Networking: An entrepreneur’s lifeline
Networking is crucial for anyone’s career, but when you’re new to the entrepreneurial scene, or just launching a startup, a well-developed network can help your business thrive. Finding a way to network can be daunting, especially when you’re frantically dealing with all of the tasks inherent to a new business.
If you’re looking for some ideas on how to connect with fellow entrepreneurs and business owners, check out these five tips for maximizing your network as an entrepreneur:
1. Join Groups
You might think that a rendezvous with a stranger is only for blind dates, but sites that facilitate all types of interactions, like Meetup.com, often have sections that will allow you to search for meetings for people who have a similar set of interests. You can use sites like this to set up informal gatherings of other entrepreneurs where you can make contacts who share your goals and challenges. You might even make a few new friends and come up with some interesting new business ideas. You could also join already-established groups designed specifically for entrepreneurs, like Vistage or BNI. Networking with those who are in the same field will ensure that your contacts are understanding of your hectic schedule.
2. Start a Discussion
Part of the issue with networking when you’re your own boss is finding the time to do it. So why not find a way to multitask? If you already spend a significant amount of time on your computer, join a discussion board for people with similar careers and interests. There are many well-respected boards and forums where you can meet and chat with others who have started their own businesses. If you find that you really have a ton in common with a few people, you can consider taking your networking relationship to the next level and meeting up in person. Reddit and Quora are both good places to find general threads about entrepreneurship, or topics related to it, while other forums like Startup Nation are entirely dedicated to chatting about and with other entrepreneurs.
3. Give as Much as You Receive
One of the biggest things to remember about networking is that though you are developing professional contacts, you are still cultivating a relationship, and nobody likes to be taken advantage of. Try to give back to those who are able to help you. If you can, make an effort to return the favor when it comes to introducing people to new sources or contacts. Even if you don’t think that you have much to give, sometimes being available to help hash out a problem or business conundrum will make your contacts feel like your relationship is a symbiotic one.
4. Don’t Fall into Sales Mode
You’re trying to make contacts, not recruit investors, so don’t use your tried-and-true sales pitch when you’re networking with fellow entrepreneurs. Using this tactic can make you seem like both an amateur and a bore, so leave the PowerPoint presentation at home and use your personality to win people over. Instead of talking solely about your business, focus on talking about your ideas, your thoughts about your industry and be sure to make time to listen to the views of others.
5. Don’t Overdo It
This might seem counterintuitive, but make sure you don’t spend all of your time networking. Sure, networking is an important component to ensuring that you have people to bounce ideas off of and to make important introductions, but if you’re so busy building your contacts’ list that you let your new startup tank, you won’t have much to talk about. It’s important that you remain focused on the core tasks of running your business and use networking as a way to further your professional expertise and goals. Using online sources or setting aside a specific amount of time once per month can help you maintain and build relationships without it consuming too much of your time. So make sure you’re not spending all of your time dining with potential contacts when you could be building a business.
This article originally appeared on AdamNGreenwald.com on December 17, 2014.