What's the secret to success? How did our favorite leaders make it to the top?

Some entrepreneurs will tell you the secret is you've got to hustle to make it. Others say if you never give up, you'll get there eventually, and still others say that the secret is waking up at 4 a.m. every day, or 3 a.m., or never really even sleeping at all!

And maybe that's all true for some people. But if there's one thing I know for a fact about entrepreneurship and leading a growing company, it's that no one does it alone.

Relationships -- how you build and maintain them --  will likely be the biggest factor in determining your success.

Now, where do you start? With one simple question:

"How can I be helpful to you?"

Whether you're networking at events for entrepreneurs, meeting with your co-founder, or catching up with employees, make it a habit to end your conversations with, "How can I be helpful to you?"

Obviously, you don't want to ask this question if you're not prepared to follow through. If you're serious about achieving success and building mutually beneficial relationships, though, being straightforward does these important things:

It allows you to help others better.

I don't need to tell you how annoying unhelpful help can be. Unsolicited advice, irrelevant introductions, gifts you'll never use -- none of this contributes to something genuine. Ask instead, and you'll quickly know what the person needs.

It cuts through any potential awkwardness of a new relationship.

Right away, you're demonstrating interest in another person and his or her goals. You want to help, and that kind of transparency puts everyone more at ease and leads to a more authentic relationship.

It enables you to be proactive.

Rather than finding yourself in a situation where you realize later you could have helped, you know early on in your relationship what someone is looking for -- and you can either help the person yourself or find someone who can.

Helping others is the best way to help yourself.

Asking how you can help someone can be the catalyst for life- and career-changing opportunities. Being upfront about it quickly gives you insight into another person's goals, what barriers he or she has identified, and exactly what you can do about them.

Sometimes, what you can do is share your knowledge. Maybe you're an expert in a particular area, and your contact needs advice or feedback on a project. Other times, you might be able to make an introduction or send an email, and that can make a world of difference.

I'll give you an example. As a content marketing agency, Influence & Co. works with a lot of leaders and editors at online publications. A member of my team was at a conference hosted by a media outlet, and she was having a hard time setting up a meeting with someone at that outlet.

I asked what I could do to help, and as it turned out, I knew someone there. With an email that took me less than a minute to write, I was able to reach out, my team member got the in she was looking for, and we were able to create a new business opportunity as a result.

Sure, not every act of helpfulness is as quick and easy as an email or an introduction. But in the long run, I promise the results are almost always worth the time spent making something happen for someone who needs it.

Helping someone meet his or her goals is one of the best ways to build strong relationships, and your relationships with others in your space play a big role in your success. Make a habit of consistently asking others "How can I be helpful to you?" and you'll build those relationships on a foundation of trust that will lead you to success.