Every quarter, I meet with all the entrepreneurs who are part of Raizcorp’s Partner Elite division. We call it the Rolodex Day and, effectively, we open up our Rolodexes to one another – metaphorically and literally speaking. We spend a full day together in a constructed manner that is designed to ensure that we fully leverage the intimate networks we have built up.
One of the agenda items on which we spend a large amount of time is what we call “needs and leads”. Each of the entrepreneurs is given time to express what needs they have in their businesses, as well as what possible leads they have for others in the Partner Elite network.
What we have built here is something that you, as an entrepreneur, can build for yourself. Entrepreneurs can deliberately create referral ecosystems around themselves that are based on trust, cooperation and mutual benefit. Remember, though, as soon as the benefit becomes a one-sided affair, these networks tend to break down so it’s incredibly important that the “balance of trade” remains equitable over time.
There are five types of referrals that you should work on while building your referral ecosystem.
- Referring work
Most entrepreneurs think that passing on work is the sole purpose of a network. I would concede that it probably is the most important element, but it is certainly not the only one. The ideal form of work referral is without commission. The entrepreneur needs to have a longer-term attitude, which means passing on work to others within their ecosystems without expecting any financial gain in return. The secret to making this work is that each member of the ecosystem needs to have the mind-set of wanting to be the largest contributor to the others. If every member shares this philosophy, it will quickly become a lucrative mind-set for all.
- Referring staff
As a business grows so, too, does its staffing requirements – not just in numbers but also in quality. The cost of acquiring staff can range anywhere between 12.5% and 30% of the annual salary, and can become a serious expense for a growing business. Over time, people within your referrals network will come to understand your business better, along with its culture and the kinds of salaries you pay. Specifically requesting referrals for the type of staff you require in a “needs and leads” session can be a massive cost and time saver for your business.
- Passing on market intelligence
Market intelligence is often the most underrated commodity in a referrals ecosystem, yet it has the potential to prevent disasters, shape strategy and allow you to capitalise on opportunities. In a trusted network, freely passing on information should be a given.
- Support and care
All businesses go through cycles where entrepreneurs feel emotionally, physically and spiritually unprepared for the task at hand. Over and above the direct care and support that people within your referral network can provide, another huge benefit is the referrals they can provide for specialist help in both professional and personal areas. Your network can refer tax experts, lawyers, accountants and so on, but they can also refer you to health specialists like cardiologists, psychologists and other professionals.
- Referring suppliers
Probably one of the least considered parts of any business is the need for dependable, value-for-money suppliers. As your business grows, your supplier needs will change which makes this type of referral a very important aspect of the referrals ecosystem.
Building and growing a referrals ecosystem can offer enormous mutual benefits, provided that each and every member approaches the network with a spirit of generosity and reciprocity. As well as the obvious benefits, such as work and staff referrals, the members of such a network also receive a level of personal support and encouragement that can sometimes prove to be even more valuable.