OK, the title of this post is a bit of a lie. I am not really an extrovert. Most people who meet me probably think that I am: I appear confident, I have a strong presence (at least I’ve been told), I am not shy. But really I am a good actor - I am often less confident than I appear, I don’t love large groups, and my idea of a great Saturday night is not a wild party but an evening at home with my husband and a movie.
But during my still-short stint as an entrepreneur I’ve become an extrovert. I am eager to meet new people, I strike up conversations with strangers, and I have no qualms about being in large groups. Why? Because this is the only way to succeed with starting a company.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I know you’ve heard that before and so did I. But it took me a long time until I realized that it was true. For a while, the idealist in me believed that if I was good at what I did eventually it would become clear to lots of people and I’d succeed. But the world is too crowded with people who are great at what they do and in order to get noticed you have to know someone who has the power to have you noticed. Or rather, you have to know 100 people who have the power to connect you with 1000 people who can get you noticed. Because getting noticed is hard and finding those right connections is hard. The more people who know and have a stake, however small, in what you’re doing, the greater your chances of success.
Now, you have to have the goods to back up your network. Your product or idea has to be interesting/useful/unique/fun/innovative so that when it is noticed it matters in some way. But you can’t just have a great product and quietly sit in your basement waiting for the world to run to buy it. It almost never happens.
So if you’re an entrepreneur, start talking to everyone and anyone. Especially when you’re just starting out. Every day I go through all the emails that come into the Work It, Mom! info box as well as the general customer service box. The other day there was an email from a woman who works for a large advertising agency. They are working on a special promotion and she thought it would be useful for Work It, Mom! members. I wrote back to her, introducing myself as the CEO, and asking whether we could talk on the phone about the promotion. I actually didn’t want to talk about it - I didn’t think it would be relevant to most of our members. But I wanted to talk to her and I knew that I had to make it about something she cared about. We scheduled a call. Five minutes into it we realized we had a lot in common and started talking about a lot more than her initial email. The conversation went really well and I now have a relationship with someone who (a) is a great and interesting person and (b) can do a lot to help Work It, Mom!.
Had I been an introvert I would have either not replied to her email or replied with a polite “Thanks, this is not for us”. But I’ve learned to be an extrovert, to talk to everyone, and to jump onto every opportunity to get the word out there about my company.
This transition is not easy for me, it goes against my nature. But I see no other way and to be honest, it’s kind of fun.