“The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work”.
This quotation so aptly captures the importance of networking in today’s times.
Today, social skills play a great role in realizing one’s true potential, both as an individual and as a professional. Among the key skills, networking stands out, because no matter what one wants to accomplish, more often than not it involves dealing with several other people who can ‘make it happen’.
The skill can come even more handy for a startup founder, since he/she needs to deal with all possible stakeholders in the ecosystem – customers, investors, mentors, vendors etc. – to bring his/her vision alive. Not only does it get you noticed in the crowd, if harnessed effectively, it can fast track your road to success. So, leveraging the right connections at the right time is pretty much the key to make things ‘click’ for a startup.
Here are some tips to ensure that networking yields the desired results for your startup:
Choose the right forums
While networking is important, networking with just about anyone and everyone will get you nowhere. Networking as a startup founder is different from your regular socializing as an individual. You need to be clear about the objective of networking and choose the appropriate forums and people to network with in order to reap results for your startup sooner or later.
Devote the right amount of time
In essence, networking is nothing but quality time that you invest for the growth of your business Remember, too little networking, and it’ll do you no good, and if you overdo it, you take the focus off your business. Since it eats into your working hours, set aside a specific window for networking activities and leave the rest purely for the mainstream work that is going to benefit your startup directly.
Nurture the contacts
Networking alone will reap no results unless you are able to nurture those contacts over a period of time and build a relationship with them. And don’t expect one or two meetings to make any difference. It’s only once you establish a lasting relationship with your network and earn their trust that they’ll be more open to working with you, investing in you or referring you to their contacts, which, in turn, can significantly escalate the pace at which your startup grows. Without the network it would probably take you a lot more toil and sweat to achieve your milestones.
Know how to get noticed
Be confident about your startup idea/product and know exactly what’ll draw the attention of stakeholders, so you can grab their attention even in a crowd and remain in their minds long after the meeting is over. A smart and pleasing personality helps in these situations, where you have to sell yourself and your startup idea to the point where it is just about enough for the time being. That one interaction should be so impactful that the people who matter should remember you even after the meeting or event is over. When you reconnect with them, they should be able to recall you and the interaction you had with them. And then build on that relationship to go places!
Don’t forget to tap online networking platforms too
While scampering around to figure out the right networking events that your startup can benefit from, don’t leave social media networking out of the fray. Right from clients to investors to mentors to vendors and even fellow-entrepreneurs, you can find them all on professional social networking platforms like LinkedIn. Such sites can help you spread your network far and wide, geographies not-withstanding. Again, the rules are the same. Create an impressive profile on the site and regularly update it with some interesting industry insights or your experiences as an entrepreneur. Also, make it a point to regularly interact with the network you are building. Having a network of 500+ or 700+ contact is of no use if you can’t be in regular touch and leverage them at the right time. In that sense, quality prevails over quantity.
Don’t forget to do your bit when your turn comes
Just like you would expect your network to serve some purpose when the time comes, remember that the same is expected of you too. So, networking is a mutually beneficial relationship that requires give and take from both ends to make it work. So don’t hesitate to lend the required support when it’s payback time!
Your connections can certainly take your startup places, provided you know how to tap them well. Remember to be at the right place at the right time to network. And remember to make your network not just another contact in your phone list or email list, but nurture it into a lasting relationship that can prove to be mutually beneficial for both parties in the long run.
If something as simple as networking can do the trick to fast track your progress, why look for more complicated and longer routes to realize your goal!
About the Author: Mahesh Nair is Co-Founder at PicsDream, a platform photographers and videographers to share, showcase and monetise their art!