Never underestimate the value of good contacts. Having a powerful Rolodex can make the difference between success and failure, happiness and frustration. That’s how it’s been for me. All the successes I’ve had in my life — the businesses I’ve built, the projects I’ve accomplished, even my social achievements — have been the result of getting good help from very good people. ETR is getting better each year.
This year, we are a million-dollar-plus business that offers more than a dozen courses, books, and seminars to a quarter of a million people. That could not have happened were it not for the great staff of smart people who stand behind it . . . as well as the good advice I get from ETR’s network of supporters and well-wishers. The most successful people I know, and I’m including doctors and writers and artists in this group as well as businesspeople, are constantly improving the work they do by relying on the help and advice of others. Whatever success you have had so far — large or small — can be furthered by supporting your ambitions with a dozen or so smart and helpful people you can count on.
So, today, you re going to promise yourself that you will make your future life richer (in every sense) and also easier by building or continuing to build a network. That’s today’s resolution. We are talking, essentially, about people who have things you lack (e.g., money, power, knowledge, etc.). When you need what they have, they will be just a phone call or e-mail away. Consider the power of a single contact: Several years ago, I introduced myself to a guy who had a reputation for knowing local real estate. I told him I’d be interested in doing something with him if he ever needed an investor. He had plenty of other investors already, so he didn’t immediately say “yes” to my offer. But he didn’t say “no” either. I kept in touch with him. Two years later, he called me and we went into a deal in a neighboring town. We bought and sold two properties in less than six months.
Here’s what I suggest you do . . . First, consider this question: If you could be on a first-name basis with anyone in your trade or your industry, who would it be? Whose power or position would you most like to gain access to? Who among all the people you know of could have the most positive impact on your future? Make a list of all the people who could give your career a real boost. It could include someone who runs a successful business similar to yours or someone in a completely unrelated field who has qualities or skills you’d like to have yourself. You’re going to send a short note to one or two of the people on your list every month from now on. And you’re going to continue to add to your list.
Start, today, with the name at the top of your list. Think about something this person has done that you admire. It may be a product he has recently developed. It may be the standard of service he sets. It may be something he has written or accomplished or an award he has won. Anything you genuinely admire. On some very nice, dignified stationery, you’re going to write him a handwritten note expressing your feelings. Don’t fawn. Be direct and complimentary. End with some sort of effort to establish contact. You might ask his opinion on a certain matter, suggest a possible joint venture, or simply request a personal interview.
You can, for example, say something like this: “I know you are a very busy man — but if you ever have a spare half-hour, I’d love the chance to get some advice from you on my own career.” Insert your business card and post it. Don’t expect to get a positive answer from every note you write, but do expect to get some response. If you commit yourself to this program, you will eventually be on a first-name basis with a handful of very influential people.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]