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When it comes to building an effective personal network, too many people make the mistake of trying to aim straight for the top. They think having a strong network means knowing multi-millionaire investors, celebrities or e-famous thought leaders. And while those contacts certainly won’t hurt, they should not be your primary focus — especially when first starting out.
I recently had the opportunity of chatting with someone who has, especially in the music business, truly built a world-class personal network. If you’ve heard of Justin Bieber, Usher, Kanye West and Ariana Grande, then chances are you’ve heard the name of their talent manager, Scooter Braun.
Braun, who is much more than a talent manager, has achieved more than enough personal success to warrant recognition on his own. Braun is one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry today and has appeared on the cover of Billboard, as well as the Time 100 list. Most recently, Braun was featured on an episode of The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes.
But, hard as it may be to imagine, there was a time when Braun was not all that well known. He, himself, had to build his contact list from the ground up, and chatting with him, his perspective is a clear representation of how he has been able to build a world-class network.
“The single best way to build a strong personal network is to build it with your peers,” he said. “You want to be able to have relationships that, 20 or 30 years from now, you can look back and say, ‘You know what? Let me make that phone call for you.’ You want to be able to look around at the people sitting with you today, and see their own big dreams manifesting, and know that eventually you’re all going to end up at the top together.”
The story he told with this advice was the perfect example. Surely, as a music listener, you’ve heard of Spotify — the independent streaming platform that reinvented the future of music and prompted tech giant, Apple, to launch their own competitor service, Apple Music. Well, it wasn’t long ago when the founder of Spotify, Daniel Ek, was just another entrepreneur with a vision.
As Braun told it, at age 27, he was put on one of Billboard’s “30 Under 30” lists. Wanting to leverage his success, he asked Billboard for the contact information of everyone on that list. He got it, and reached out to then-24-year-old Daniel Ek, saying, “Hey, we’re on the same list. We should know each other.” From there, Braun and Ek became friends, and Braun ended up investing in Ek’s growing startup, Spotify.
“We go back that far,” said Braun. “We go back to the time when a lot of people didn’t know him and didn’t support him, and I was one of the few that did because I reached out to my network of peers. That’s it.”
Braun added that this same experience happened with other thought leaders, such as Troy Carter and Jason Owen. These were people around him, coming up around the same time, and today they can all look back and see how they supported each other before they became managers of big stars.
“To have that kind of relationship to be able to say, ‘I knew you before,’ establishes a different level of trust,” said Braun. “That’s really how you build a world-class network. It’s your friends around you right now, not the billionaires that you hope you have a meeting with. It’s your buddy who is just as stoked and just as driven, sitting right next to you.”
Braun’s advice couldn’t be more pertinent to today’s era of aspiring entrepreneurs, business leaders, artists, executives and more. With more networking tools at our disposal than ever before — more conventions, events, podcasts, retreats and opportunities to meet up with others in our field — it’s important that we stop and take a look at who is already sitting right next to us.