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When ‘Who You Know’ Can Actually Hurt Your Success. This is why.

Opinions expressed by australiabusinessblog.com contributors are their own.

Almost everyone in all industries knows the adage on which success is based Who do not you know what you know. That can certainly be true.

We all want a broad network of people, colleagues and friends. It is human nature and helps us have a community to turn to when we want to socialize, learn about solutions for everyday life and advance our careers.

Do you suffer from back pain? Ask someone you know to recommend a good doctor. Visiting an out-of-town location and want great restaurant recommendations? Ask a friend. Are you trying to raise seed capital for your startup entrepreneurial concept? Ask a business colleague if they know any investors to introduce you to.

That’s how it works. Who you know helps you find success in all aspects of life. Right? Could be. But it can also be a “false positive”, mainly when it comes to business. How? Let me share a few ways that an existing network can hurt you while pitching your project to people.

1. The person you know may not be a decision maker

Just because you know someone with a big title doesn’t mean they can approve or push your project where it needs to go. Sometimes they can, but most of the time they can’t, especially these days when authority and decision-making have become a complex web.

2. They don’t look at you businesslike

If you have a… friend in a position of influence, it can be difficult for them to take you seriously in business. They know you as a tennis buddy or neighbor and have separated work and private life. They don’t see you in the same light as business colleagues. They may be polite. But will they risk their business reputation with someone they know down the street? Perhaps the answer to your face is “sure”, but behind closed doors? Not necessary. These “friends” can be the most devastating. They will “like” you and blame others for the ultimate “no” you get. Unfortunately you never had a chance.

Related: Friends With(out) Benefits: combining business with pleasure

3. It may be harder for you to ask a friend for a favor

Let’s say your wife’s best friend is married to the head of a company and you ask him for a favor. What happens to those weekly Friday night dinners or Sunday brunches? That couple will suddenly come up with excuses to skip these traditional events. Why? The man does not want to be rushed or confronted by someone he cannot help. The friendship days have changed (or gone altogether) and your wife is forever mad at you.

4. Bad impressions on another project are hard to break

If you already have a network of people to go to with your projects and you’ve made bad choices or done sub-par projects with them (even if just once), they’ll remember it. Any new work you bring into the fold will be cast into the shadow of your old work or behavior. It’s hard to wipe a slate clean once it gets dirty. This is all the more true in today’s business environment. Most executives are overly sensitive and risk averse when it comes to protecting their jobs. Look after. It is a challenge to reinvent yourself. Many people do it at some point in their lives, but once you’ve tapped into your network with a project that turns out to be a complete failure and a total waste of time, reinventing it is like pushing a peanut up Kilimanjaro with your nose. It’s just not going to happen very quickly or easily.

5. When you ask someone for a favor, you owe them something

Maybe not officially in a spoken way, but in that under-behind-the-shadows kind of way. And then? From that point on, all of your communication will be somewhat restricted. Either by you or by them. You wait for them to answer you favorably and speculate when you think they have an answer for you. And they will hesitate to be wary if you ask again and again. You don’t want to be ashamed.

On the other hand, if they don’t help at all, you should suck it up and pretend it doesn’t matter (when we all know it does matter, a lot – otherwise you would never have asked in the first place.

6. Your connection may be too high

Do you remember the husband of your wife’s best friend? If he’s in charge, he’s too far removed from the first gatekeepers who screen projects for their dignity and appropriateness. He doesn’t do what you ask of him. Instead of asking for help with your project, he’s the one you’d want to ask for a referral to the “right” person. A little bit of nepotism isn’t bad, but you should know that there won’t be any awkwardness if the deal falls through.

7. Your timing may be off

You don’t always want to use your current network to fly a project because you may want to keep the favor. What if the project you have now isn’t very good? You might think it’s impressive, but what do other people think? You don’t want to chip in with someone in your network until you know the project has legs and is good and powerful. You must be 100% sure of your timing and readiness.

So you see, there are quite a few reasons why tapping into people you know can hurt your chances of success instead of helping them.

Can doors open that might not otherwise be open? Absolute.

Think about which doors are being opened and why

Looking for solutions to a big question, or just hoping to get a glimpse of a room you might not otherwise have seen? There is a huge difference. So what should a person do?

Seeking advice and insight through your own network is the best way to ask a favor from someone you know. You can find those doors yourself, without the help of acquaintances now. Most people are willing to help someone they don’t know if they feel the request is sincere and authentic.

Get out and meet people regularly – whether in person or virtually. There are many groups, organizations and mentoring programs to join. Start there and see where it goes.

Related: 5 ways to connect and network with other entrepreneurs

The key is to learn how to ask

You’ll be amazed at how much you can do without knowing so many people already. What we all have at our fingertips today – which, if used correctly, can also change your path to success. Use LinkedIn and other business social sites to build new relationships based on the premise that you are networking to help each other between themselves. There is more opportunity for give and take and a fresh start in those scenarios.

Wherever you are on your path, someone out there needs your help or your ideas. Go out and create a new network of colleagues on your terms without having to worry that your weekly Friday night dinner will now be awkward and awkward.


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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