There's no telling if that new person is "the one" you've been waiting for or has another connection that just happens to run his own Fortune 500 Company. After all, Microsoft would never have been were it not for Bill Gates's connections.
Your Move: Thankfully for you, new alliances can be forged much easier than multi-million dollar acquisitions. Just leverage your power. For Google, it's money, but for you it can be knowledge.
Try playing the role of informer for you new friend. Know about a major shift in company policy? Fill them in. Have a friend that hosts for the hottest restaurant in the city? Likewise, leg up.
Become a fountain of knowledge in your field
Complacency being death in the business world; all smart investors will look into a company's R&D budget before placing any funds into the enterprise. Even the top dogs must keep learning new tricks.
"They send people to conferences... they're reading online, looking for more information," says Neil Patel, co-founder of analytics companies KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg. His pedigree also includes helping companies like Amazon, HP and GM get found on search engines.
"They're looking for magazines, all these sorts of things, right?" he said. "So I just see them networking and I just go out there and educate them, because they're always looking to learn, and if you can educate them, eventually you're going to end up getting some of these people as customers."
What's in it for me: What Patel became was a reservoir of knowledge in his field of expertise which happens to be professional web surfing, as he calls it. This key activity is he and these billion dollar enterprises had in common and helped them connect.
Are you the person people come to for help and information? If not, it makes sense that you become this magnetic person. If so, (and assuming you love what you do) give yourself permission to become addicted to learning all the best practices of your field. Every article you read and talk you listen to makes you that much more valuable of a contact.
And if you don't love what you do? Take this as encouragement to hunt down what that is.
Keep your friends and employees close
After any relationship goes on long enough, the champagne fizzles out: one or both parties become complacent, stop calling or forget to keep working out. Things may not be as new as they used to be, but if one isn't careful, things could take a turn for the worst. Microsoft has learned this lesson the hard way.
To describe his last days with the Windows maker, David Ehrenberg referred me to an article by Vanity Fair entitled, "Microsoft's Lost Decade." Among other things, it spoke of how during the end of its peak in early 2000, Microsoft dropped the ball, especially with its employees. Kurt Eichenwald, the VF reporter, writes:
"By the dawn of the millennium, the hallways at Microsoft were no longer home to barefoot programmers in Hawaiian shirts working through nights and weekends toward a common goal of excellence; instead, life behind the thick corporate walls had become staid and brutish. Fiefdoms had taken root, and a mastery of internal politics emerged as key to career success."
Microsoft stopped paying attention to what was really important, and therefore, got sloppy. Due to the company's own internal issues, today "the iPhone brings in more revenue than the entirety of Microsoft." Ouch.
What's in it for me: No one wins the lottery and then punches an old lady in the face; it just doesn't happen. Happy people don't feel like doing mean and stupid things, so keep folks happy. If you're an employer, then you have lots of incentive to keep your top talent content.
Your Move: Always say 'thank you.' It's amazingly inexpensive, and Fortune itself reports that for managers, it leads to greater service and business profits.
Use social media to be...social
According to Forbes, which cited a report from Nielsen, "over half of consumers now use social media to directly reach out to companies to report satisfaction, lodge complaints, and ask questions." The biggest players are connecting and educating through the social sphere. Neil Patel agrees:
"[Companies] like General Electric need social media to educate the market. Why? Because, they're not going to find customers through the software, it's very rare that they're going to find someone, and they're going to be like, 'Oh let me buy a turbine,' right? It's an expensive product. So they just use social media to educate and connect with their customers."
What's in it for me: Patel says sharing warms people up to brands and helps convert them into paying customers.
Warming up big decision makers to your brand (you) is made much easier through social products like LinkedIn, which 98% of recruiters use.
Your Move: Facebook can't be making us all narcissists; social media, after all, is a tool, with the option for poor and good use. Experts of every stripe are producing free eBooks and helpful reports all the time which one can imagine your social connections would find more relevant to their needs than more mundane status updates.
--Jean-Marc Saint Laurent is a journalist for The Street. He is also a freelance money and business writer based in the Orlando area, having penned for the likes of The Motley Fool and the Center For Imagination. Connect with him at http://jsaintlaurent.com or follow him @JeanMarcSaint.