9. The Event/Ticket Connection
"Hello? Let me guess what you want ... FOUR front-row seats for the Sharks game this weekend? Yeah, I'll get that FedExed to your office. You're welcome. No, I can't make it, but enjoy yourselves. I'll see you next week."
For those with an inside connection, no event is truly ever "sold out;" the right person in the right place can get you access to the most coveted seats for the hottest game/show/event in town, even in the last minute. His hookups are far from cheap, but if you are looking to make a grand impression on a high-stakes business deal (or a high-potential date), having someone on your speed-dial who can get you into the biggest venues on a moment's notice is a priceless connection.
10. The Local Celebrity
"What's the seating capacity of the fundraiser? Ok, I'll bring 300 photos to autograph and make sure my fans know where to show up. Glad to help."
National celebrities may be fun to have include your rolodex, but even if they are a good friend, it's difficult to get their time commitment for anything as they are besieged by lucrative appearance opportunities that demand their presence on a moment's notice.
Local celebrities, on the other hand, seek to broaden their fanbase and make a deeper connection with them in the immediate community; they are invaluable allies when you seek to host a nonprofit fundraiser and need to pack your event with new faces. Too, given the sheer number of people they interact with, they double as 15. in a pinch and can put you in touch with the right ... whomever ... should the need arise.
11. Big Money Guy
"Your startup looks attractive and I definitely want to talk with some of your end-users, but I can't make any promises about what my partners ultimately decide. I'd like to forward your business plan to my senior partner, if that's ok with you."
The title on the business card of the Big Money Guy (BMG) can say a dozen different things - "Private Equity," "Turnaround Specialist," "Venture Capitalist," "Angel Investor," maybe "Dabbling Dilettante" - but the chief attribute of the BMG is his access to capital and his position to invest it.
The BMG is in the profession of moving six, seven, eight-plus-figure sums of money around and on the prowl for ways to deploy capital in promising situations that can earn him (or his backers) substantial returns.
Canny people know that in a negotiation situation, if you are a seller, it's helpful to have multiple buyers; if you are a buyer, you want multiple sellers. As an entrepreneur, it's good to have multiple potential 'bidders' on the equity of your business who know you personally and understand the depths of your competence. Don't wait until you need capital before you go asking ... strangers may buy your business if it has a sufficiently compelling story, but they'll sell their cash dearly for not knowing you already.
12. Local Politician
"I'll look into the ordinance - we may be able to grant your firm an exemption if you can prove your organization falls in the category outlined by the grandfathered zoning laws in that neighborhood. Just don't go running your mouth about how you got the workaround if we get it approved, ok? "
Local politics is, and has always been, a brutal, bare-knuckle business. Like them or not, those who rise to the top have survived having raw sewage dumped on their heads as private investigators (hired by opposing candidates) sift through every moment of their adolescence and adult life looking for dirty laundry. A successful politician stands at the nexus of some of the post powerful people in your zip code, and if you wish to circumnavigate the miles of red tape that entangle the average citizen when they wrestle with City Hall, it's good to have a local pol as your own personal advocate.
13. Auto Mechanic
"$900?! Good lord, is that what the dealership told you? I don't know why you didn't just come to me first. What you have here is a simple valve-timing issue - I can fix that for you in ten minutes with a $50 part. Drop off your car by my place anytime."
Like lawyers, doctors and financial advisors, mechanics are in a prime position to capitalize on the economics of asymmetric information. They know things you do not, and opportunities abound for a less-than-scrupulous person to enrich himself at your expense without your knowledge.
Finding a skilled, honest mechanic is, like everyone else on this list, hard work; the end result of patient, long work of culling candidates from a long list of potential vendors. Having one who you can trust completely is well worth the effort.
Previously discussed at length in this entry
Think of all the self-defeating and objectionable behavior you witness among your friends and acquaintances; unfortunately, given the choice between bringing up potentially uncomfortable topics or turning a blind eye, nearly all of us opt for the latter. And so we go along, blissfully unaware, with our evolution stalled out, making the same mistakes over and over again ... before an audience of knowing peers too polite to point out your flaws to your face.
15. Mr. Connections
"Hello? Hey Gavin, what's up. Yeah, I still know people at Microsoft ... had lunch with Tony and Sheila last week. No kidding, another startup with no capital? Hah hah. Let me guess, you want some retail-clean copies of Office. Four copies? Shouldn't be a problem. I'll assume you need new office space on the cheap while you search for Angel funding? My classmate Karen Scofield works at CB, I know she's sitting on some property in SOMA that's been sitting empty for two months so I'm sure you can negotiate something favorable. Let me make a few calls and get back to you Friday. I just have a small favor to ask in return ... "
The Universal Donor of your rolodex, Mr. Connections is plugged into everything and everyone; a well-connected person just one or two phone calls away from nearly anything you'd want or need.
Some, like theferrett would opine that knowing Mr. Connections obviates the need to know anyone else, but as geah pointed out, such a strategy puts all your eggs in one basket, and #15 owns you. Too, favors from Mr. Connections are, like O-negative blood, in scarce supply and too valuable to waste on small-stakes requests.
It's difficult (and expensive) to outright purchase favors from this person; a skillful Mr. Connections trades not in cash but access - his currency is access to people, to relationships, to organizations. In the barter economy world where Mr. Connections inhabits, the best thing to offer him is whatever unique access your own position offers, be it professional or social.
16. Best Friend
The one person you can tell *anything* to - the one who understands you in your entirety - flaws and all, and accepts you anyway.
If you go through life and have nobody else in your Rolodex but #16, you are richer than 99% of the people I know. And if you find a #16 who also happens to be someone you can date and marry, well, you can count yourself among the luckiest SOBs who've ever walked on this God-forsaken planet, and while good manners would have me congratulate you, a part of me would probably seethe with envy.
Human nature. What can you do.
For those of you who've RSVPed for the wine-tasting dinner party tomorrow, I'll see you in 24 hours.