I’m sure all entrepreneurs have heard of financial capital, but many may not have heard of social capital. Social capital is, in fact, very similar to its monetary sibling. It, too, is accumulated by an individual or a business and used, or is available for use, in the production of wealth. Put more simply, it’s the accumulation of resources developed through personal and professional networks. These resources include ideas, knowledge, information, opportunities, contacts and, of course, referrals. Social capital is built by design, not chance.
Social capital is acquired through networking because successful networking is all about building and maintaining solid, professional relationships. The trouble is we don’t have the natural community-like business relationships that existed before. Many business owners hardly know their own neighbors, let alone the local businesspeople in town. Therefore, networking is critical to an individual’s success in business.
Effectively developing your social capital can be a daunting task. However, doing so within a structured, organized networking framework will leverage your efforts and help you begin building your balance of capital to positively impact your bottom line. Here are some keys to creating social capital that will help you form the foundation of your business endeavors:
Plan your word-of-mouth
I’ve learned a great deal about planning and starting new businesses. Many years ago, it used to surprise me that 50 percent of all businesses fail after only three years in operation. However, now that I know how little planning many businesses do, I’m surprised that only 50 percent fail. If you want to be successful in business, it’s critical that you plan your work and work your plan. Furthermore, part of your plan should involve your strategy for building your business through word-of-mouth.
Every day, week and month, entrepreneurs strive to build their businesses through referrals. Part of this process is to build a team of people whom we recommend and refer to. This is part of the process of building your social capital.
If you’re not already a member of a strong contact network, find a chapter near you and get started. There’s no better way to systematically develop a solid base for building social capital than in an organization dedicated to helping you succeed in this endeavor.
Show professionalism at all times
Being dependable, delivering a product on time, meeting appointments consistently and treating others with courtesy will give you a professional reputation. This will cause you to be remembered by those you wish to have become a contributor to your social capital.
It’s a dog-eat-dog climate in the business world today. Competition is fierce, and some entrepreneurs employ down-and-dirty tactics. Studies have shown that one of the most important factors in doing business by referral is someone’s “professionalism.” By remaining professional at all times, you’ll rise to the top of the barrel and succeed where others will fail.
As you invest your time in developing your social capital, know that you are, in fact, increasing your bottom line. Strive to make the most effective use of this investment. Do everything possible to thoroughly enhance the relationships you develop in the coming year because social capital definitely leads to improved financial capital.
DR. IVAN MISNER