Home Entrepreneurship The Value of Networking as an Entrepreneur

The Value of Networking as an Entrepreneur

by Olufisayo
Value of Networking as an Entrepreneur

We hear a lot about networking throughout our lives, especially in college and as we start internships and new jobs, but why is networking so important for entrepreneurs? Professional networking is building a “network” of individuals who are in the same career or industry as you to broaden your connections. It is often conducted in business casual settings, such as in the office, at school, or at an after-hours work event.

Networking is extremely valuable if you are looking to start a new business. It is always helpful to have people in your corner who can give advice or tell you how they became successful, but there are a lot of other helpful reasons to build a network. As an entrepreneur, who you network with can make a huge difference in your overall success.

Why is Networking Important

Building a strong network throughout your career will help you in the future. Any business professional, especially entrepreneurs, can benefit from building a solid network. Even the most iconic and successful entrepreneurs did not do it all on their own, and connections within your industry can be incredibly valuable in the beginning of your career. Networking can open the doors to new knowledge, opportunities, and support from individuals in various aspects of your career. Often successful networking can be the difference between someone who achieves their goals and someone who does not.

When you build a network you want to make connections with people who are on the same level as you, but more importantly those who have already seen success. Seasoned professionals will be able to guide you through your own decisions, and share their past mistakes and successes with you. Building relationships can also open the door to investment opportunities, and when you make a personal impact on someone they will be more likely to want to help you start or grow your business.

Support is also about more than just business and financial advice, it is also about having individuals to reach out to who understand your exact situation. According to a study by the University of California Berkeley, 72 percent of entrepreneurs reported having mental health struggles, in comparison to 48 percent of the general population. Your venture as an entrepreneur is not always going to be easy, and having people you can talk to about your struggles, especially those who have been down this path before, is a priceless advantage to networking.

Who Should You Network With?

Networking with a wide variety of people is helpful, however as an entrepreneur you are probably very busy, so in an effort to save time you need to understand who to network with. All connections have value, but some connections are going to have more of an impact on your career than others. When you are working on your network, you should be looking for individuals who are further into their careers than you are. The goal is to make connections with individuals who have more connections than you do so that you can utilize not only that person’s advice and support but the connections they have made as well.

For example, say you are looking to start your business but need to find several investors. You have made a connection with a successful entrepreneur who may not have the funding to invest in your company. However, they probably know people who would be interested in investing in your company and can put you in touch with these people. Now your network is expanded by more than just your connections, it also opens the door to the people they know and trust. Additionally, by approaching an investor through your connection, they’re going to be more likely to trust you because they trust your connection.

Strategies for Building a Strong Network

Networking is a skill, and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If the idea of reaching out to people or approaching someone in a crowd full of colleagues terrifies you, you are not alone. Reaping the benefits of networking is about more than just making connections, it is also about doing it in the right way. The skill of networking is something that you can easily learn, and once you have done it a few times, you’ll realize how naturally it can come. If you are unsure where to begin, here are some helpful tips and strategies for becoming an effective networker.

Find the Right People

There are networking opportunities everywhere, you just have to learn how to properly look for them. There are a lot of networking opportunities that happen in person, but there are also virtual resources you can utilize. When you are looking for people to network with, especially online, you’ll want to take a few things into consideration including:

  • Geographic proximity to you
  • How related the industry is
  • Demographics
  • Stage of their career
  • Where they went to school and where you did
  • If they can teach you about a specific topic
  • Shared personal and professional interests

When building your network as an entrepreneur it is important to also consider the value of individuals who are not in the exact same industry or career path that you want to be.

Sell Yourself

Networking is a two-way street, so you need to be able to sell yourself. You want to gain from this relationship, and there are certain attributes that you find of value about them, but you also need to ensure that they feel the same way. This is not to say you have to be as valuable as a professional who is 10 years into their career, but you want to have a good pitch to sell yourself to them.

As an entrepreneur, you want to have a clear description of your business and the value it brings ready to share with anyone that you meet. It can also be helpful to prepare different pitches that vary slightly depending on who you are going to be speaking to. For example, the way you sell yourself and your business may be different if you are talking to an investor versus another entrepreneur.

You may also change your pitch depending on the shared interest you are trying to connect with someone on. If you are connecting with a fellow entrepreneur who went to your alma mater, you may focus more of the conversation on shared experiences in college, especially in the beginning.

Maintain Your Connections

Making a connection is one thing, but the most important part of building a successful network is to maintain these relationships over time. If you meet someone in the beginning of your career but don’t connect with them at all after that, it is going to be much more difficult to ask them for help years down the line. After you make a connection, you should make a point to reach out every so often. Linkedin is a great resource for maintaining connections because it is a good place to keep all of your connections in order.

Reaching out in a way that is professional yet casual can be challenging especially at first, but there are very simple ways to maintain connections. Some options you have for reaching out include:

  • Emailing, texting, or calling to ask how they are doing
  • Asking to meet for coffee or meals
  • Sending holiday cards
  • Attending events they have organized, and inviting them to yours
  • Sending information they might find helpful or interesting
  • Asking them for help or advice when you need it

A strong network is going to be one of the most valuable assets you have as an entrepreneur, so it is just as important to maintain the connections you have made, as it is to make new ones.

Roni Davis is a writer, blogger, and legal assistant operating out of the greater Philadelphia area. She writes for a motorcycle accident lawyer in Philadelphia.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

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