As a young entrepreneur, you need to build connections with a wide range of people, including investors, peers, employees, and of course customers in order to keep your business growing.
You need to understand that building connections is more of an investment, not a cost, Relationships are important and extremely helpful especially if you’re just starting up your business as a young entrepreneur.
Bonnie Elliot once mentioned that “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This is especially true in an ever more competitive business world, where strong relationships can make a direct contribution to your bottom-line.
Building a mutually beneficial business network should be a priority for every business owner. Strong business relationships can lead to new customers, improved management skills and the discovery of new ideas.
Don’t wait until your marketing funnel is empty to start building your network. If you want to build a robust business, you should get out there and make connections today.
Here are tips on how you can start building you connections gradually.
Attend Business Networking Events
The first step in successful networking is knowing where you should go to make connections. While almost any activity or event can serve as a networking opportunity, small business owners and professionals with local businesses should attend local business events.
For example, your city’s chamber of commerce might host gatherings for people in your industry. Additionally, it’s worth hitting up meetings for professional associations and societies related to your field.
Get Social in Your Off Hours
Just because you’re off the clock doesn’t mean it’s time to stop networking. If you want to expand your reach, make an effort to chat with attendees at your health club or pilates class.
You can even make business connections at your child’s school activities and sports events. After all, parents are typically looking for something to chat about besides what’s happening on the soccer field!
Identify Conversational Icebreakers
If you want to overcome initial awkwardness and make a good first impression, consider opening with a compliment. For example, you might tell the person sitting next to you at a seminar that you like their shoes or tie. Similarly, asking a question gives contacts the chance to talk about themselves. Ask how they got into the field or what they think of a recent development affecting your industry.
Step out of your comfort zone
If you’re naturally shy, having success in networking can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are some strategies for overcoming introversion and making connections.
First, consider brainstorming icebreakers before a networking event, so you don’t have to come up with ideas on the spot. Second, feel free to take a breather if you get overwhelmed. Go to the restroom, take a walk, or grab a coffee. You can return to the room refreshed and ready to meet new people.
Find a Reason to Follow Up
Making connections is only half the battle; you also have to take steps to keep the relationship going. Even if you aren’t currently job hunting, strive to reach out to your contacts a few times a year to follow up. You could forward a relevant article, invite them to a seminar or conference, or even just send a friendly note during the holidays.
Of course, being successful in networking is about more than what you do. It’s also about what not to do. Here are some tactics to avoid if you want to boost your business connections.
Don’t Be Selfish
Whether you’re chatting at a chamber of commerce event or attending an informational meeting, it’s important to remember that networking is about give and take. If you’re always the person asking for favors, the relationship is unlikely to last. For best results, look for opportunities to help your networking contacts prosper in their own careers.