Building your cohort.

LinkedIn works because you’re building your network. And accessing a network for professional opportunities, knowledge and talent sharing is without a doubt a critical part of what Seth Godin describes neatly in his Startup School Podcast as the “Connection Economy”.

However your closest network, is something even more valuable than your broader network. It’s not often spoken about openly primarily because the trust attached between this group is immense.

This group is your cohort.

Your cohort is your very closest inner circle. It’s the people who know the ins and outs of your business dealings, what you’re doing, where you’re headed. They’re the people you go to for advice either for coffee or a drink to discuss career and study moves, acquisition and sales options and even advice pertaining to your personal life.

Finding and building a good cohort can set you up nicely for a long period of growth and a solid foundation to share and build opportunities together. So what should your cohort look like?

After talking to a few friends and colleagues while cohorts can overlap they typically are separate and exhibit the follow characteristics:

  • People of a similar age (as typically they’re not your coaches or mentors)
  • People of a similar values but often usefully diverse backgrounds
  • Same geographic location at time of formation
  • An interest in similar fields — it helps to like to work on the same projects
  • Easy to communicate with openly, using a similar style of language
  • Each others partners get along (they don’t have to be best friends, but partners have to get along — you spend a lot of time with your cohort)

Seems like a pretty easy list right?

Wrong.

That’s a surprisingly difficult list to tick all the boxes on. You’ll see your cohort forming over time, and people may come and go out of your network, but rarely — if you have a strong one — will people fall out of your cohort.

For most people around the 30–35 mark is when your cohort is set, you need some working life time post university and even graduate school to work out who these individuals are.

So if you have little control over forming this and it ends up often being related to the circumstances of your working and personal life, why should you care?

The answer is simply, if you’ve found your cohort there are some things you must do in order to maximise the benefit of it for all of you, and the sooner you start doing these things, the stronger your cohort will be and the more value you will derive from it.

Step 1: introduce partners. If your cohorts’ partners haven’t met each other yet you need to test the water on this one, it’s a big one!

Step 2: be 100% open. Your cohort needs to know your greatest, fears, hopes, dreams and aspirations. They’re really the working version of your partner and family. The more open you are with them the better they can support you.

Step 3: mi casa es su casa. You’re there to support each other, doesn’t even have to mean financially, although it can sometimes, but when you’re working alongside each other, your time, money, your office, a coffee, a beer, it’s all with each other, and typically (except Family comes first rules) you need to drop other things to support your cohort and your ventures with them.

Step 4: share knowledge. It’s easy to find great articles, books, podcasts these days — we have this thing called Internet. But what’s even better now is we have things like Slack to help us share. Which means in fact however many sets of eyes there are in your cohort is how much useful material you can all be scanning together at once to glean a competitive advantage for your existing ventures, and look for new and exciting opportunities out there.

Step 5: chill out together. Down time is as important as up time. Everyone in life seems to be worried about “up time”. Guess what, we’re not perfect yet, so when there is down time — make the most of it.

Step 6: review together. Sit down once a quarter, or each half, or at least once a year, and go over the books, your notes, what you’d set as goals etc. with your cohort. Do your review of yourself, professional, business, personal etc. with your cohort. Then support each other to get cracking with the next lot of goals.

That’s it. Simply put, if you keep ensuring that you’re doing the above, you will be strengthening your cohort. Each of the opportunities that your cohort will find will be different to mine, I’m certain of that. But the stronger you area as your team, the better you’ll be able to play in the bigger league network that is the connection economy.

Good luck finding your cohort.

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