Does Your Small Business Have a Connector?

October 17, 2012

Some people seem to know everyone - they're connectors and they're essential for your small business.

Do you have hundreds of people’s names in the contact list of your phone? Do you strike up conversations with strangers at parties or standing in line at the coffee shop? Would you say you’re interested in people? If the answer is yes to all these questions then you’re a connector. Connectors are the kind of people who seem to know everyone. Many people doubt they exist, but they really do according to writer Malcolm Gladwell, who coined the term and identified them as a new and important social type in his book The Tipping Point. Gladwell has a simple test to find out whether you are a connector. On his website and in the book, he has a list of 250 surnames taken randomly from the Manhattan phone book. If you know someone with that name you award yourself a point; if you know three people of that name then you get three points. When he gave this test to a variety of social groups, from freshman students to academics and journalists, what he found was that scores differed widely: the lowest score was 9, the highest 118.

Gladwell concluded, “Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are connectors.” Connectors are different from networkers, who regard working a room and pressing the flesh as their goal. Connectors just enjoy talking to new people and finding out about them. So what if you’re a Peter or Patty Popular? How will that help your small business? Well, because these people have a knack of getting things done. They’re the type of people you want around you because if there’s a new idea or problem at work, connectors are likely to be the first people to say, “I know someone who can help us with that.” Connectors share a number of attributes: they have pep and get-up-and-go in bucket loads, possess an unquenchable inquisitiveness and seem happy to take risks – they don’t mind being taken out of their comfort zones, in fact they get a kick out of it. Gladwell says connectors are socially important, they are the reason social changes occur quickly and unexpectedly. Are you born a connector or can you become one? There are some people who are naturally more sociable than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn some of a connector’s skills. At the next cocktail party or business convention you attend don’t just make a beeline for the faces familiar to you. Make an effort to go up to someone you don’t know and strike up a conversation. Listen to and be interested in their answers rather than keep scanning the room behind their shoulder. You never know when you might need that person, or when they might need you or your small business.