An entourage is a mutually collaborative group of select people who encourage you to achieve your vision. Members of your entourage make introductions, give advice based on their own experiences and offer support—and you do the same for them.
Thomas Edison did just that when he encouraged his employee Henry Ford, then an engineer at Edison’s Illuminating Co., to build his self-propelled vehicle on weekends. Until Ford received financing for his "automobile," he was a loyal and devoted employee at Edison’s company. Edison introduced Ford to all kinds of businesspeople, including Harvey Firestone of tire and rubber company fame. All contributed to the development of the automobile. The Ford-Edison-Firestone alliance is legendary.
Once you get started, your entourage will not only support you but also connect you with new people who will come to believe in you, as well. Together, they will help you thrive. It’s important to realize that an entourage is not just about you. In fact, the first step in building an entourage is to ask other people about their vision and goals, and then share yours.
Second, look for ways to help the members of your entourage. The more generous we are in helping others, the more they trust us and the more willing they are to help us. An entourage is a collaborative relationship.
These are strategies I share in my book, Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections (Wiley, 2013), which provides 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—away from your desk, computer and smartphone—and build face-to-face relationships. When nurtured, these relationships can last a lifetime.
An entourage is different from a network in that it is built on trusted relationships among people who can count on one another to lend advice, support and introductions on a long-term basis. A network is made up of people we meet, but not necessarily people we can rely on to help us.
Once trust is built through in-person communication, members of your entourage will bring their chain of trusted associates to you, just as you will do for them. They will willingly link out to their connections on your behalf. This is how your entourage grows—not only in number but also in influence.
Five Reasons to Link
Here are five things to think about as you link out to build an entourage:
Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who create social media connect with one another 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 startups, products and collaborations. Surprisingly, they don’t make these valuable connections through social media.
Customers buy products and services from people they trust or from referrals they get from people they trust. Trust is gained only through face-to-face relationships. An entourage can serve as a good referral source for business.
People who invest time in being active in nonprofit causes and business associations build strong relationships with people who open doors and make introductions in new circles of influence. Too often, women don’t see this as a priority to expand their business or advance their career; they spend too much time executing work instead of exiting their work to connect with people.
With Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts, we can have face-to-face communication no matter where we are. I have regular conversations on Skype with a friend and entourage member. I would almost swear she is in the same room with me, yet she is in Iceland.
Whether you are a new business owner, in your first job or transitioning later in life, it’s never too soon or too late to launch or grow your entourage. Once you start, your connections and relationships will flow. In fact, consider evaluating your current business relationships—are they collaborative or a one-way street? It may be time to make a shift to a new entourage.
If it sounds to you as if there’s some work involved here, you’re right. You may even wonder if it’s worth the effort to link out. If you like people, linking out will be easy and fun. Of course, it might be a bit more difficult if you’re more introverted. If you are a loner, it might make you a little uncomfortable at first, and you may have to push yourself.
Linking out is not a competition. To me, it’s a mystery why so many people feel that building supportive relationships is akin to conspiring with the enemy. The truth is that we can all be victorious when we work together. When we form partnerships, we realize that the person or business we initially perceived as competition can become a valued ally.
Leslie Grossman is a leadership and career development expert and author of Link Out: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections (Wiley, 2013).