It’s been said that business is all about who you know and that saying has proved to be true. It's true that nepotism and favoritism are frowned upon -- but as a business owner, it is easier to trust someone that you actually know, even if they are less qualified.
The right connections.
It can get discouraging trying to get some experience in the first place. Having the right connections can get you the opportunity to interview for your dream job. Having someone you know or is a relative in a higher place could help you get the capital you need to start your startup.
The right connections could help you form a partnership that will change the course of your entire company for the better, or the right connections could help you find a buyer for your company, leaving you with enough cash to start the next one.
You don’t just get connections as soon as you jump into the business world, though. You have to strengthen, build, and improve your network. A strong network is especially important if you are or plan to be an entrepreneur. Although you may already have some connections thanks to family and friends, a business network should be composed of a lot more than that. It should be composed of all different kinds of people with diverse backgrounds and experience.
Improve and strengthen your network.
When improving and strengthening your entrepreneur network, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about knowing people, it’s about connecting with them. You might have hundreds of Facebook friends, but are you actually friends with them all?
If presented with the opportunity, would you want to invest with the kid you sat next to in psychology class but never hung out with outside of school? Maybe depending on the circumstances -- but if you were choosing between a few different options, you’d probably be more likely to invest with someone you knew and trusted, right?
...meaning your entrepreneurial network.
If your entrepreneurial network isn’t where you’d like it to be, don’t stress. You should always be building and improving your network as you continue to grow and networking will probably never end. If you want to focus on strengthening and improving your network sooner than later, though, here are six tips to help you do just that.
1. Join online communities.
With the Internet, networking is easier and faster than ever. There are communities online dedicated to the purpose of helping people connect and network. You can go beyond that too, though, and join online forums that cover topics in your niche or area of expertise. You don’t have to limit it all to business, either. You can join groups about things you have a personal interest in as well. As mentioned, your network should be diverse so you don’t have to focus only on the professional side of things.Be prepared.
2. Be prepared.
Before heading to events or striking up a conversation, make sure that you’re prepared. Have business cards tucked in your wallet and know what you want to say about your business if the opportunity arises. If you try and wing it you may find yourself fumbling or taking up too much of the conversation.
Networking isn’t just about you, it’s about connecting and learning about the other person too. You can pitch what you have to offer, but if you aren’t listening, you could miss some great advice from someone that learned some entrepreneurial lessons first-hand.
3. Attend social events.
There’s nothing like a night out to clear your head and give you a break from the office but there’s also nothing like a night out to help you make connections and improve your entrepreneurial network. Attending social events is a great way to connect with others and grow your network while having a bit of fun. Some events are put on specifically for the purpose of helping people network while other events are just some fun parties that turn into networking opportunities.
Tools like the SELECT card can give you access to private events like cocktail hours, rooftop soirees, gallery openings, menu tastings, and so much more. Using being a SELECT member is a great way to find out what’s going on in your area so you can attend and make some connections.
4. Get involved in your own community.
Getting involved in your community will give you the opportunity to volunteer and attend events where you can make connections with other local businesses and leaders. It is also a great way to get your name out there so that people recognize you and what you’ve been doing when you have the opportunity meet them. Not only will it help you make connections, but helping your community is a great thing to do.
5. Start talking to everybody.
This can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re a more introverted person. Talking to everyone, though, is a great way to expand and improve your entrepreneurial network. You may find that the guy you’re behind in a long checkout line knows more about content marketing than the consultant you were talking with before. Who knows? Maybe the cashier will help you come up with the most dazzling name for your business.
Although your objective when talking to people may be to build your network, don’t make the point or focus of the conversation about you, your business, or networking. The best connections are ones that are sincere and founded on a connection of friendship. Avoid approaching people with the purpose of pitching to them – you shouldn’t even necessarily plan about talking business. Approach them with the purpose of making a connection and let the networking happen from there.
6. Follow-up and engage with your connections.
The goal of networking is not to collect as many business cards and phone numbers as possible, the goal should be to connect and develop relationships. Following up on conversations or reaching out to connections just to check in can go a long way toward cultivating those relationships and making them last longer which will likely be a great benefit down the road.