The Good Entrepreneur - 'How to Network':
In the first of a new three-part series, ‘The Good Entrepreneur,’ HealthXL Director, Jim Joyce, CEO and Founder of Point Of Care Health Services, explains what it takes to build up your Network:
“If you want to be rich, don’t hang out with poor people” – Ken Morse, at the ‘2012 Healthies’.
A Wall Street analyst may say investing is all about the balance sheet. For startups trying to get off the ground, your balance sheet is often your network. A startup has to be ten times more efficient than an established company. Your network will find your first customers, capital, and employees. You won’t have the budget to pay for agencies, recruiters, sales people and financiers so you need to nurture and build a community of people that generally want you to succeed.
However, like in any discipline, it requires a bit of discipline. Keep in mind that when an investor or customer meets a company founder, they are immediately assessing whether this is someone they should spend more or less time with. My first suggestion is to take a few minutes to reflect on how your own “personal” brand can mobilise your startup project by trying to accentuate some of your more positive attributes and determining how they can compliment your startup.
My basic philosophy on how to network – 8 Key Tips:
1.) Be active – bring the energy and enthusiasm:
People tend to invest in positive, energetic people, so don’t suck a conversation dry of life. If you can’t keep a dialogue rolling, move on. There are lots of fish in the sea and you won’t hit it off with everyone. Demonstrate that you have energy, a quick mind, that you’re someone that would be easy to work with, and that you are open to new ideas and situations.
2.) Find common ground:
Your best contacts will always be people you have lots of common ground with: your mom, your high school buddy, a former colleague, or just someone with common interests. When you meet a person for the first time, engage in “active listening” and find your common ground.
3.) Be generous... give, give, and give some more:
Networking sounds selfish, but it’s not. Play the long game and spend a large part of your networking time connecting other people’s ideas and projects, but choose who you help carefully, as they will begin to define your own brand. When the timing seems right, pitch your own ideas for support. Never expect anything in return for helping others, it will only frustrate you. Have faith in the notion that if you invest the time to build a formidable network, you will be unstoppable.
4.) Ask the first or second question:
When you’re at a conference, ask a question! If you don’t have the guts to ask the first question, then ask the second question. Your question shouldn’t be promotional; you should say your name and company name, keep it short, and demonstrate some command of the topic. If you make a complete disaster of the question, don’t sweat it, just move on. Everyone has a bad day.
5.) Avoid obvious stalking of business targets and being generally creepy!
It is great to try and figure out who you need to meet at an event, and then trying to actually meet them. The warning here is to just chill out a bit. Balance focus and targeting so that you don’t come off as strangely obsessive or overly flattering. Powerful and successful people smell desperation from a million miles away, and they generally don’t want to hang out with desperate people!
6.) Get introduced or referred:
It is always best to be introduced in a complementary way. This is a natural way of filtering people into our lives. As you will find out for yourselves, as you become more successful and known, the more filtering you will require. I still have a huge amount of respect and admiration for the “cold call”, so don’t remove it from your weapon arsenal. Having said this, a good introduction just works. When you have been introduced, be respectful that someone has invested their network and time in you by bringing your best game to the meeting, showing up on time, and just generally being ready.
7.) Play the long game, have fun, and don’t get too stressed:
Networking is just part of life. Just try and enjoy it, and go with the flow! It’s a bit like a game of basketball – fluid, fast paced, and you need to always be moving to where the ball is going next.
8.) Follow through, get meetings, and leverage LinkedIn and Twitter:
For your best contacts, nothing will ever replace a follow up one to one meeting, coffee, lunch, or drink. As Esther Dyson says, “we are still chemical entities”, and social media won’t change that. With that said, LinkedIn and Twitter are great tools, so don’t be lazy about them. Connect with people on social media right after meeting them and cement your actual human interaction.