Three Golden Rules for Networking as a Starting Entrepreneur

two people working

two people working

Smart entrepreneurs know very well that a solid, diverse network is one of the keys to success. In fact, there’s a mantra that goes ‘your network is your net worth.’ But while knowing that the right connections are crucial, it doesn’t make the ‘dirty work’ any easier, especially if you’re a starting entrepreneur. A lot of newbies struggle with building rapport, approaching strangers in conferences or conventions, even.

The good thing about this is there’s already a playbook of the art of networking. It’s then just a matter of following the rules. Here are the golden principles when building your contacts.

1. Begin With a Plan

What many entrepreneurs don’t understand is that networking doesn’t ‘just happen’. Better networking happens when you make it happen. Be intentional. Draw up a plan, starting with the ‘who’. Identify the people you think would help you be successful in the industry you’re breaking into.

For instance, if you’re trying to explore how to start a co-working business, ask yourself who the experts you want to tap are. Refer to different business groups. Or, look at proven business models, like franchises. You’d find fellow entrepreneurs who aren’t just keen on helping business people like you but also has the same business interests as you.

After you’ve pinned down the ‘who’, it’s time to know the ‘how’, the activities you’d do to connect with the people. Plan on attending conferences sponsored by the business group you’re eyeing or sending an appreciation tweet to a seasoned entrepreneur.

2. Give, Rather Than Take

For you to be memorable to people, you have to add value to them in every interaction. ‘Value’ here can range from the simple gesture of offering a listening ear to a colleague you met at a conference or taking them out to lunch to grander acts of sponsoring an event or letting them use your co-working space for a launch. Just like in any other relationship, entrepreneurial networks would require sacrifices. And you must avoid expecting something in return.

a young entrepreneur

But the encouragement here is that even though you may not be receiving anything tangible now, know that you’re slowly cultivating a lasting relationship that could save you from business woes later. So, again, remember the principle: Seize every opportunity to offer added value. The same principle you need to channel when networking with customers. Give, give, give.

3. Follow Up

Remember that networking doesn’t end with only collecting business cards. You’re trying to build relationships with people. Following up is always an overlooked habit of many, and probably it’s because it takes effort and time that would have been otherwise dedicated to other ‘business tasks’, like writing the business plan or securing funds.

Note though that networking is part of your business task. It’s supposed to be at the top of your priorities. If you’d dedicate time in following up, meeting that colleague you met at the conference, you might just get your first investor or find a proven franchise program business plan.

It’s understandable that you might be a little uneasy building rapport with people as you start in the business. But things would get better. And you’ll network better if you abide by these rules.