There is a great quote from US novelist Mitch Albom at the top of one of the chapters in Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi’s book on success secrets: “Build a little community of those you love and who love you.”

Ferrazzi’s book is full of these moments where he shares ideas he used to rise from poverty to success – ideas you can easily transport to your business and two of which I will share.

First, he writes about what determines success in college students, and the answer is nothing to do with grade scores – it is instead “the ability of a student to create or join a study group”.

Think about this: success is achieved through relationships.

Ferrazzi argues there has never been a better time to reach out and connect than right now. “The dynamic of our society and particularly our economy will increasingly be defined by interdependence and interconnectivity… The more everything becomes connected to everything and everyone else, the more we begin to depend on whom and what we’re connected with.”

He continues: “Rugged individualism may have ruled for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. But community and alliances will rule in the 21st.”

Which type of independent retailer are you?

The second idea is from his chapter called Don’t Keep Score. When college students ask him what the secret of success is, Ferrazzi answers: “I’ll sum up the key to success in one word: generosity.”

When Keith was young his father, a steelworker, wanted him to be successful, and he told the chief executive of his company at the moment when they first met.

CEO Alex McKenna liked the idea and helped Keith to get a scholarship in one of the best private schools in the country where he was a trustee.

Next the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party read about Keith’s unsuccessful bid for a city council role while he was at university and she lent him money and gave him advice and encouraged him to go to business school.

The hard part, he says, is that you have to be willing to accept generosity. And you have to go out and ask for it.

The secret is you have to be prepared to give help and to receive it. And to be successful in networking, you have to stop keeping score.

“The more people you help, the more help you’ll have and the more help you’ll have helping others.”

Ferrazzi says: “Information, unlike material resources, is fluid: it can appear (be discovered or communicated) or disappear (become outdated) at any moment. Having the best information at the point of need requires excellence in collaboration.”

His lesson is that to be successful in business you need to help others.

In the universe that is your shop’s catchment area, you need to help people to be successful and they will help you in return.

In the universe that is your supply chain, you need to leave your shop and network with other retailers and suppliers. Help them and they will help you in return.

Never Eat Alone is a long read and a useful reference tool.

If you are wondering how to get your suppliers to support your business, it is well worth a read.