Why is Networking Important for Entrepreneurs?

“The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work. Marinate on that for a minute.” —Robert Kiyosaki

There’s a saying ‘your network is your net worth.’ There’s a lot of truth in this saying. Your professional network will ensure you get work, receive opportunities, and are in contact with people you can help, and who can help you. 

However there’s a disconnect between the worth of your connections and what usually comes to mind when people think of ‘networking.’ 

When a business owner hears the word ‘networking,’ they usually think of cheesy 90’s power handshakes, canned elevator pitches, selfies with celebrities, and business cards that end up in the bin at the end of the networking event. 

In reality, just about everything you read about networking will tell you to go about it all back to front. Real networking is not an emotionless business transaction. It’s about a network of friends, experts, and clients, whom you trust and value, and they do the same with you. 

Think of it this way: if you had an important business decision to make, who could you call at 9pm on a Sunday to talk it over with? And who would call you?

That’s your network.

Network Advocacy

Advocacy is defined as: ‘the public support for the interests of someone or a group of people.’

An ideal professional network is made up of people you can advocate for, and who advocate for you. The key to creating this kind of network is to build relationships based on knowing, liking & trusting. 

People you know, like and trust are those you have regular communication with, shared understanding, alignment of values, good rapport and integrity.  

With this foundation, you are willing to advocate for people in your network, and they in turn are willing to advocate for you. Advocacy is an intentional act — you go out of your way to do it. 

Developing a strong network in this way takes time, commitment and generosity. It has nothing in common with the transactional method most business books recommend. 

You may never receive anything directly from some people in your network. That’s ok. It’s the connectedness of a network that makes it special. Being able to contribute and help people in your network is as important as receiving help. 

Rules of Networking

#1 Give First

“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” — Keith Ferrazzi

Building a strong network is not about what you can ‘get’ from someone. You’ve all been approached in the past by someone that seemed a little ‘off’ to you. Chances are, that person was angling to get something from you – in the form of a referral, introduction, investment, or other favour. Their putting the transaction first most likely got in the way of you connecting with them.  

To network successfully, you put the long term relationship with that person first. Truly get to know them, with the purpose of being able to help them advance towards their goals. 

This approach builds a solid relationship based on trust and integrity. When you look after the relationship first, good things naturally flow from that.  

#2 of Networking: Don’t Keep Score

“The most meaningful way to succeed is to help others succeed.” — Adam Grant

Building a network is not about transactional ‘quid pro quo’ exchanges. The first thing to give up when you commit to building a valuable network is the practice of keeping score. 

Many of the most accomplished networkers in the business world, (like Adam Grant, Keith Ferrazzi and Jayson Gaignard,) focus solely on what they can do to help others succeed. This generosity comes back to them in unexpected ways, and their network (and net worth) continues to grow. 

This is especially true in the entrepreneurial world, where business introductions, recommendations and shared knowledge can be priceless, and lead to accelerated business growth. 

#3 Integrity & Protecting Your Network

“When you hit rock bottom you’ll be left with two things: your word and the integrity of your word, and your network. So never tarnish your word, and always invest in your network.” Jayson Gaignard

It’s important to protect your network. This means carefully vetting all the people you connect to and introduce. Make sure you only fill your social network with people who do the things they say they will do. 

Keeping this rule means your recommendation will carry a lot of weight. Your network will know you only recommend high integrity individuals.  

Over time, this approach will make you part of a very valuable ecosystem. There’s a follow on effect – people will trust you with their connections, thus growing your network.

Why Networking Matters for Entrepreneurs

Effective networking is an important skill for successful entrepreneurs. It can open doors and create amazing opportunities for investment, clients, and growth. Through your network you can meet mentors, future employees, advisers and industry insiders who may advocate for you to other dealmakers. 

You may also get the opportunity to become an investor, adviser, or mentor to others. 

The other side of a great network is it raises the quality of your life. Building and investing in your network means you’re having great interactions with people you genuinely care about. 

You’re cultivating & growing relationships with people who have a different outlook, culture background, skillset and knowledge base. The fastest way to learn and grow is from others, through your network.

Building your Entrepreneurial Network. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

At the back of people’s minds when they’re ‘networking’ is a little voice that says ‘what does this person want from me? What can I get from them?’ (Sometimes that voice isn’t little, it’s shouting.)

When you are ‘networking’ tell that voice to shut the #*$% up. 

That voice is getting in the way of actually meeting the person in front of you, and seeing if you have common ground. If you enjoy each other’s company, and if there’s anything you can do to help that person, that’s a great place to start. 

And when I say ‘to help them’ sometimes having a pleasant conversation with someone that’s relaxing and friendly is a great help. Especially when you meet the person in an environment where everyone else is trying to ‘network’ and conversations come off as forced and full of neediness. 

Networking takes patience. Building a valuable business network isn’t a quick one-off project.  Successful networkers play the long game. 

The first question to ask when connecting with someone is: how can I help you? Even very accomplished entrepreneurs may have kids starting off in business you can help, or there may be matters outside of business you are far more accomplished than them at. 

When it comes to approaching someone who’s more experienced than you in a certain field, ask for advice rather than a favour. Then show you actually took that advice, and share your results. 

For someone who’s in a position to be a mentor, seeing that you took their advice and benefitted is often the most satisfying part of them helping you. Showing your results makes them far more likely to help you in the future. 

The Art of the Ask

So you’ve been investing in your network, helping people out — is that all there is to it? Do you never get anything back?

Most people find their network pays off in unexpected ways with benefits they could never have predicted. However, sometimes you’ll have a specific want, and then it’s time to go to your network, and see if they can help you. 

When it comes to asking something from your network, here’s how to do it. 

Simply ask for what you want, with no expectation or neediness or ‘I did this, now you owe me.’

If you make it easy for people to say ‘no,’ they’re actually more likely to say yes, and they’ll feel happier helping you. Also, if they can’t say yes, they’ll know that saying no won’t hurt the relationship. 

Networking Hinges on Good Communication

Entrepreneurs who want to build a stellar network will do so much quicker when they have good communication skills. ABA has programs to advance your skills in this area. If you want to learn more, click here to book a free discovery session.

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