Networking can provide all the things every entrepreneur needs, be it market access channels, product development advice or management guidance.
The essence of a startup is to create something from scratch. So naturally networking is crucial for developing and scaling your startup. After all, interest from outside parties won’t just walk in through the door. As the CEO of a three-year-old company, I have experienced how crucial networking can be for the success of a young company, and where the gaps can be for entrepreneurs.
The foundation for launching your business and scaling it exponentially with speed will depend on outside forces. You will need access to a wide array of expertise to be successful with your company: market access channels, sparring on product development from industry experts, management guidance, and so on. All things that can be found through good and intensive networking. That is why you should network.
The next question to answer is what you as an entrepreneur can use networking for. As a tool to scale and develop your startup. The first step in this process of creating a strong networking strategy might very well be the toughest. You must identify what concrete results you eventually want from the process. The countless hours you’ll eventually end up spending on events, e-mails, introductory phone calls etc., should serve a concrete purpose. For some it might be market access for their product, for others, it might be sparring on product development, management guidance, or mentorship in general. So frame your “networking need”. What do you need from the NETWORK?
Answering the “what” will bring you to brainstorming on who could be relevant for the results you would like to achieve. However, it is important that you reflect on the mutual benefits of networking. How you will benefit your network, and how can your network benefit from collaborating with you and contributing to your startup? You need to find networking channels where you can bring as much to the table as you provide. The amazing achievements that a good and well-grounded network can result in must go both ways.
Keep in mind, though, that this does not mean you solely centre your focus around one goal/target or group, but rather be aware that you should have a focus and always reflect on where you put your networking energy. That said, it is close to impossible to overgrow a network, and every connection could end up being a very valuable future investment.
So “identify the groups or people” you want to bring into your NETWORK. Also, identify what you can provide vs taking from this network … No one likes a hard-pushing salesman vs someone who can provide value to a network before expecting to benefit.
So how exactly can you approach the task at hand? A good first move is to create your storyline. Who are you, and what can you and your company provide to others? By doing so, you also naturally discover what kind of people you want to attract, and what you can offer in return. Creating the storyline, however, can be somewhat more challenging than it sounds, but when you spend a good amount of time and work hard on it, a good and well-reflected storyline will be the foundation on which you can grow your networking strategy.
Create your storyline.
For a lot of people, networking is viewed as something that lies in a grey zone between work and social leisure activity. It is not. If you want to nurture and grow your network, you have to dedicate some serious time and effort to it. Following up phone calls and emails, business synergy suggestions, integrating connections to your own network etc. Consider these tasks as much a part of your work as any other crucial task. You can even set aside a time slot in your day purely for handling tasks like following up on emails. This will make the process of developing your network easier to manage on a practical and mental level.
Invest your time in maintaining relationships in the network.
So what are you waiting for? Create a storyline and a strategy that will make you the Olympian champion at networking events. There is no way around it: Creating a storyline and strategy is hard work and takes time, but when your pitch is the one that makes people frantically dig their business cards up from the deep recesses of their pockets, it’ll be worth the time you have spent.
Prasad Vanga is the Founder of Anthill Ventures.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)