys” of business – why customers buy, why teams work and the all-important “entrepreneurial why”. He is the author of Laddering and his weekly radio show, The 'Better You' Project, shines a spotlight on entrepreneurs' individual business journeys and successes. Learn more about Eric at www.ladderingworks.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. @eholtzclaw