It’s often said that your network is your net worth. This is a maxim repeated in every industry, but it’s especially common in the world of online entrepreneurs.
For good reason: it’s true.
Thankfully, I happen to be pretty good at networking. By which I mean, I’m good at putting myself in position to meet cool people, becoming friendly with them, being cool with them, and adding value — which more or less equates to friendship.
Normally, when you ask people about how to network, you’ll get a bunch of platitudes like, “Just be cool,” “Don’t try too hard,” and “Always add value.”
Those things are true, of course, and necessary.
That said, if you really want a step by step approach to building your network, “Be cool” isn’t really an action step.
If you really want to understand how to add people to you network, cliche’s aren’t enough. But, I find direct action steps are often not enough, either.
So today, I want to do something different—I’m going to tell you a story; a story about how I did some networking, made a new friend and business contact, and fostered a connection of truly mutual benefit.
What follows below is the story of how I became closely connected to one of the most influential entrepreneurs on the planet.
Loud, brash, and brilliant, he’s one of the most successful businessmen of our time; certainly, one of the most notable to rise to prominence as a result of the internet age.
His story is both inspirational and aspirational, but also beyond the scope of this writing. For the sake of brevity, the abridged version is that Gary was a lifelong hustler with an entrepreneurial bent who, fresh out of college, took his family wine business from $3M in annual revenue to $60M over a period of five years.
From there, he started WineLibraryTV, one of the first video blogs, and certainly the first about wine.
Gary had a strong understanding of the social landscape of the internet, and achieved massive success, making the transition from wine blogger to social media expert.
This led to a landmark 10-book deal with HarperStudio, pioneering the low advance/high royalty model. To date, he’s published four of the books for which he’s contracted: Crush It!; The Thank You Economy; Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook; #AskGaryvee, and Crushing It!
All of them have debuted on the bestseller list.
But, we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Let’s dial it back to 2009 when Crush It! was first released.
I had just started my site—then a single-author blog—and was making my way through the world of internet business and brand building. A friend of mine gave me a copy of Crush It!, noting, “You’re gonna fucking LOVE this guy. He reminds me of you.”
After a few minutes of Googling, I could see why: the loud voice; the f-bombs; the Jets mania. Not hard to see the resemblance.
Despite knowing very little about wine, and certainly not giving a shit about the difference between a chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc, I found myself five videos deep before I knew it, smiling and nodding along. This guy’s got something.
From there, I became a fan and a follower.
I loved Gary’s stuff, and supported him however I could. In many ways, I took my cues from him, hustling my ass off and barely taking time off.
The net result of this was an accelerated rate of success, of course, but not without a few hiccups and silly decisions, as I mentioned in this article about Crush It! and how I almost skipped the Jets’ first appearance in an AFC championship game in a decade.
Still, Gary was my guy. Someone I respected and knew that I would want to meet.
Fast forward about a year and a half. It was March of 2011. My internet business was going well. I’d run two $500K product launches, was running a great coaching program, and loving life. As far as my plan for world domination, things were proceeding more or less as planned.
At that time, I wanted to branch out of fitness and do more general business stuff. I also wanted to expand my network.
Without warning, the Universe gave me a gift. Sitting at my dining room table in Hell’s Kitchen, this tweet pops up on my screen.
About to start my talk at the apple store in NYC, if u are close atop by @ Apple Store, SoHo http://gowal.la/c/3TK2G
— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) March 31, 2011
SoHo? Through Midtown traffic? Fuck it, I’m in.
Without hesitation, I decided to rush down and meet the man who’d inspired me. So, I put on my Jets hat, brought a copy of Crush It! for him to sign and a Roman Fitness Systems t-shirt to give him.
NYC traffic being what it is, I missed the first 20 minutes of the talk. What I saw of it was awesome, as you might expect.
After the Q&A, I decided, despite my abject aversion to fanboying anyone, to go say hello and thank you to Gary.
Instead of a 30-second “hi you’re awesome sign my book please” type of conversation, we hit it off really, really well. We talked Jets. We shit-talked each other about Jersey vs Long Island. We discussed the fucking Smurfs.
Towards the end of our conversation, he commented on my physique, and then actually reached out and grabbed ahold of my right arm, giving it a good squeeze. “Man, I gotta get where you are. I really gotta make my health a priority.”
Now, at this point in my career, I wasn’t working with clients in person. I had prioritized everything else. But I know an opportunity when I see one.
So while I hadn’t planned on pitching him, I gave him my card and told him, “Well, if you ever decide to get a trainer, I would be down to work with you.”
This was the right move. Trying to close on the first transaction and get him to hire me right there would not only have been the height of douchiness, but it also would’ve flown in the face of everything Gary teaches on stage. Instead, I made a good impression, gave him a t-shirt, and left it at that.
A few weeks later, something clicked for Gary, and he decided that there was no point waiting to get fit, and wanted to jump in now.
Months and months later, I would find out that Gary had lost my card and had forgotten my name. Because… Gary. It was just as well, though, because, at that point, he probably didn’t know much about me, anyway.
I don’t think his thought process was quite, “one meathead was as good as another,” but he just wanted a trainer, fast. And put up this Facebook post to that effect:
I think it’s time I get serious about working out, I need help, I need a mean, don’t let me slip or skip kinda trainer,…
Posted by Gary Vaynerchuk on Tuesday, May 31, 2011
If you know anything about Gary’s audience or people in general, the reaction is predictable: people went wild and started pitching themselves like crazy. Acting like a bunch of sycophants. Which, in addition to being ineffective, tends to come off as a bit smarmy.
Still, I was very interested, and loved the idea of helping Gary get into shape.
Rather than post on his thread myself, I posted on MY Facebook page with a link to his post and told my followers to let him know what’s up.
Gary Vaynerchuk needs a trainer in NYC – do me a favor an comment on his thread letting him know who the best is =) Thanks!
Posted by John Romaniello on Tuesday, May 31, 2011
So rather than me being ONE guy in a series of other dudes being like, “Pick me, pick me!”, a few dozen of my followers blew his thread up and said, “If you don’t pick Roman, you’re out of your mind.”
I figured if anyone could appreciate me intelligently leveraging social media to get what I want, it was Gary.
Within an hour, I had an email from his assistant and on June 6, 2011, Gary and I trained together for the first time. It was our first of 86 sessions over a nearly two years—not the most consistent record, but a good one. We had a lot of fun, Gary made progress and had some of the best workouts of his life.
One day, a few months in, I rolled into the gym at 6:55, five minutes before our training session started. We got warmed up, did some foam rolling, and Gary could tell that I was dragging a bit.
He asked if I had a late night last night, and I said, “Yeah, later than I planned.” He looked at me shrewdly, “Partying?” he asked.
I shook my head, “Hustling, baby. Every damn day.” I told him that 12:45 AM, our mutual friend Lewis Howes invited me out for drinks in the West Village with Ramit Sethi, whom I had only met once, and Noah Kagan, who at that point, I had not met.
Gary nodded his approval, “Yeah, you made the right move. You gotta make those connections. That’s just part of the hustle mode. You can’t miss out on that stuff.” And I didn’t.
I’ve detailed the result of that interaction in another article. But suffice it to say, it was a good night, despite having gotten home at 4:00 AM.
What I haven’t detailed to this point is the massive argument I got into with my then-girlfriend right before I left.
At this point, I was in a mediocre relationship with a woman who didn’t really support me in living the lifestyle necessary to be a successful entrepreneur—the late nights, the constant traveling, the seemingly never-ending focus on work. Our fight that night isn’t worth rehashing, but the upshot is that she thought it was completely inappropriate for me to go out at 1:00 in the morning and not invite her.
That argument was sort of a microcosm of the relationship, in that it stemmed from us being radically different, didn’t lead anywhere. In the end, she went to bed alone and angry, and I left the house pissed off instead of focusing on the task at hand: be awesome and make new friends.
As I filled Gary in on this story, I could see his lips purse.
Years and years of poker-related observation had long ago had informed me that this is one of Gary’s tells. It is the face he makes right before he disagrees with you, or says something that is mildly uncomfortable.
“Guys like us need either a cheerleader or a fullback. Someone who is either going to stay home (gladly, and without resentment) to hold down the fort while you take over the world, or someone out there taking it over with you. That’s it—anyone in the middle is trouble.”
That resonated with me. And, to be honest, it was exactly the kick in the pants I needed to end that relationship. It was one of a host of factors, of course, but that conversation was absolutely the catalyst for me finally pulling the trigger.
Gary’s advice, in part, helped me move on from something, and grow in the direction that eventually led me to what I need: a fellow entrepreneur, or fullback, to use Gary’s parlance–not long after ending that relationship, I met someone who shared my entrepreneurial zeal.
If you had told me in 2009 that one day Gary Vaynerchuk would singlehandedly reframe my outlook on potential life partners, I’d have laughed in your face. But the funny thing is, by the time we had that conversation, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Having trained him for just a few months was enough time for me to see that Gary’s wisdom extends far beyond wine and web.
No matter what question I had, or idea I wanted to run by him, Gary was always willing to talk about it and bat a few things around.
Five years later, though I no longer train him (I passed that job on to Mike Vacanti, who will soon pass it on again), Gary is a good friend and mentor. He was even kind enough to add his endorsement to my first bestseller, which was awesome of him.
Over our two years training together, and the many years since, every question I’ve had for Gary, he has had an answer for, and that is why you should get his newest book, Crushing It!
In it Gary overviews in simple terms exactly what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur.