Leveraging Our Trusted Network to Grow Your Business

by Doug Bruhnke

Are you prepared to grow in the next phase? The global tribe at Global Chamber® is a large network of globally minded leaders located around the world in 525 metro regions who are serious about growing business across metro regions and borders. Each member is trusted because he or she has demonstrated the characteristics to earn that trust. We’ve used the new pandemic reality to expand the size of our community to more than 40 million leaders, and we’ve grown the capabilities of our network to help members grow.

If you and I trust each other and we each have a trusted network, shouldn’t I trust someone that you recommend, and vice-versa? This approach accelerates business development versus the cold biz dev techniques out there. Why search for a needle in a haystack and risk working with someone you don’t know when you can directly access trusted, vetted clients and resources?

What makes someone trusted? There are about 35 characteristics that we consider when adding new members to our community: That he or she is capable, honest, ethical, accountable, responsible, “word is their bond,” professional, good listener, easy to work with, a get-things-done leader, a do-what-they-say-and-say-what-they-do person, systematic, reliable, experienced, trained, a do-the-right-thing mindset, reasonable, flexible, resilient, adaptable, aware, enlightened, transparent, candid, globally minded, cognizant of the big picture, humble, balanced, fair, respectful, giving, supportive, client-centric, caring about others, passionate and enthusiastic. Does that just about cover it for you?

Why is trust important? To actually do business and get things done, we need to rely on other people. If we can’t rely on them, it takes more time to get things done and the risk of failure is higher. Conversely when we work with someone we trust, communications are faster and we’re more comfortable, because even when things go off the rails — and they can — we know we have a lot higher chance of getting things back on track. 

How to grow your trusted network? If you do international business like me for more than 33 years, you’ll by now have a pretty good network. I was particularly blessed by working in more than 100 businesses across 100-plus countries. I used to think I knew everybody — ha! Then, as we grew Global Chamber with well-connected leaders in each metro around the world, it became clear that I sure don’t! But WOW, collectively our global network now knows nearly everyone! Step by step, day by day, we’re getting there. We’re also finding new technologies to find more good people for our network, like tapping into databases and vetting the people we find. We’re also using artificial intelligence to find the right people and screen/test them. That is what’s happening behind the scenes at Global Chamber every day: finding, vetting, growing, connecting, evaluating, and on and on.

How can warm introductions and connections help? The warm introductions process at Global Chamber is based first on our having a large and growing trusted network and also asking questions of members to understand who they wish to meet — the best new prospective clients, new opportunities, new resources and more. Because we know and have confidence in both parties being introduced, there’s a greater than 90% chance that a conversation will occur, and so there’s a good chance that a deal will happen — now or in the future.

Due diligence tips and techniques for members. When you speak with a Global Chamber member who has been with us for a while, you can feel good that the person fits most or all of the characteristic named above. Always be careful, but when you connect with the global tribe you’re starting at a good place. There are five main ways that we do due diligence to keep the global tribe a safe and trusted community to do business. We do these checks with every prospective member and monitor along the way as we make warm introductions every day and throughout the years.

LinkedIn (and other networks). Usually, when someone comes to Global Chamber they are introduced in through someone we know. So, we’re feeling really good about those people right away — warm introductions matter! Many times, though, people find us and reach out. In both circumstances we start with a review of their background in LinkedIn. How well connected are they? Is there a picture? What does their career look like and is their background filled in, with no holes? Does it all make sense? If not, that’s a basis for our next conversation. Do they have recommendations, and what is the ratio of recommendations given versus received? If there’s little information there, that’s honestly troubling — is there another source? And for everyone, check other networks to confirm consistency (see #2).

Google/web search. Do a web search on the person and company. Do basic searches on their names and also do searches with keywords like “success story” and “lawsuit” to see good and bad out there. If something bad shows up, it doesn’t mean that you don’t work with them, but it can be a warning sign and a point to discuss.

The nonsense test. Sometimes, we’ll notice a prospective member is active in social media supporting ideas or positions that are not truthful, or that are corrupt or unethical. In the past three-plus years, this kind of issue has surfaced more in the U.S., and it can be an issue around the world, too. The truth is important, and we need it in business and society. Corruption makes trade much more difficult, and we just can’t have the global tribe supporting it or engaged with it. If there is nonsense like this being communicated by any prospective member, including denying basic truth and facts, it makes it difficult to recommend him or her to others. It’s rare that someone interested in global business acts or talks like this, but it’s not unheard of, and so it’s another thing we look at with prospects, to preserve the integrity of our business community.

Email and communications. A simple first test we do is to look at whether the person has an email signature. That’s an indication of whether they’re thinking about others and/or serious about growth. Sometimes those in a lifestyle business mode don’t want new business and so they don’t really care to brand themselves and their firm — and that’s likely not a member of the global tribe. It they haven’t made it easy for people to contact them, that’s not a deal-killer but it’s an indicator of potential issues. Beyond that, how about their timeliness, respect for others’ time, listening and overall demeanor? Are they organized? Do they show up on time? Do they share responsibility for setting up meetings? Do they spend their time talking about themselves and their business instead of asking questions and finding ways to move the needle forward together? 

What others say. Today’s social media, including LinkedIn, allows sharing how folks feel about other people and businesses. This is another datapoint for us to determine trust. What do we see out there and how heartfelt are the comments? Invariably, in a warm intro — especially when it’s done right — there is positive emotion tied in. One of my favorite people — Charles Bernard of Criteria for Success — introduces people into Global Chamber and it feels like a warm hand-off. We want to speak with these people because Charles does such a good job of explaining why we need to talk, and we’re already feeling good about them from his description. We aspire to be as good as Charles in our warm intros! A good place for recommendations is LinkedIn, discussed above. What are they actually saying?

“To attain knowledge, add every day. To attain wisdom, remove every day.”
—Lao Tzu 

As we grow the global tribe, we also have some people either not joining because they’ve self-selected out or we don’t actively pursue them because we wouldn’t be comfortable introducing them to members. There’s some culling that goes on, too. This goes right to the heart of both building a trusted network and leveraging it successfully. Here are examples of when it doesn’t necessarily work for some folks joining the global tribe.

Lone wolfs. Some folks just like doing things on their own, including building their own network, staying alone. It’s a strategy incredibly off target for people and firms looking to grow. I’ve always thought that some of these folks can be saved from their own thinking, and we’ve had a few come in over time. I wish there were more; we can really help. So, we welcome these, and realize that they are ready when they’re ready.

Freebies. These are the folks who either don’t have the budget or the mentality to be part of a global network. One person on my mind here is a woman who, when encouraged by one of our best members to join, wanted just to hang out and tap in for free. Look, if someone has economic issues, we can make it work every time by being flexible. But she didn’t even go there; it went right to free only. That approach undervalues what the global tribe brings to someone’s business, and that’s not OK.

Takers only. There are some folks we haven’t broken the code on yet. One is a woman whom we’ve supported for years as a collaborator and, quite literally, nothing has ever come back. We collaborated because it seems like an amazing win-win, but one-way doesn’t work. How could we introduce her to the global tribe if she doesn’t understand win-win collaboration? This is a tough one to overcome.

Too political. We have members who rely on selling to the government and God bless them, they say the right things to win deals on both sides of the aisle. Luis Ramirez is an example of that — what a great leader, full of competence and integrity! We also love elected officials from every party when they help with trade and are honest and full of integrity, like Republican Mayor Jim Lane (Scottsdale) and Democratic Mayor Kate Gallego (Phoenix). That said, we’ve had a few prospective members get too political in their conversations, and that can be uncomfortable in these days when there are divergent opinions about handling things like COVID-19. We’re all business and business success within a framework of truth and ethics, and we look to preserve that safe community, politics-free.

Unbalanced. We expect everyone to have balance and respect for others. There are a couple of voicemails on my phone from a fellow who took my honesty, transparency and request for civility quite personally, and then he tried to project his problems onto me in several rambling messages that were abusive to others and quite threatening to me, too. We demand balance in business and life — and disrespect will not be tolerated.

Unethical. This also does not work with us. We’ve had only a few of these in our first five years, and one more recent one was a case where we had seen some hints of impropriety and so did proactive checking to discover a bunch of bad things. We cut ties and he became quite abusive when we did that. He started to project onto others what he apparently did, including abusing women. That’s unacceptable. 

The world is a big place with all sorts of people. That’s why we’ve defined who we want in our network, across cultures, and continually work to create the “perfect” network. We don’t always get it right the first time, but we keep working to make it better. This is not about good and bad people, it’s about the character of whom we want to work with — the ideal trusted network. So, that’s why we do what we do, for our members. We love our global tribe! We work every day to grow our trusted network to help members grow across metros and borders. It’s never been this important to have a trusted network. Make your life a little easier and be in the global tribe to be trusted and leverage the growing trusted network.

Doug Bruhnke is founder and CEO of Global Chamber®.

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