Navigating the art of networking - People you should have in your networks
Women entrepreneurs share a list of people crucial to a good network.
Entrepreneurship is not just about an idea, a vision, and the commitment to see through the idea, but also about having an appetite for challenges on a day-to-day basis. It is about the ability to connect with people and build a huge network that can be leveraged for support, advice, mentorship, marketing, and a whole lot of other things.
Almost 80 percent of working professionals consider networking crucial for success, according to a new LinkedIn global survey result. When it comes to entrepreneurs, one has to walk that extra mile to build a network that is crucial for success.
“A well-rounded network is key for a woman entrepreneur to have in her support system,” says Shikha Uberoi, Co-founder of Indi.com and former tennis player who won India a silver medal at the 2006 Asian Games. She adds it helps in generating reach, engagement and revenue for brands.
We spoke to a few women entrepreneurs to find out how to build a well-rounded network, and who to include in this network for this helps women have an understanding of what events to attend, and who to interact with to build a strong network for themselves.
Wise women with age are invigorating because they constantly remind you to keep perspective. The wrinkles on their faces alone speak volumes, and should be understood with respect. Also, being around older women reminds you to fight the good fight because we women are standing on their shoulders. Reminding yourself that you haven't paved the road alone is very humbling,
is Shikha’s advice. It is good to have a tribe of women that you can not only learn from, but also bank on to give you well-timed advice. Whether it is on Facebook, or WhatsApp, or any other social media channel, it is essential for women to be part of women networks and groups. These groups are as much about taking as giving, so remember it is a two-way street and you are expected to give as much as you take.
The primary pillars
Networking is a huge part of an entrepreneur’s success, and while in the past we have spoken about the importance of having a strong network especially for women, and how to network, some women still tend to shy away from it and find it challenging.
The trick here is to start with the list of people who matter to you, and can impact how you work and run your company. Start with them and then gradually move on to others. This list includes legal and financial counsel and also business analysts.
HeyDeeDee CEO Revathi Roy’s pick when it comes to the people essential to her network are, “a CA, business analyst who can help make business plans and be the sounding board, a lawyer, a group of entrepreneurs or a platform where discussions can be had and a brilliant team.”
Manisha Raisinghani, the Co-Founder and CTO of LogiNext, a SaaS company catering to logistics and workforce optimisation, believes, “It’s wise to build parallel networks, one a more close-knit peer-driven, and another, a more open-group which you keep expanding by meeting industry leaders and domain experts. You can have an investor-group, a peer-group of founders, and domain-specific ones with tech leads, marketing gurus, legal experts, finance geniuses, etc.”
Mentors, investors and industry leaders
Mentors, industry leaders and investors are other key players that are crucial to an entrepreneurs’ network. Industry leaders and other key players in the ecosystem, including peers, provide a good group for one to learn from, discuss common problems and challenges, and even find mentors and a pool of people to collaborate with.
Aruna Schwarz, the Co-founder of Stelae Technologies recollects how her first set of investors were people from the network that she had built. “My set of investors were people I had worked in my corporate career. First of them being my boss at Cable and Wireless, who, besides having an outstanding career running large divisions at British Telecom, Esso etc, had an abundance of business common sense without any kind of meaningless corporate jargon and remains my mentor and close friend. That is the singular most important cornerstone of my network.”
Less obvious choices are important
There are some people you need in your network because you feel they add value to your life, and are a constant source of support. Some of these may be less obvious to others, but matter to you and hence, it is important to focus on them as well.
Take for example how Shikha keeps in touch with her educators, and professors. “I personally like to feel the constant safety net and support from educators. I keep my professors close in my life, and specifically, professors that have an expertise and wisdom in the sector I am enterprising in or have an indirect relation to it. Professors are up to date with the latest theories, have access to a pool of young minds, are constantly researching and love to have an opportunity to apply their theories in the real world via entrepreneurs.”
Shikha also has students and mentees in her network. “They are critical to keep you fresh, innovating, up to speed with future trends and in the know of the next generation's hopes, wants and fears,” she says.
Network capital is the best capital
Networking isn’t easy, and most women say it needs some work. Often, women find it difficult to network in large groups which mostly have men, but almost all of them realise how important it is.
Manisha makes a very valid point when she says that we need to approach it as capital, and that will help us see it in a different light.
It goes without saying that a healthy network can add to the top-line, but it’s not restricted to that. When you nurture it over time, members of your network would better resonate with your points and you can better resonate with theirs. This is how you build your ‘social’ or ‘network capital’, which is essentially a collective wealth of goodwill and expertise. You can use this capital to solve your future tech, marketing, or recruiting challenges, to name a few.
And that is reason enough to keep at it constantly without fail.