Building an entrepreneurial network is both gradual and rewarding, especially if it’s built with a clear vision for the growth of your business and an open mind. Whether you’re a sparkly-eyed entrepreneur fresh into the startup industry or a veteran in business who knows the ropes, there is no single asset that can pave your path to success more than an effective business network.
For all those reading this post because they’re looking for direction or guidance, you might think–easier said than done, right? You may be hesitant and uncertain and with good reason. Having an idea and working on it is one thing, but presenting yourself as the ambassador of your product, brand, or service requires some of you to get outside your comfort zone.
Here are four key points to remember while growing your entrepreneurial network:
Attend Networking Events in Your City
Don’t be afraid to take that first step and attend those seminars or special interest groups your friends keep telling you about. Everyone there is also in attendance to grow their network and build relationships–so you could be just as valuable to someone as they are to you. You could be meeting with potential clients, suppliers, or investors for your business, and that’s always welcome. Examples of such groups include bigger events such as the annual World Business Forum and smaller groups such as Brooklyn Creative and Entrepreneur Network.
Test Yourself By Starting Small
It could be a dinner at your friend’s place, and you have the opportunity to share your experience in business with someone you haven’t met before. Take the opportunity to test yourself by pitching your business.
If they aren’t into it, chances are someone they know probably is. Be ready with a concise elevator pitch, not more than 30-45 seconds. Besides, the more comfortable you are with elevator pitches, the easier it’ll be for you when looking for investors or potential business partners.
Focus on Building Relationships, Not Contacts
People want to work and do business with those they can build a relationship with. While every person you meet may not help you increase your business instantly, they would like to know you and want you to know them.
Show that you want to befriend them and not just speak to them to further your purposes. Once you leave a positive impression and build upon that, the chances of trusting you in the future if the need arises are much higher.
This is especially applicable to businesses that depend heavily on in-person interactions to create sales opportunities. For example, institutions such as banks have relationship managers that serve a similar purpose.
Leveraging Your Network
Another benefit of developing a strong business network early on is that once the trust has been built, you can ask your friends in the network to recommend you, give you recommendations, or both. This way, you can expand your network by growing your second and third-degree connections and transforming them into real relationships.
Networking is a two-way street. Just as you wish to market or propagate your offering or service to your network, you must be open to recommending and helping others in the network as well. By investing your time and effort to help someone, not only are you increasing their chances of succeeding but also increasing your goodwill.
In conclusion, networking is a skill that is developed over time. It takes consistent practice and is entirely in your control. Once built, a well-crafted entrepreneurial network can rejuvenate a slow business or accelerate a fast-growing one. To make most of your network use, you must invest time building it early in your career.