Relationships open our minds, open our hearts and open doors.   In a slow economy, opening doors just may be the most important benefit of building powerful relationships – particularly our business relationships.  Yet with our hectic 1440 minute days, how much time do we actually spend on initiating and nurturing relationships that can benefit our careers?

While many companies place value in building teams to achieve success, most of us choose to go it alone.  If we had a team around us helping us reach our goals, things might move forward a lot faster. Building a personal team – or an entourage – who will support us can take time, but is well worth the effort. Trusted relationships are not acquired as quickly as friends on social media.  Yet many of us spend considerable time doing just that. Social media satisfies our need to connect with others, but do those connections help us achieve our goals?

You may think you don’t need a live entourage. After all, you have hundreds, maybe even thousands of friends on social media. LinkedIn is an effective way to build a personal brand, find people from the past and identify who is who in the business world.  Twitter works well for getting our ideas out into the mainstream.  And Facebook makes it fun to share our life with friends, colleagues and family.  I’m a fan of social media, but most of my relationship-building time is spent on meeting people in person, building trust, and then connecting online. That’s how I built several businesses and grew a national organization of women business owners. Trust is built on knowing and understanding a person, their values and vision, your shared interests and developing a willingness to help each other. That happens when you meet face-to-face.

Leaders view face-to-face relationship building as part of their job description.  That’s why you see them out to lunch, dinner or on the golf course.  You see them working on nonprofit boards together and socializing at industry events.  They are working in a different way – sharing ideas, introductions and solutions that will benefit their businesses and careers. Each of us can do that, too. You just need to know how to do it, which is why I shared the strategy in my book, LINK OUT: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections.

There is simply no reason why everyone can’t have their own entourage of people they respect, admire and trust.   Your core entourage may include former or current colleagues, bosses, professors, mentors, community or nonprofit activists, even certain family members – influential people who ‘get’ who you are and ‘where you are going’.  The true test of an entourager is that they encourage you to achieve your vision and live the life and career you desire.  Members of your entourage offer support for you to reach your goals, just like Thomas Edison did when he encouraged his employee Henry Ford, then an engineer at Edison’s Illuminating Company, to build his self-propelled vehicle on weekends.   Once you get started, your entourage will not only support you, they will also connect you with new people who will come to believe in you as well, and together they will help you thrive.  It’s important to realize that an entourage is not just about you.  In fact, at first, it’s about each of us supporting our entourage.  The more generous we are helping the other person, the more trust is built and the more willing is that person to want to help us.  An entourage is a collaborative relationship.

Link Out shares a master plan for building long-lasting connections with people who will support you, while you simultaneously support them.  When you link out, you literally get out, get away from your desk, your computer and smartphone, and build face-to-face relationships. Once trust is built through face-to-face communications, members of your entourage bring their chain of trusted relationships to you, just as you will do to them. They will willingly link out to their connections on your behalf. This is how your entourage grows – not only in numbers, but in influence.

Here are five more reasons to invest more time in linking out to build an entourage:

  1. More companies are identifying prospective job candidates through referrals from their internal employees.  When you continue to consistently build a network of trusted relationships, you will have the connections to get those referrals.
  2. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who create social media connect with each other and with investors in person at breakfast meetings, association gatherings and events. That’s how they build powerful relationships that open doors to their newest start-ups, products, and collaborations.
  3. Customers buy products and services from people they trust or from referrals they get from people they trust.  Trust is only gained through relationships.
  4. Women who invest time in building strong relationships with colleagues and leaders within their companies are more likely to advance to higher positions. Too often, women don’t see this as a priority to move ahead.
  5. It’s never too soon or too late to launch your entourage. Start as early as college when you are pursuing internships and at every career stage. It’s particularly necessary to start or grow your entourage if you are transitioning or plan to transition at a future time. If you are seeking employment, an entourage will ease your pain with advice, introductions and support.

Link Out delivers an entourage of people willing and eager to make introductions, connections, and referrals—propelling one’s resume or business to the top of the heap.

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