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Be a Person of Influence

By Sarah Scudder

I used to believe that success meant wealth, fame and accomplishment, and I still think those things are important. But my definition of success has evolved and is, perhaps, still evolving. I believe that to be successful, you must be a person of positive influence. You must change lives for the better.

Who is the quintessential example of a successful person of influence? In my opinion, Alain Piallat. Alain is my mentor, friend and coach. He’s a retired Marriott International executive who has managed thousands of people all over the world.

Here are five ways in which Alain has influenced me to be more influential:

Be a connector. I was working on a side project in the supplement industry and needed a manufacturer. I told Alain about the project over lunch. By 5 p.m., I had an email introduction to the owner of a manufacturing company in Northern California. Alain connected me to this manufacturer without expecting anything in return.

I love introducing people to others, especially when I know they have something in common and can help each other in business. Making meaningful connections has elevated my career because I am actively elevating others. I’m committed to making one new introduction a week. That’s 52 introductions a year, facilitating 104 new connections.

Write. While it may seem counterintuitive, Alain didn’t write during his career. He says one of his greatest regrets is not taking time to capture in words all the places he has visited, people he’s met, experiences he’s had or the lessons he’s learned. If he had, he says, he could have written his life story in retirement.

So, he tells me to write — and write often. Getting published will elevate my personal brand and help others, he says.

I began actively writing three years ago, and I’ve found it changes the way I view the world. My writing brain can’t help but pay attention to everything. Anything can be a future topic. For me, writing is a great way to help others learn. A lot of my writing is about sales because I enjoy helping people grow their companies. I write about mistakes I’ve made, things that have worked well and new strategies. I write for three publications (with a little help from my dad, a retired English teacher), and it’s quite rewarding when strangers reach out and thank me for my articles. Some even tell me they have implemented my ideas.

Form strategic partnerships. “Sarah, you want to form business partnerships that will last and benefit both parties. It’s how I survived in the hotel industry so long.” While those may not be Alain’s exact words, you get the idea: quid pro quo.

I like helping others, especially if it helps me, too. I do it by forming partnerships with people or companies that align with what I’m trying to achieve. These partnerships can be with suppliers, colleagues in similar roles at other companies, coaches or people who sell to the same people I do. I’ve learned that it’s much easier to partner with someone I can help rather than going after cold leads.

Be a storyteller. My favorite part of my meetings with Alain is when he identifies something I may need help with. Instead of just calling it out, he tells me a story that illustrates how he or someone he knows overcame the same challenge.

Because I run my company remotely, one of his concerns was about how I build rapport with my team. Communication and earning the respect of everyone on your team are important to a successful business, he says.

To illustrate this, he related this story: At a restaurant, he saw former President Bill Clinton at another table. He approached him, and they shook hands and spoke. The experience stayed with him. “When you talk to Bill Clinton, it’s magic. You feel this incredible energy and connectedness,” he says. “He makes it seem like you are the only person in the room. He’s the type of person and leader you want to work for. That’s what you want your team to think about you.”

For me, stories motivate, teach, change viewpoints and make the storyteller relatable and influential.

Listen. “Alain truly cared about me as a person. He took the time to know my name, my wife’s name, my children’s names, even the name of our goldfish. He listened to me, understood me and always did what he said he was going to do.” That’s a testimonial from a former employee of Alain’s.

I am a better listener because of Alain’s influence. I’m better at remembering names because I ask people about their families, hobbies or fantasy football leagues — and I listen to and remember their answers.

While success can mean wealth, fame and accomplishment, being influential can have a more lasting impact. Take the time to work on skills that can enhance your ability to be influential. Helping others feel good might just elevate your career.

Sarah Scudder is president of Procureit5 (, a print management services company. She is based in Petaluma, California.

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