Entrepreneurship is not a place that offers many certainties or absolutes. Ironically, consistently occupying a state of ambiguity is one of the few. However, among the certainties is the absolute importance of networking.
“No man is an island” is not just the tale of a John Donne book. It is a creed to be understood and leveraged by entrepreneurs. The importance of connecting with business peers is founded in how good you are at it.
Developing the right connections forges pathways to learning, unearths mentors, improves sales and marketing reach and quite possibly helps shape the vision of a start-up.
As an entrepreneur, every avenue to success should be considered. Networking events are a melting pot of opportunity and remain criminally underleveraged by entrepreneurs who bury themselves in the functions of their businesses.
Networking Provides Kindling to your Visionary Spark
Entrepreneurship can often be quite a lonely place physically, intellectually or mentally. Your niche and experience might not be immediately relatable to friends and family. Discussing concepts, situations and direction can’t dominate the dinner table chat but you still need a sounding board.
For early stage entrepreneurs establishing your vision and guiding principles underpin your start-up. Teasing them out alone is surprisingly challenging and with no validation causes doubts to creep in.
Networking exposes a community of like-minded business owners who have all experienced the same start-up issues. Your peers have developed habits, tools and practices to overcome the hurdles impeding your progress. A seasoned business owner can dip into their tricks and find the piece of advice or connection you need.
The nuggets of gold you receive are the keys to breaking through ceilings. Off-hand commentary frequently suggests potential new markets, investors or supports for your start-up to pursue and clarify goals you should adopt.
For the entrepreneur, communicating your experience articulates what you are trying to achieve to an informed, empathetic pioneer who holds a passion for enterprise and success. By discussing your ideas and visions, you have the chance to talk openly about your dreams which, as it turns out, can be a rarity.
Strike Mentorship, Co-Founder or Investor Gold
As entrepreneurs, we regularly find ourselves in a silo on our business crusade. It’s us against the world! Unfortunately, no matter how you conduct business, you always need others.
Strategic partners and alliances are to be found across the spectrum for all manner of entrepreneurs. You only need to look as far as the latest tech news and see TikTok partnering with Oracle. A dynamic new social media from China pairing with a traditional, government contract recipient US firm is entirely rooted in strategy from both sides. Unless of course, you are to believe that 76 year old Larry Ellison happens to love 60 second dance music clips.
Dancing aside, developing important connections provides access to the highest echelons of talent within your field. Perhaps, you are in search of a business advisor to offer the validations and clarity delineated above but there is much more on the table than that.
Serial entrepreneurs find it easier to come to terms with what they are lacking. The important lessons of previous ventures highlight the skills, connections, funds, distribution channels or any other asset you don’t currently possess. Rather than trying to capture each of these attributes, those assets can come in the way of co-founders and investors… both of which can be reached through effective networking.
Access the Financial and Advisory Supports You Need
Interacting with other business owners helps to share the commonality of your endeavor. Although the industries may be different, many of the challenges remain the same. Financial, hiring, training programs and resource solutions are often complete unknowns when starting out.
Entrepreneurial survival, time and again, depends on knowing and accessing supports. Sharing these insights is integral to the community. Hacks, tips, grants and software are not always trapped behind a paywall. Word of mouth advice, business newsletters and more expose many of the subsidies or supports that you require.
At the opposite end of the scale, consulting networks helps to choose between the alternatives you have discovered.
For example, when considering a potential shift to a business accelerator nothing beats discussing it with the alumni of your options. Whether you have been invited to the Startup School of Y Combinator or are weighing the proposition of the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, New York networking helps. Reach out on LinkedIn or by whatever means you have to bridge that connection.
Business and enterprise networks offer a variety of solutions you didn’t even know you needed. Later life-cycle entrepreneurs may have often seen the pitfalls that lie in wait for you and are well positioned to steer you into support instead.
Having the inside track to government, investor, advisor or any other type of assistance smoothens your path to success.
Elongate Your Digital and Referral Reach
The primary reason anyone goes to a networking event is to make new connections. Plain and simple.
Whether through an event, LinkedIn, cold calling or simply emailing someone in the same industry there is incredible value in getting out there. Of course being the person who goes to event to pump out business cards is just the human version of junk mailing but opening conversations and exchanging value creates opportunity.
For all you know, each person you speak to is a potential client or offers a solution to a problem you might have. Perhaps, they are considered a digital age influencer and one endorsement of you could result in an explosion of interest. Each impression you leave can result in someone referring your business within their own networks.
One thing the dreadful COVID-19 pandemic has perfectly illustrated is how connected each of us are. The 6 degrees of separation has been proven. In some way or another, your bubble overlaps that of others and in the business world that is a major asset.
For the most strategic, you may even consider a top down approach. Learn who you ultimately need to connect with and create a path back to you and your network.
Go from Isolation to Motivation
There is an old adage of “a problem shared is a problem halved”.
Having open dialogue with anyone regarding what matters implores you to deal with your obstacles with appropriate perspective. Within the community of entrepreneurs and business advisors, you typically find solutions and, sometimes more importantly, empathy.
Doubts, imposter syndrome and fears of failure hamper almost all entrepreneurs. It’s a precarious journey and someone who knows the struggle is a powerful ally. It is these allies that instil confidence and validation of your entrepreneurial existence dispelling worry.
Although much of this article has illuminated the selfish gains, entrepreneurs also offer that which you receive when it comes to networking.
Bestowing advice, highlighting training, forwarding subsidy opportunities and more motivates. Further still, it establishes you as a thought leader and raises your business profile. By being able to give back and serve your community, you become a valuable and memorable resource to your network. Giving back helps!
Startup owners have the misfortunate habit of focusing entirely on the internal mechanics and successes of their business. Momentary pauses for a second opinion or informed contribution are viewed as wastage of the time otherwise used furthering the cause. This is, however, a fallacy.
Careful use of time and availing of positive influences, expanding networks and improving business reach is quite the opposite. Effective and strategic networking expands your profile and the value you offer.
Business networks are clusters of people fighting the same fight as you for the most part. They have already solved your problems, reached your audience and located the right investors. More often than not they are willing to share those gems with you. How else do you think they garnered this information?
Networking isn’t all waltzing into a crowded room of business suits and talking shop. It is forging thoughtful, mutually beneficial connections in the hope of providing constructive advice.
In the words of Ivan Isner, “Networking is more about farming than hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships”.