John Donne famously said, “No man is an island”. When it comes to entrepreneurs this statement is absolutely true. Business involves exchanges of goods or services for money (or other goods and services in the case of bartering) and is based upon relationships. To do business you must connect, and the best way to connect is through networking. Just putting up a website or printing business cards is no more effective than putting a sign in the front yard. Networking puts a face on your brand. Your contacts will become your customers, clients and sources of referrals. Without them you are trying to function in isolation—making yourself a business island.
Ideally your networking will include a good mix of formal networking, informal and one-to-one networking and social networking through technology. By blending the approaches you can increase your chances of success. For example, formal networking events like the Vancouver Entrepreneur Meetup give you access to a group of professionals who arrive ready and willing to network. They are there to share and listen and are super receptive. One-on-one meetings give you the chance to get more in depth with your contacts and to really delve into how you can create win-win opportunities. When possible try to schedule at least one of these during your formal event. In other words leave the Meetup with more than a handful of cards. Finally be sure to add technology based options to your networking blend. Social media sites allow you to exchange information with and connect with people from all over the world. You can stay in touch ‘round the clock and provide up to the minute updates on your newest projects and products.
People can’t engage you for projects or buy your products if they don’t know anything about you. Networking skills are what set the successful apart from the entrepreneurs who struggle.
About the author: “Karen Southall Watts has been training and coaching entrepreneurs for over a decade. She teaches business courses for Bellingham Technical College.”