I came to St. Cloud 27 years ago as a young salesman. I was new to selling, new to the industry and new to this community. In an effort to improve my chances for a successful sales career, I used some traditional ways to introduce myself to the marketplace, such as attending chamber meetings, volunteering for nonprofits, and making cold calls. However, I knew I also would need to make some nontraditional moves to not just build a network, but a circle of influence.
Looking back, joining the St. Cloud Country Club was among the smartest nontraditional moves I made. Just out of college, it was not an easy decision. First of all, it required a significant investment in relation to my starting salary; and secondly, few people my age were members. Still, I knew who I wanted to have in my circle and I had to go where they were.
I consider the country club membership one of the best investments I could have made. The time I spent golfing, eating dinner, and socializing at the club allowed me to market myself. Local business leaders got to know me – as a professional and as a person. When I made sales calls or requested meetings, I had far more success because they knew me from the club.
Intentionally expanding your circle of influence takes time and commitment. It only stands to reason that the more people you connect with and the broader your network becomes, the more opportunities you’ll create for yourself.
But it’s not just a numbers game. Aligning yourself with the right people is critical in leadership and becomes a two-way street. I have called on people in my circle many times for everything from launching a new marketing program to getting feedback on a business opportunity – and they have done the same. This becomes a good venue for sharing best practices with people you respect.
Having a diverse circle of influence can be a real asset to a successful leader. It goes beyond your industry and traditional networks to also include individuals from all facets of your life – such as people from your church, politicians, local nonprofits or your children’s activities.
Broadening your circle of influence outside of the traditional business avenues not only provides more diversity, but also makes for more fun. I met some of my favorite people while following my son’s hockey team and coaching my daughter’s soccer team.
I learned early on that you are who you hang with and it holds true in business. We know it’s also possible to have the wrong circle of influence, which may mean that you consciously disassociate yourself from certain individuals (this sounds harsh, but it’s a reality).
The concept of intentionally building my circle of influence served me well as a salesman and continues to contribute in my position today. It certainly has become easier to expand my network now than when I first started out. However, I continuously look for ways to make new connections.
Take a moment to consider who’s in your circle. Are they positively influencing your success?