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Better when we’re together: the benefits of connections

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We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. Why is this notion such a popular one? Data scientist entrepreneur Edwina Dunn OBE, offers up some examples of when and why strong connections are a necessity.

“When you’re starting out, getting some really talented recruits – your first two or three top performers – can make all of the difference to your success or failure,” says Edwina Dunn OBE, Founder of the Female Lead. “It’s really hard to find high-caliber candidates because at this point in time you're nobody. You have a dream, and you’re trying to bring in huge talent – people who are already very successful and probably being paid quite a lot. This is why you need someone who endorses you and can say, ‘Look, these guys aren’t making any money at the moment, but I believe they will, and I have invested in them myself.’”

Dunn is a huge advocate of plugging her own gaps with the strengths that she finds in her network. “I think people should stop worrying about their weaknesses. We are all weak in some way. Instead, I love the idea of knowing your own superpower. We lose a lot of energy and sleep mulling over all the things we're not. But I don't believe that we need to because in sophisticated, collaborative networks, people can find their opposites; they can find their complementary skillset or even a business partner. And this will make you stronger than any kind of training or development could.”

Another belief that Dunn holds is the idea of rising by lifting others up. “You have nothing to lose – and you take away nothing from yourself – by supporting people,” she says. “I honestly feel that the more you assist people, the more people give you back. It’s certainly not about keeping score, but you do need to be mindful about constantly giving freely to people who are simply takers. Build a reputation for helping those who will help you in return. If we did more of this, we would, in my opinion, have even greater strength – because women are brilliant and sophisticated collaborators.

“Women are fantastic at asking for help,” she continues. “The ability to do this is a strength not a weakness. But it’s up to you to ensure that you have a network that you can actively go to for support. And dare to be different! Anybody who's an entrepreneur is a little bit weird, right? And that's okay! It's good to be a bit out there – it’s because you're passionate and are crazy for your idea.”

Dunn estimates that she’s hired around 3,000 people over the course of her lifetime. “I meet some of those people today and they are in other roles – they might be running their own business or leaving a business, they might have huge amount of power and big budgets. But these people – if you treated them accordingly and had the right relationship with them, then they will be your biggest and best advocates. Some of my ex-employees have gone on to become clients. When we hire people, we’re only really borrowing them – they come, you might want them to stay but they might go – and we should always treasure what we borrow. But the bond that you build with them can continue when they move on.”

Of course, working relationships don’t always go smoothly. “I could write a book on the things that have gone wrong,” Dunn says. “What I’ve learnt is that when someone has just taken a dislike to you or to what you do, you have to just walk away. When the chemistry is wrong, it's just wrong. There has to be a meeting of minds and there has to be an alignment. Forcing something uncomfortably will never work. Not everybody's going to like you and not everybody's going to believe in you. And not everybody's going to trust you. I wish they did, but they don't.”

What advice does Dunn have for keeping a team connected? “For me, it's about everybody understanding what the plan is, what the objective is and what their role is. But they also need to take ownership for the whole plan, and therefore avoid the ‘that's not my job,’ mentality. Every single person should feel that it’s their job to get us all to the end point.

“There should be an outcome orientation and a milestone orientation – so if the business is failing in one area, you all help each other out. That’s fundamental. I do find that the degree of specialisation in companies is slightly at odds with that. But that shared vision and a strong element of responsibility are integral. You need that trust in each other so when things are really tough, you all stay late. Everyone will worry about it; everyone will come together, and it will get done. If you can create that culture, I think magic happens.”

Business is a collaborative endeavor, even though you might be the one at the helm. Building a strong network is key to helping you build a strong business.

Please contact us to find out how we can help you find the connections that will enable your business to thrive.

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