Thriving in a startup by finding others like you

Ray DelMuro of Refresh Glass talks competitive differentiation, photo by Jack Dorney

This year’s Phoenix Startup Week theme is #ThrivePHX, for helping entrepreneurs grow by involving the Phoenix community in their process. It’s a great concept, but how does this apply in practice? Well, the talks at Startup Week that I‘ve been attending these past few days have shown me: form real connections with like-minded people.

Build a referral network

Starting right off-the-bat on day one, Drew Shaw from Voyce Threads talked about building a business referral network. It boils down to: learn to be authentic, learn how you are comfortable speaking to others, and be purposeful in cultivating relationships as potential partnerships by providing value first. He recommended a book, Referral of a Lifetime by Tim Templeton that I ended up starting to read that night and have been reading every day this week (I’m already half-way through it)!

Create raving fans

When it comes to your product or service, your goal should be to delight your customers, according to Mari Tautimes from Western Asset Protection. After telling us her story of how she turned her life around based on inspiration from Tony Robbins, who she is herself a raving fan of, she passed on her own experience of creating raving fans in her work. The principles behind approach: Know who your customers are, obsess about how you can deliver more value, and provide a consistent experience.


From Justin Foster and Emily Soccorsy at Root and River, I learned that the marketing practices we’re all familiar with have lead us to a “sea of sameness” and that you have to “commit to being uncommon” in order to stand out. To do this, you need to think deeper about your clients by answering: What do they value? What are they really after? What are they neglecting?

That last question is powerful because as I’ve learned from marketing Blocks Edit, the benefits can be lost on people if they are unaware of the problem that they are having in the first place. Putting the problem in proper perspective leads to real discussion with your customers. Justin and Emily gave great examples of this and even talking through some ideas with people in the audience, and man does work! They managed to turn three service pitches that I had no personal interest in to where I suddenly started to think about how I could use after-all!

Talk to those around you

Besides the great content from speakers, the other valuable aspect of Startup Week is of course the networking. A lesson I learned last year and was reminded of again this year, is how the simple act of talking through struggles with others, finding out about theirs, and sharing your own, sheds new light on how to put yours in perspective, which in turn leads to new ideas around how to deal with them!

One of the concepts in Referral of a Lifetime is that by understanding that all business is about building relationships, you’ll develop a better sense of how you can always approach a conversation, and meet people that you can make true connections with. This sounds so simple because when we think about it, at the end of the day, that’s what matters to us in everything we do in life!

In the spirit of connecting, be sure to connect with me via my website where I have an email list that I send to every month with more of my thoughts around entrepreneurship and knowledge work.