For the past few years I've been studying the traits of successful entrepreneurs.

First it was wading through tons of research, articles, and footage of business moguls, attempting to deconstruct the elements that set them apart. Eventually, that morphed into nearly 150 interviews with entrepreneurs to tease that information out.

After all that research, the results are in. The relationships entrepreneurs have with other people served as rocket fuel to propel them forward toward their goals.

What is encouraging is that most of these entrepreneurs didn't achieve their level of success because of a pre-existing relationship with a powerful person that pointed to them and anointed them "the next big thing."

Quite the contrary.

These business owners reached their goals because they built powerful relationships in a way that made them better. You can do the same.

There are several types of connections you can make that can make a big impact on your work, such as retaining a coach, or hiring a team of experts to do some of the heavy lifting for you.

While it is helpful to have people who serve these roles, these may be cost prohibitive for some. The good news is there are three additional types of contacts that don't have to cost money that can be just as, if not more, beneficial to you in your quest to grow your business.

The Iron Sharpeners

Last week one of my friends officially left her corporate job, after many years of planning. Me and my other girlfriends cheered.

There's four of us, and we all used to work together. While on a girls trip one year, we shifted from our usual banter, and started plotting our careers. All of us had dreams of becoming entrepreneurs. Then one by one, we left our jobs to follow our own ventures.

We have a video conference call once monthly, where we give updates on what's happening in our lives, and track how we're progressing toward personal and professional goals. And for the past three years, we've stepped up our masterminding efforts, with an annual retreat where we do deep dives into each others' businesses and our plans for growth.

Our businesses are all very different: Mynd Matters is a publishing company, White Rose Marketing is a brand agency, and Splendorlust is a textile design company. But we are each others' board of advisors.

We celebrate wins, brainstorm ideas, and talk each other out of meltdowns. We push each other to chase boldly after our dreams. And collectively, we are achieving them all.

Do you have people in your world who hold you accountable and push you to go farther?

The Light Shiner

Marcelo Baudino is the founder of Iceberg Cultural Intelligence. We met at a networking event in Buenos Aires and connected over mutual interests in diversity.

Since then, I've marveled at the expert platform he's built for himself on an international level, in both Spanish and English. He's president of the organization SIETAR Argentina and frequently holds events to bring cultural diversity to the forefront of the broader conversation. Oh yeah, and he's a master networker.

Marcelo makes me want to step my own game up.

We haven't known each other long, but seeing the impact and passion he has for the work he's doing inspires me. So any time we connect, in addition to strengthening our relationship, I get the chance to take mental notes as to how I can apply the good things he's doing to my own business. His actions give me something to aspire to.

Do you have people in your network who inspire you with what's possible?

The Cheerleader

"Don't be all modest with me. That is awesome."

That was part of a message I got from my friend Conrod Kelly, a Marketing Leader at Merck. He's been a big supporter of my business from the beginning.

He'd asked me how business was going, as he often does. After rattling off a few things I was doing, he stopped me to force me to acknowledge an accomplishment he felt was a big deal.

Sometimes what you need most from people in your network isn't a strategy session, or an endless list of ideas of how you can be better. Sometimes you need folks who will give you the hugs and high-fives you need to keep you going.

You need people in your world who will cheer you along and remind you that you're on the right path, especially in those moments when you're doubting yourself.

Do you have people in your world who believe in you, and give you the moral support you need?

You can build a superstar squad. A group of people who make you better. You've just got to be intentional about cultivating those connections in a way that enables you to be great.

Published on: May 30, 2017