Relationship Development: Who Is In Your Startup’s Sphere of Influence?

Sphere of Influence

Welcome to Part III of our series on Relationship Development Strategies for Founders. After reviewing evidence about why founders must build powerful networks, and the authentic and generous mindsets needed to do so, it’s now time to get tactical.

Before you start any project, you must clearly define your objectives. The first step to a successful relationship development plan, is to define your desired sphere of influence. This means figuring out which stakeholders are critical to your specific goals. I highly suggest setting aside time with your team to go through the four steps below, as the clarity gained here will give purpose and context to your outreach activities. As well, you will quickly find that relationship strategy is not a separate initiative, but should be integrated into all your ongoing planning and status sessions.

Defining your sphere of influence

1. Define your goals  Sit down and spell out some long- and short-term business goals around key to-do buckets such as talent acquisition, fundraising, growth, and distribution. Be as specific as possible.

  • Example: Instead of a general goal like “Recruit more team members” you might break it down into “Recruit two more mid-level rails developers by August 1st” and “Recruit experienced marketing director by September 1st.” This distinction is important, as you will probably use different methods to connect with different groups of people.

2. Identify types of stakeholders  Lay out the general categories of people you will need to achieve each goal.

  • Example: Investors, other founders, and lawyers are three types of stakeholders you would need to successfully complete a fundraising goal.

3. Name specific people  For each stakeholder group, name individual people who could be critical to realizing the related goal.

  • Include those you already know and aspirational contacts.
  • If targeting influencers or thought leaders, go a step further and think about who influences them. Perhaps you could get on their radar by first developing a relationship with their “right hand man” or social media manager, for example.
  • You might be left with some blank spaces. That’s ok, but don’t cut corners and leave it at company names. For example, naming “Facebook” as a potential partnership stakeholder isn’t enough. Go do some research and determine just which decision-makers at Facebook you need to build relationships with.

4. Assign ownership Figure out who will be the lead on each relationship, and keep each other in the loop about progress. You don’t want your team to appear disorganized by bombarding someone with seemingly disconnected outreach from different team members.

Now that you know who you need in your sphere of influence, it’s time to go bring them into your circle. Next time we’ll focus on how to execute an outreach process to continuously build trust and provide value with these important relationships.

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