It is often said that the opposite of networking is “not working”. You don’t know people, people don’t know you. You are not known, you are not significant. You are not significant, your business does not matter.
The bad old news or the good old news is that businesses are not born in the laboratory, like a Frankenstein monster, ready to take on the world after it is given life. Businesses are highly interactive beings who need to interact with other businesses in order to live and thrive. Entrepreneurs are in need of receiving and giving help to other entrepreneurs or investors or journalists or you name it. Until someone finds out a way of building something great by himself, in the desert, networking remains the gold method of growing your startup.
Knowing people is the first step, but it is not the most important. Being known is the second step and one of the most important ones. Giving and receiving favours, big or small, is the third step and a very tricky one. Once you’ve built a very strong social network to help with your business, comes the hardest part: balancing it, maintaining it and constantly growing it.
And if you’re still not sure why and where and how, we’ve arranged a few steps to take and reasons why you need to take them in order to grow your business and become a successful entrepreneur.
- Go places: Yes, it is as simple as that. If you’re at the beginning of your business and feel like there is a lot of important work to do and you don’t have time for fancy events and parties with important people, you’re wrong. Sometimes, it is at these parties or cocktails that you can achieve a thousand times more than spending another night in your office, with your eyes glued to your computer screen. Even if you don’t know people at an important event with important investors and influencers, find your way in and socialize, have some fun even.
- Don’t feel small (or they’ll sense it): Never make the mistake of feeling like you don’t belong to that big business circle you’re about to enter. You have to have a firm handshake, wear your confidence on your smile and speak about what interests you, what you’re passionate about, your grand ideas and plans. Don’t feel intimidated to introduce yourself and introduce your business.
- Don’t forget your personal touch: Ok, now this is where the real work of art begins. Some really great business ideas and deals began with an “I like your polka-dotted jacket” or “Have you seen the Lakers’ last victory?”. Don’t be too stiff when meeting people, even if your brain tells you constantly “you’re here to work, you’re here to network”; add some personal spice on top of it. At the end of the day, we’re all people. No matter if he’s the CEO of a multi-million company or a very important journalist, he’s just a person who you can interact with and get his attention with a relaxed and out-of-the box attitude. This is the second time we’re advising: have some fun along the way. After all, if you can’t get some fun out of your business, then why are you doing it?
- Don’t forget that he knows someone who knows someone who knows someone: Yes, and the list can continue like that. Building a social network means always keeping track of how far you can reach in case of an emergency. You can make a graphic even, if that helps, with all the people you know and the people they can possibly know and how and in what circumstances you can reach to them as well.
- Don’t forget to make friends along the way: A good business relationship is healthy and desirable, but you never know what a good friend you can also find in your partner or investor. You probably know that it is advisable to keep business and friendships apart. We say it is even better if you can balance them a little. You’re getting along very well with your partner, invite him over for dinner once, or drink your cup of coffee with him in the morning. Send presents on his birthday or, at least, call to say Happy Birthday. I’m not saying to keep an active calendar with all the birthdates of all the people in your network, but just the most important ones, the closest. Get them even closer to you. You might win more than just a successful business partner. In the long run, you might win a very good friend.
All these been said, get busy building. Get busy building your business, get busy building your friendships, get busy building your social network. Work can be fun. Work can mean parties, cocktails. Work is fun if you’re doing what you love.