Build Your Network
Your network is one of the best tools at your disposal as you launch and grow your company. Here are expert tips on how to grow and strengthen yours.
"Be strategic when growing your professional network. Identify your business goal(s), identify the types of contacts that can help you achieve your goal(s), their role in the development of your business, and how you can also contribute to the development of theirs." - Stephanie Spangler, attorney at Norris McLaughlin.
"If networking events are stressful to you, treat them like meetings: Give yourself an agenda, meet those who are important to you, and take it easy by the bar." - Tal Gurevich, WeWork product manager.
"Remember that networking is a two-way street. The most successful relationships built from networking are when the ask is ‘how can I help you?’ not ‘what can you do for me?’ Contacts in your network will be more receptive to working with you when they see that there are mutual benefits derived from the relationship." - Stephanie Spangler, attorney at Norris McLaughlin.
"Start by growing your network from within. Most people miss their parents, uncles, and aunts, and extended family when trying to develop a professional network, but I have discovered that building a strong base from close and trusting family members can go a long way." - Abdul Salam, Google Cloud Consultant, Big Data & Analytics.
"Don’t hover at networking events. Be bold. Everyone is there for a reason, so rather than hovering at the edge of a group trying to find the perfect moment, give yourself permission to introduce yourself. Just don’t hijack the conversation once you are in." - Cathryn Parker, client relationships director at Dramatic Resources.
"Don't be afraid to ask for an intro from someone you already have a great relationship with. It's how we got our start as a company! For example, we have wrapped up a great project and said ‘Hey, I saw this VC just invested in xyz company which you happen to work with. Can you send a quick warm intro for us?’" - Gira Desai Wieczorek, managing partner at Aleberry Creative.
"Think like a host. The biggest mistake at a networking event is focusing all your attention on yourself. Instead, focus on making the event work for other people and shift the focus to them and away from yourself." - Cathryn Parker, client relationships director at Dramatic Resources.
"Don't just ask for an intro from someone you barely know. I get random emails all the time asking for an intro to someone I happen to be connected with on a social network/deal. While I appreciate the due diligence on me, I don't know the founder well enough to put my reputation on the line. Take me out to coffee or give me a call and talk about your company—I'm more likely to make an introduction!" - Gira Desai Wieczorek, managing partner at Aleberry Creative.
"Listen and respond. You don’t have to worry about saying something brilliant or clever, although we all think we do and so end up waiting for our big moment. Instead really listen to what the other person is saying, build on their ideas, and ask questions. Establishing rapport is far more valuable than showing off." - Cathryn Parker, Client relationships director at Dramatic Resources.
"The VC/startup industry is very much a warm intro/welcome/grab a beer first then do business mentality. I recommend reaching out to founders who have exited in your industry and offering to buy them a beer/coffee/lunch and sitting with them for an hour. Same with VCs. We tend to grab coffee/dinner/beer with the investors we work with to see what they are currently looking for so we can help each other out." - Gira Desai Wieczorek, managing partner at Aleberry Creative.
"I use my first conversation to figure out what people are focused on, be it hiring, sales, or even looking for a new apartment. Chances are I can help by connecting them with someone in my network (thereby also creating value for one of my existing connections). These meaningful introductions create a bunch of good karma that tends to come back in one form or another." - Derek Wahl, senior account executive at WeWork.
"If you write a cold email, context is key. Make sure you are relevant to the person you are contacting and specify exactly how you might be relevant. I often get emails from founders writing about their offering, with no context whatsoever. If I bother to ask for context, they might reply and say they are looking to raise capital and need my help or want me to invest, or they think I might be a potential customer, or if they have no idea why they are relevant, they won't reply back. Avoid this at all costs." - Itay Sagie, cofounder of VCforYou.
"Befriend juniors at the firm. Quite often, when networking, it's always a goal to get in touch with the most senior person at an organization. However, junior staff members are always a good place to start because they are most likely to respond to your messages and can give you much clearer insight on how to get in touch with the senior person you are trying to connect with." - Hiruy Ephrem, program manager at AngelVest.
"Following Community and Cultivation, focus on Connection. It starts from the heart. Be genuine. Once you build trust, connection in real time and over time are just as important. Take a pulse and make sure the connection is sustainable and that you are providing value to them. Your network will build organically." - Stacey Guillen, founder and principal consultant at One Drop Plus.
“After Community, focus on Cultivation. Divide and conquer. You have to be strategic and intentional. Time is of the essence. We’re all busy entrepreneurs, hence, cultivation and building rapport is the most important aspect of networking. Engagement is key! Find ways to cultivate the relationship: How can you help? Who can you connect them with?” - Stacey Guillen, founder and principal consultant at One Drop Plus.
“Follow the the C’s of networking, starting with Community. Create an inventory of all the community members you would like to meet, aspire to be, or have read about. I usually keep a Google sheet saved in my Drive to update it in real time. I audit and update every week.” - Stacey Guillen, founder and principal consultant at One Drop Plus.
"Follow up on LinkedIn. I get many requests from entrepreneurs on LinkedIn and not many follow up after becoming contacts to establish a relationship. It's important to follow up with the people you send requests to in order to further a relationship and achieve your primarily goal for connecting with them. That being said, always add a note when reaching out." - Hiruy Ephrem, program manager at AngelVest.
"I find that there many groups on WhatsApp dedicated to various topics and that the people who join those groups are willing to connect, network, and help each other overall. I think this can be great platform to network even for more introverted people." - Ola Haham, business strategy expert.
"Track your conversations on Excel/spreadsheet. This is useful because you can figure out what sorts of responses you are getting from different people, but most importantly, it will help you remember who you have reached out to and what you discussed. That way, you can have targeted conversations and eventually develop a pseudo-network map that you can leverage on your own." - Hiruy Ephrem, program manager at AngelVest.
"When you’re speed networking, make sure your presence is noticeable, and have your elevator pitch polished. Don't always make it about you—offer to help when you see an opportunity. Helping others will often come back to you tenfold. Be an active listener by listening to understand, not to reply. And make sure you follow up with everyone you connect with." - Stacey Guillen, founder and principal consultant at One Drop Plus.
"Maintaining networks isn’t easy! Find a relevant reason to engage. Notice something relevant to a contact? A news article? A favourite movie part? A post to comment on, on LinkedIn? Fire off a note to them to keep things fresh and relevant." - Alex Gould, managing director at Long Story Short.
"We’re all in the same boat, so say hello. Networking events are always a bit stiff when things first kick off until the beers get flowing. Remember, you couldn't be with a more outgoing group of people. They’ve got the same intentions and are waiting for you to say hello." - Alex Gould, managing director at Long Story Short.
"It's a steep hill when both parties don't know each other. That's why I try to get people to come to me. You can write online, do videos, host meetups, etc.In this way, whenever someone does reach out to me, I know they are already interested in me and what I write/talk/do; and therefore, we already have common ground to start a new relationship upon." - Alan Klement, principal at Idealized Innovation.
"Always make note of your conversations. I record quick notes on my phone about who I spoke to and how I can help them after each conversation. Then I'll follow up with a quick email that includes my relevant recommendations. It costs me nothing and it is often worth 10x to my recipient. Generosity is super attractive." - James Destinas, digital strategist and marketing consultant at tG² Digital Group.
"When you meet someone new everyone's default reflex is to jump straight into work/career topics and see how they can do business together. However, when I meet someone new I try not to talk about work until the last five to 10 percent of our conversation. I try to get to know them personally and establish a common bond over interests outside of work, preferably. The caveat here is you need to judge the level of ‘personal bonding time’ each person wants. Some people want 20 percent personal 80 percent biz talk. For others, it's the other way around." - Tom Noh, president at Yooka Labs.
"When it comes to networking, it’s all about giving first. Listen and think of ways you can help whoever you're speaking to. And trust me, you can help anyone. Often times, it's the thought that really counts and really shows what type of person you are. Help can come in many forms and most of it usually yields positive results." - James Destinas, digital strategist and marketing consultant at tG² Digital Group.
"Are you going places where your competition is not? If you run a PR firm, why would you ever go to a networking event where other PR firms would be? Instead, find out where your target customer goes, but not necessarily for your service, and attend those networking events." - Michael Dermer, founder of The Lonely Entrepreneur.
"Business is simple—it's all about relationships. Successful relationships are mutually (not equivalently) beneficial in some way, shape, or form. Don't disguise your intentions—when creating relationships for any purpose be clear and upfront. If you are, you won't waste anyone's time and you won't waste yours either. Read Adam Grant’s book Give and Take for a good perspective on relationships." - Greg Castro, founder and CEO of Sparky and Hollywood.
"Find a way into the people who you want to meet and when emailing or at an event, target specific people who you think would be high value in your network. And don't be reluctant to ask people for small favors." - Gyan Kapur, vice president at Activate Venture Partners.
"The details count! When I meet people for the first time and we exchange information, I typically jot down a few notes about the person. This could be notes on things like where their kids are going to college, where they are from, a trip they are going on, or just about anything else unique. If we meet again I can quickly pull these notes up for a quick refresh on the little details and that goes a long way in the conversation." - Greg Castro, founder and CEO of Sparky and Hollywood.
"Does a networking event target your customer? Entrepreneurs should not chase every customer. It’s natural to chase revenue wherever you can find it. But that saps valuable resources. Pick a customer type and stick to it. So if you attend a networking event to get customers, make sure it’s honed in on your target customer." - Michael Dermer, founder of The Lonely Entrepreneur.
"It's important to track your key relationships and make sure they stay ‘fresh,’ i.e. that you remain in touch with the people who matter. I use a CRM to see when I last reached out to people and try to keep catch up when needed with people I haven't stayed fresh with." - Gyan Kapur, vice president at Activate Venture Partners.
"Know your purpose for networking. It doesn't matter whether you're looking to build relationships in a particular industry, speak to people with certain common interests, or just build a network of random, great people (which is a purpose). Define what you want and be clear about your purpose or expectations with people." - Greg Castro, founder and CEO of Sparky and Hollywood.
"Here are three ways to expand your professional network: 1. Join a networking group 2. Learn a new hobby, like playing golf 3. Ask others for introductions." - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.
"Psychologists have found that after two days, only 25 percent of information is retained; other studies have found that 75 percent of information is lost after just 24 hours and 90 percent is gone after one week. That's why it's important to capture personal notes after meeting someone, either on the back of the card or a CRM." - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.
"Employees are a company's greatest asset. Every employee has a LinkedIn profile that communicates a story. Make sure their LinkedIn profiles are helping, not hindering, your business." - Donna Serdula, Founder of LinkedIn-Makeover.com.
"Here are five daily goals you can set to increase your social capital: 1. Time allocation (e.g. an hour a day) 2. Number of old contacts to reconnect with 3. Number of new contacts to meet 4. Number of introductions you make for others 5. Number of thank you cards sent." - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.
"LinkedIn profiles aren’t just for job search. The LinkedIn profile shapes your online reputation and extends your professional brand. LinkedIn is for branding, reputation management, thought leadership, prospecting, sales, business intelligence, and more. It's a robust tool—use it!" - Donna Serdula, founder of LinkedIn-Makeover.com.
"Here are five ways to build stronger professional relationships: 1. Share relevant articles or news 2. Make introductions 3. Check in 4. Provide professional leads 5. Comment on status updates." - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.
"An optimized LinkedIn profile means you are in charge of your story, message, and brand. Take the time to update your profile picture, add a background image, and use the Summary section as a digital introduction. Whatever you do, don't copy and paste your resume!" - Donna Serdula, founder of LinkedIn-Makeover.com.
"Use a simple follow-up formula to turbocharge your relationships with people you meet. It’s called the 24/7/30 system by Dr. Ivan Misner—within the first 24 hours, drop them a note; within seven days, connect with them on social media; within 30 days, reach out to them to set up a face-to-face meeting." - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.
"First impressions aren't always made in person; your LinkedIn profile precedes you. Make sure your profile tells your professional story, spotlights your skills, and impresses your target audience." - Donna Serdula, founder of LinkedIn-Makeover.com.
"Good conversations can move your relationships, business, and career forward. So what conversation-starter questions should you ask? Remember the FROG (family, recreation, occupation, goals) to make small talk easier and more meaningful." - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.
"How do you connect with someone on a deeper level? Try LAER - Listen, Acknowledge, Explore, and Respond. Listening intently to what someone is saying, acknowledging that you get them, exploring deeper together from the same side, and finally, responding to them." - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.
"As Dale Carnegie’s quote goes, 'To be interesting, be interested.’ Today, ask these questions for a change: ‘What do you do for fun when you're not at work? What passion project are you currently working on?'" - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.
"How can you build authentic relationships with others? Be genuinely curious. Ask positive questions like, 'Why did you start your business? What do you like most about what you do? What is the proudest moment of your life?'" - Wendy Hung Marucheck, cofounder of The Circle Networks.