When building a business, no matter how great your ideas may be, or how hard you work towards success, the ever-present reality is that you have to eventually connect with people. This is why effective networking is key to the growth of your business. Sallie L. Krawcheck, Chair of Ellevate network states, “networking is the number one unwritten rule of success in business.” A report made in 2016 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, even concluded that for 78 per cent of startups, networking was essential to their success.
Effective networking can lead to many different opportunities that can help grow your business. Whether it’s finding people with a platform who can spread the word about your business or finding someone within your industry to work with, networking can bring you opportunities you may not have even known existed.
If you build relationships with other entrepreneurs, it can be motivating to see how they operate and how their actions led them to where they are now. You can learn from them about what you should or shouldn’t do. You can gain valuable insights you can apply to your own business, as well as share your own insights to those who may benefit from them.
Networking is a way to get to know new clients and build relationships with them. It’s important not only to reach out to people, but to also build genuine relationships with them, so that they come back to you in the future. Another benefit is that someone in your network may be able to refer you to someone who could use your product or service. This could be an old client who was happy with your work and is now recommending you to co-workers, who then may recommend you to family members, and so on. If you leave a good impression, your network can grow through word of mouth.
Through networking with others regularly, and going outside of your comfort zone to speak to people you don’t know, your confidence will be increased. This is especially important for introverted entrepreneurs who may struggle to be social. When expressing yourself with confidence, others will gain a sense of trust towards you. If you are confident in yourself, others will be confident in you as-well.
Networking is an important skill that teaches you many other soft skills that are helpful in the business world. These soft skills include listening, problem solving, negotiating, engagement, confidence, and more. All of which teach you how to approach and communicate with others effectively. Focusing on these things will also point out your own strengths and weaknesses, and show you what you need to work on.
Most entrepreneurs know that networking will help them grow, although it’s hard for them to make it a priority as they may be focused on other aspects of the business. In a study done by Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, he asked participants whether networking had played a role in their success, as well as how much time per week they spend networking. Those who stated that networking played a role in their success spent on average 6.3 hours a week networking, while those who stated that networking had not played a role in their success spent only 2 hours or less on average networking a week. This shows the direct correlation between the amount of time you spend networking, and the rewards you realize from it. As Herminia Ibarra, author and professor at London Business School stated, “networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority.” So, it’s about realizing the importance of networking, and putting in the effort to make it a priority.
Thus, if you are willing to put in the effort to grow a network, you are likely to see these benefits come to life, and in turn, it’s likely you will see your business grow.
By Max Orlandi