The importance of being accessible

A column in this month’s Inc. magazine describes what it was like to work for the world’s most successful entrepreneur, Bill Gates:

Bill came in. I thought about how strange it was that he had two legs, two arms, one head, etc. – almost exactly like a regular human being.

So, maybe Bill isn’t the right person to compare ourselves against but the point is that the people around you need to easily recognize that you are a real person, just like them.

When I was first starting out, I pretty much ignored returning emails and phone calls under the impression that I was simply “too busy” for it**. Then one day I realized that people had stopped coming to me when opportunity knocked, and it hit me: I had to make myself more accessible if I wanted to get ahead.

“So, how do I become more accessible?”

First, make sure you give people multiple ways to get in touch with you. If you’re reading this, you probably have a cell phone, email account, Facebook profile and a Twitter account. Use them.

Then, **make sure you actually reply like a human*. It’s *that simple.

Well, not really, but it’s a start. Here are some extra tips for you:

  • Visibility creates opportunities. People will never know how great you are unless they know you exist. Use blogs, Facebook, and your voicemail greeting to start getting your personal brand out there. (You did rethink your personal brand, didn’t you?)
  • Be reachable. Let’s be honest, you probably have an account on nearly every Web 2.0 site out there. OK, maybe not *every *one but you probably do have an email, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or FriendFeed account. Just use them.
  • **Show your face. **You can’t get ahead by sitting behind your computer all day. Get out there and start meeting people. You know the saying – a picture is worth a thousand words. Start putting a face to the name by actually meeting the people you interact with online.
  • **Respond promptly. **Most people are on deadlines. The more quickly you can follow up when someone contacts you, the more likely they will return the favor. If you have the time, respond to messages right away.

We’re all busy. Some days it seems like you’ve got neverending phone calls to return and emails to answer, but it’s time to stop making excuses.

I wake up at 6am every morning to catch up on email because I know that the people I’m replying to are still in bed — they can’t possibly reply back to me immediately with a one-liner. Stick to your schedule and keep the lines of communication open, the results will be well worth it.