Contrary to popular belief, traditional networking is not the key to becoming successful in business, according to Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh. The entrepreneurial duo has identified the modern path to success, and they’re sharing their secrets with everyone in their new book, Superconnector: Stop Networking And Start Building Business Relationships That Matter.
Scott and Ryan first met at The Community Company and have been working together ever since on projects like Young Entrepreneur Council and Forbes Councils, and their entrepreneurial skills have meshed together to create something truly amazing. Their most recent project, Superconnector, teaches readers the importance of finding meaningful connections through business, instead of simply “networking” – and it’s brilliant.
I spoke to Scott and Ryan about their new book, what it’s like working together and their personal experiences as entrepreneurs.
What is a Superconnector?
Scott: To understand the Superconnector, I think you have to first understand the antithesis, which is a networker. A typical networker is someone who is transactional, short-term focused, transaction-only oriented, and really, frankly is using these very old-school, antiquated tactics to try to get themselves a personal gain of some kind. Connectors are people that see the equation very differently. They’re empathetic and emotionally intelligent, they’re habitually generous, they want to give to others, they want to build a community around themselves rather than think “Oh I got you one, you get me one now,” or “You owe me,” or “I need to get something out of this person.” They never think like that. They’re thinking longer term about building deeper, more meaningful relationships. And then Superconnectors are a percentage of the top of the pyramid if you will. The people that others refer to as Superconnectors because if you call yourself a Superconnector, Ryan and I joke that you’re no better than a networker because you’re using that as a calling card rather than what it should be which is a badge of honor that others bestow on you. It’s the idea that you are the best of breed. When people say “Oh, who do you think knows this person,” or “Who do you think I should call about this problem?” They’re the people that come first to the top of the mind. Those are the best of breed, best of class, people that really are the top most thoughtful connectors.
What inspired you to write Superconnectors? Was there one moment when you both realized that this book needed to be written?
Ryan: This is something that’s been needed for years, really since social media began 10 plus years ago. I think Scott and I both agree that social media has been a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you’re able to be more connected to the right people anywhere in the world – not just in your own backyard – to solve problems, solve business challenges, collaborate and partner on building great things. But it’s only a small fraction of people who have really sort of cracked that code and leveraged it for that level of good. There’s another group of 99.9 percenters out there who have just been getting caught up in this quantity over quality mentality and the more transactional approach and self-promotional aspect and not getting anywhere. If anything, it’s probably putting them at a disadvantage. There’s just so many gurus and wizards and experts, lifestyle entrepreneurs that are just marketing themselves out there to kind of unfortunately trick people into thinking that if they just build newsletter list of 100,000 people they’re going to be successful. But what really is interesting is that all those people who are marketing that stuff to unfortunate folks are not telling the other side of the story, which is that the reason some of them are so successful is because [there is] a very small circle of people that have helped them and they’re looking out for each other and making sure they’re succeeding together. And it’s a much smaller inner circle of people that unfortunately you’re just not hearing about. All your seeing is just a lot of marketing and promotion that doesn’t help anyone succeed and doesn’t help anyone get to that level that they want to get to. This is something that everyone has needed for a very long time. It’s just that not a lot of people are talking about it yet.
What do you hope is the one thing readers take from reading the book?
Scott: The reality is that this is not a series of tips, tactics and tools. This is a framework, it’s a mindset shift. It’s the same idea that if you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you don’t say, “I want to lose weight.” You go and you change your eating habits, you have a workout regimen, you get more balance. You don’t just go on some 30-day NutriShake and basically say, “Look how healthy I am.” That’s a short-term thing. The same thing here. If you are someone who genuinely cares about building professional relationships, then this is a moment for you to reset that foundation and ensure that your lens and your mind are properly looking in the right direction and being balanced. So I think that’s the most important thing.
Ryan: It all starts with self-awareness. At the end of the day this is about getting to know yourself. Contrary to popular belief, being a great relationship builder isn’t just about having emotional intelligence and knowing other people. First and foremost, it’s about knowing yourself and where you thrive and where you do your best work in connecting and providing value to people in their lives. I think that’s ultimately the most important thing people need to learn so they can pick and choose from everything we’ve put into this book and decide what makes sense for them and what they want to take inspiration from to start thinking about how they can build better relationships into their own life.
Networking is probably the most talked-about career skill. What type of response do you get from people when you tell them to “stop networking”?
Scott: I think people are scared- many are lazy- [and] some of them don’t know any better because there’s been no other ideas or framework that’s been presented. They’re listening to the wrong voice of people who are sort of the “gurus,” “ninjas,” or the MLM mentality of just ground-and-pound your network to make money. So I think with any good idea, you have to overcome a historical precedent and a historical norm. It’s not an easy feat. The reality is that the construct of networking as we know it today, there’s a simple question I ask people and it’s so insane to me that this is really how people think about it. However, we still fall into the network trap, which is “When is the last time you really enjoyed networking or when is the next time you enjoyed meeting who you perceived to be a networker?” At the end of the day, we don’t like these activities, these things are just built into us.
Doing business together is one thing, but what was it like writing together?
Ryan: It was great. Some of it was awful. I mean, at the end of the day, the one great thing that came out of this – two great things – for me and Scott, personally, the great thing was that it reinforced how great we are as business partners because of our unique strengths and weaknesses and the fact that Scott has strengths where I have weaknesses; that was exceptional to just get acquainted with. I think from the standpoint of the reader, and we went back-and-forth a lot and butted heads on things that we didn’t necessarily agree on and eventually came to terms that, you know what, that’s great, that is ok and that’s exactly what we want for this book. Again, as Scott was saying earlier, this is not something people should read and view as gospel. We’re all very different people and the way we build relationships and the way that we make connections should be different from person to person. At the end of the day, you’re going to get insights from a very hardcore extrovert like Scott, someone who can walk into any room and really be the life of the party and talk to anyone, and someone who is more introverted like myself who doesn’t thrive in that environment, but has just as much capability of being successful at being a connector as someone like Scott. That’s what I think is beautiful about this. Supperconnector status is something that anyone can achieve.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Scott: I hate to use a trite, old-school expression like you’re network is your net worth. I think we can take it one step further to say that social capital is the only currency that matters. In this life, developing a strong inner circle of people that you trust, that you can go to in good times and bad, that will be there for you as you need them or they need you, that is the ultimate level of success that you can achieve. Most people fail because they don’t truly have a real conversation. We talk to millions of people in our lives, but very few do we have a level of trust and authenticity and taking off all of the personal brand nonsense for five minutes to be able to actually tell someone when we’re in need or be there for them when they’re in need. So I think developing that inner circle and realizing that going deep and not wide with people is the best possible way to ensure that you’re going to have the highest probability of success.
Ryan: One thing I’ve been saying to people for years and it keeps holding true for me is that I just like to encourage entrepreneurs especially early stage and wannabe entrepreneurs to share their ideas with people. So many people have great things in the works and they feel so accustomed for whatever reason to just keep that to themselves until they’ve fleshed it out. Maybe it’s a fear of someone stealing that idea or someone criticizing it in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, but I’ve seen so many amazing things happen when entrepreneurs are willing to put their ideas out there and share them with the world. On the side of worrying that someone’s going to steal it, there are very few if any people that can take an idea that you had and execute it in a successful way the way you would. And on the criticism side, criticism is great.