I believe that entrepreneurs and networking go hand in hand. Ask anyone why they attend an industry conference. The most common answer will be to meet new people, network with industry experts, meet new customers, vendors, partners, investors or even future employees. The bottom-line is that networking can help you grow your business and make you aware of upcoming trends and opportunities in the industry. These days with all the social networking tools such as Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and Twitter, it has become easier to meet and interact with smart, like minded and fellow entrepreneurs for building your network. For an entrepreneur, the art of networking should be a way of life. The effective networking is about making meaningful and genuine connections with people, who can help you not only grow your business but also as an entrepreneur, thereby turning this skill into a long term competitive advantage for you. Now the question is, “what are the right ways for networking for an entrepreneur?” Here are the four key take away (4KTA) points on this topic.
1. Create Blueprint:
First and foremost advice that entrepreneurs get is to write a business plan. So, it can help them articulate their vision and thought process clearly in writing for further review and analysis, its execution and course correction, if any. Similarly, in order to be an effective networker, why not start with a networking plan or a networking blueprint. Most of the times, most of us just show up at conferences, talk sessions, or industry mixers without any planning. Next time, when you attend one of these events, ask yourself few questions. Why should I attend this event? Who would I need to connect with to be highly successful? Which industry groups shall I join? Who could be my mentor and help me grow as an entrepreneur? How can I reach out to them? This can help you create a blueprint for your networking that can result in long term success. I still remember when I was looking to raise capital for my first startup; I always looked for events with venture capitalists in the panel, so I could meet them. If I was looking to form a strategic partnership with a particular company, I would similarly look for industry events with the executives from that company.
2. Expect Nothing:
Having right expectations is a key element for being successful in networking. My belief is that you just have to give and go extra mile without expecting anything in return. Creating trust and friendship are part of any good networking approach. When going for networking events, my advice is to go there with an open mind to meet people, share ideas and have some fun conversations. Finally, when you show up at an event, you must be proactive in walking up to a person or a small group and gracefully introducing yourself. You will be amazed how you will make everyone feel comfortable and yourself with this mindset. In the process, you meet some interesting people. Follow up with an email thanking them for a fun conversation and invite them for lunch or coffee whatever is convenient for them.