When trying to get businesses off the ground, most entrepreneurs have to play the role of connectors—whether you are an extrovert person or not. They should have the ability to build relationships very quickly and with a lot of people. Building connections will enable the entrepreneur to match people with opportunities and leave a positive impression about them. To build the right kind of network, care should be taken to ensure that it is built around the following stakeholders: Customers, Team Members, Vendors, Investors, Bankers, Mentors, Competitors & Lawyers/Auditors. Entrepreneurs need to keep these top five things in mind while networking:
Find the right ecosystem: It is important to dissect the different kinds of ecosystems around you before you jump into them. Each network has its own personality and characteristics. Some will be of use to you, while others won’t. Some of us like the high energy feel of a competitive space, while others like a quieter, closer trusted group of people. To be a successful entrepreneur, one has to build the right kind of ecosystem to develop and dwell in. One important thing to note here is that what is interesting may not exactly be the right one for you. So, understand what you need to gain on your entrepreneurial journey and this will help you gain more from your networks.
Be active and visible: It is not just important to be part of an entrepreneurial ecosystem related to the industry or the social sectors, but equally important to actively participate in all their activities. By being active and out there, you will be letting people know three main things: Your expertise, the willingness to help and the engagement of the network right from the start. By spending more time in the ecosystem and with your network, you will get to know each other a lot more. Ask “How can I help you?” and lay the foundation to a lasting relationship.
Spend time & money: Many entrepreneurs assume that networking can be done for free or that attending innumerable get-togethers will help. That is not true. You will need to spend time and resources to keep networking. You can’t be a passive participant and hope that it will all work out for you. There should be a conscious attempt to nurture such relationships. Give it at least two hours a week, inside and outside your organization and do it either over lunch/dinner or meet for coffee.
Creating value for oneself & others: It has been established that one needs to be an active participant in any entrepreneurial ecosystem to be able to leverage it to the fullest. It is only by being an active participant, can one create value for oneself and others. Don’t be a one-way networker. Don’t be a person who just contacts others when you need something. The key to good networking is to do something for others genuinely and sincerely. By bringing your networks to life, you can be at the center of the network and create value for yourself and your organization.
Pursue hobby or clubbing: Hobbies and interests are an integral part of our persona and an important way of creative expression as it enhances our ability to relax and recharge our spirit. Pursuing a common hobby that aligns directly with your career is a great way to socialize and meet people who share your interest and build new relationships. It is about finding a shared interest, building connections and rapport with people. It will be easier to network in such groups as the pressure of a networking event or industry meeting is not there.
Networking is an art that can be learnt over time. It is not just about connecting with others, but noticing the small things that will make them feel important and remembered and making time for others. Be willing to reach out and help even if there is no obvious payback. Be a connector.