Building a network is one the most important tools you can have as an entrepreneur. Especially for a first time entrepreneur whether you have a business idea or are looking for one, building your network will be a vital stepping stone into entrepreneurship.
Find like minded entrepreneurs
The first people you should talk to will be new entrepreneurs like yourself, those at a similar stage as you. These will be the like minded friend that will stretch you along the way. Entrepreneurs are innately competitive so when you see others getting a ahead it’ll push you to do the same. A great benefit of building relationships with entrepreneurs similar to you is they will be you’re early and long term supporters. You will share a special bond and they will be very supportive as you progress.
Look outside your industry
When building a network you need to be diverse. It is very wise to build lasting relationships with those outside your industry and with different interests and expertise. With a more diverse network you’ll have a stronger team because you can take a piece of what others know and be more flexible in accessing information or people outside your field.
Take the ‘What can I do to help you” approach
Many times when people are networking and meeting other professionals they can get caught up in how can the other person help them reach their goals. A more effective approach is to approach networking with a good heart. As you learn about the other person, think of ways you can help them accomplish their goals. At New York Entrepreneur Week, Dan Lack, founder of Meeting of the Big Minds professed that when he reaches out to someone all he’s thinking is “How can I be your friend” and “What can I do to help you”. It is not always about “what can this person do for me” but many times it is “what can i do for them”.
As you network you will also want to build relationships with veteran entrepreneurs. These seasoned entrepreneurs may be future advisors, mentors, or people that connect you to game changers in further ventures. An entrepreneur is not always someone who has started a business. They may also be professionals that are very successful in their industry or making a positive difference in the world. When you look to connect with these seasoned fellows it is very important to find something you connect on, this will allow you to leave a lasting impression. A strong impression is vital because everyone wants these peoples attention so you need a reason to be relevant.
Look for advisors and mentors
Although you have to be careful when looking for advisors or mentors as you don’t want to have a conflict of interest. It may be tempting to talk to an advisor who does so for a profession, i.e financial advisor, business advisor etc…it may start to be a conflict of interest or they may expect something you’re not willing to deliver ( money). There are ways around this, an option may be to look at past employers or people you may have connected with at internships, and especially past professors. It’s very important that when looking for advisors in your network or when building a network that you be sure to do your due diligence. It helps tremendously, when looking for potential mentors/advisers, to reach out to those with vision and the ability to think big. The last thing you’d want is for them to limit you in any way.
Know what you’re trying to do
Lastly, before you begin to aggressively build your network, you must first look at yourself and really define who you are and identify your goals. You must know what you’re looking to gain from each networking event or encounter. If you know what you’re trying to accomplish or know what kinds of people you need to connect with for your business it’ll help you to be more effective. It will also help people understand who you are quicker and more effectively.
If they can’t understand who you are or what your business is about or even what business you’re actually working on they will easily forget who you are. Furthermore, this can also you can affect your credibility and professionalism if you don’t make it easy for people to know what you’re about.
Reach out to others with a good heart and a mind open to learning