8 Ways For Entrepreneurs To Profit From Strategic Networking
Networking is a vital skill for any businessperson, and in the case of entrepreneurs, this is particularly true. Experienced founders know that much of their success derives from the connections they’ve made with other people, both in their own industries and outside them.
Here are a few ways in which networking can help you develop and maximize your success.
1. Learning about new directions
Networking can offer plenty of opportunities if you’re alert for them. Remember that you never know how or when your networking efforts will lead to tangible results, so remain open to possibilities as you focus on learning from others and sharing your knowledge in return. Your efforts might lead to an offer of collaboration, a referral to a new mentor or venture funder, or even to a major new client for your business.
2. Harnessing the power of collective intelligence
Through networking, entrepreneurs can acquire a body of knowledge, experience, and insight that is greater than what they’d be able to obtain on their own. Looking for another perspective or viewpoint on your product? Want the benefit of a more experienced businessperson’s challenges and even failures? Networking is an ideal way to quickly and painlessly gain understanding and distilled wisdom from a wide range of peers and mentors, to get some OPE, or “Other People’s Experience,” as Mama Krach says.
3. Boosting your visibility
Networking puts you in close contact with people at all levels of the business, technology, and financial worlds. If you make it a habit to attend roundtables and events, and to contribute with your own time and talents to group functions, you’ll find yourself increasingly noticed. This is a great way to build your reputation as a thought leader in your particular industry. You can generate new leads and referrals that you can draw upon later. In addition, your participation is another item to put on your growing resume as you seek to prove your worth to potential funders.
4. Nourishing your confidence
Even if you consider yourself an introvert, networking pushes you in new directions and can help you become more socially comfortable and confident. As the public face of your new business, these are important qualities to develop. Try approaching people you’d like to talk to when you’re in a new group, and make sure to offer them your own tips and insights as well.
Associating with talented people who maintain a positive outlook can have a strong beneficial influence on your thought patterns and actions. Look for people who offer uplifting and information-packed observations on your field, entrepreneurship, and the global business scene in general.
Some writers on the topic advise shyer newcomers to picture themselves as the host or hostess of any event they attend, so they internalize the idea that it is their responsibility to greet others and ensure that they are comfortable. By making the extra effort to place others at ease, you may very well find your own comfort level increasing.
5. Participation in a business ecosystem
When you network with others, you are not only making connections with those present at the time, you’re also building links in a chain as you gain access to their additional connections. If something you say creates an association for one of your contacts, he or she may very well refer you to someone in another network who might be of assistance to you. You can increase the likelihood of this happening regularly when you share your contacts and connections as well, which helps to nourish the overall business ecosystem.
6. Enjoying free advice
Besides commiserating with each other’s daily frustrations and celebrating the successes, taking part in a networking group gives you the chance to obtain advice on everything from balancing your books to achieving your most blue-sky goals.
You’ll want to make sure the advice comes from a credible source, and that it dovetails with the mission and values of your company. But be constantly open to it, since hearing a variety of informed perspectives can easily help you salvage a bad idea and fine-tune a good one.
7. Developing your planning skills
Treat networking as you would any other aspect of your business plan, drawing up defined, measurable, time-focused goals for what you hope to get out of it. Don’t attend a program simply to be attending a program. Rather, carefully select the events you attend, asking yourself how valuable and relevant each one would be. Articulate to yourself what exactly you want to accomplish in each situation.
How can a particular networking group or connection help you? How can you best identify potential mentors and voices of wisdom through your networking groups? And what will afford you the best and most realistic opportunities for meeting these individuals? How can you be prepared to translate their observations into bottom-line success stories for your company?
A number of experts advise using questions like these to help you create a timeline or a table of priorities that will help you edit down your networking calendar strategically.
8. Learning the fine art of mentorship
Being involved in mentoring—whether as mentor or mentee—can be among the most rewarding aspects of entrepreneurship. The more dedicated you are to advancing others’ success, the more you will find them willing to help you in turn.
Make the effort to develop a genuine sense of appreciation and empathy for the struggles and problems the people in your network are facing, and show your sincerity in wishing them well and attempting to help them find solutions. Being willing to put yourself forward to make introductions and foster relationships among others isn’t only a generous thing to do—it can deliver a significant return on investment as those around you recognize your true value as a leader.