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6 degrees of separation - how Kevin Bacon can help you build a better business

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There was a time in the early 90’s when Kevin Bacon was so ubiquitous in film that a couple of bored movie buffs came up with a game where victory lay in finding the shortest path of connection between any Hollywood actor and Mr Footloose himself.

Based on the parlour game, ‘six degrees of separation’ – which derived from the notion that any two people on the planet are six (or less) acquaintance links apart – ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ was not only a hilarious slacker pastime, but also another lesson in how connected we all really are.

Bacon has enjoyed some serious mileage from the game over the years, most recently appearing in ads for EE’S 4G mobile network – connectivity being the obvious link – and setting up his own charity: Six Degrees.org.

‘So what’s all this got to do with my small business?’ we hear you cry.

Well, in terms of private enterprise, the Kevin Bacon phenomenon serves to remind us of the importance of making the right connections and how this can rocket your business into the limelight.

Here are BusinessesForSale.com’s 6 steps to connective success:

Get communal

With the social enterprise movement going from strength to strength and as more and more global companies incorporate the practice into their business strategies, the value of making meaningful links with your community is quickly filtering down into the collective business consciousness.

No small business is an island, and the more you can involve yourself with your wider community, the more those relationships will create a healthier environment from which to function.

 Share ideas with neighbouring businesses, get involved with community events (or organise one yourself), invite young people to gain work experience with you (and benefit from their fresh ideas!) and promote your business as a champion of positive connection.

Analyse your social media 

You may well have set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for your business, and you probably happily update them from time to time, thinking you are ticking the social media box.

It is vital, however, to look closely at how your social media is actually helping your business – who you are reaching, how relevant your links are and how wide your net really is.

There are many social media marketing tools available, such as Mention, Follerwonk, Hootsuite and Buffer that can help you analyse, hone and develop your online connections so they are working as hard as possible for your business.

Make diverse connections

When networking for your business, your inclination may be to stay within the realms of your industry. This may be your comfort zone, but you are missing out on some potentially brilliant input.

In his book, The Necessity of Strangers, Alan Gregerman claims that many of us are networking in the wrong way, and that we should focus on nurturing relationships with different people who can challenge the way we think about business.

In his blog, Unlocking the Genius in OurselvesGregerman describes his work as ‘teaching leaders and employees at all levels to step out of their comfort zones in order to connect with strangers, from around the corner and around the world, as a wonderful way to stretch their thinking and possibilities. Strangers who might know something we don’t know or might be the missing piece to our most important puzzle.’

It may be hard to see your business from an outsiders’ perspective. However, by connecting with people from diverse sectors with different creative processes, you can absorb their approaches to business and work out how they could enrich your own.

Know your competitors

If you own a relatively new business, it’s good to associate with other start-ups and SME’s, but you should find out what their goals for the future are. Are their aims simply to tick along, turning an adequate profit?

 If your dreams are on a larger scale, don’t be afraid to make contact with businesses you aspire to, and ask for advice on how they got to where they are.

You will be surprised how many successful business owners will give you a slice of their time. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Go outside

An agile mind will create an energetic business. Don’t let your thoughts dwell only in the day to day routine.

If you make time to take in some inspiring culture, you will find that it can open the doors of creativity in your business practices.

Visit museums and discover some of humanity’s greatest breakthroughs. Take in some art or interactive theatre. Watch trends, read the papers and attend lectures on topics that are a thousand miles from your work-life.

You never know where these excursions might take you, and what inspirations they might ignite.

Look within

Finally, don’t neglect connections within your own business. The type of people you hire and the relationships between them will have a huge impact on the potential of your business.

Try to employ a range of personality types, from different cultural backgrounds, with various skill sets and interests. This diversity will inject energy into your enterprise.

And by fostering a culture of conversation within your ranks, you will find that new ideas and innovations will spring up regularly.

According to Alan Gregerman, ‘We’ve all been taught to believe that it is who we know that matters but that’s simply too narrow a worldview. It is who we could know that matters more.’

BusinessesForSale.com, and most likely our friend Kevin Bacon, wholeheartedly agree.

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