The Power of Networking for Entrepreneurs
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re always looking for ways to get ahead. After all, the competition in the business world is fierce. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and talent to be successful. But there’s one other important ingredient that many entrepreneurs overlook: networking.
Sure, it can be tough to find the time to network when you’re busy running a business. But the truth is, networking is a powerful tool that can help you achieve your goals. Here are just a few reasons why you should make networking a priority:
- Find mentors and advisors. As an entrepreneur, it is always helpful to connect with those that have “been there, done that”. The more you network with entrepreneurs and business professionals, the more you will be able to find potential mentors and advisors. These relationships can be invaluable, providing you with guidance, advice, and support when you need it most.
- Get introductions to potential investors. Honestly, whether you’re actively raising capital or not, if you plan to raise at some point networking with investors is a must. It’s always beneficial to build relationships with VCs and angel investors.
- Build relationships with customers and partners. Your business will only be successful if you have customers and partners who believe in your product or service. When you meet someone new, take the time to get to know them and see if there’s a potential fit for your business. You never know what opportunities will come your way through building intentional relationships with customers and partners.
- Stay on top of industry trends. Networking with other professionals in your industry is one of the best ways to keep up with the latest trends and stay ahead of the curve. Talking to others in your field gives you the ability to get a pulse on what’s going on and see what new ideas are taking off.
How To Improve Networking Skills
Do you feel uncomfortable meeting new people or starting conversations? If so, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs struggle with networking because it doesn’t come naturally to them. But the good news is that networking is a skill that can be learned. Here are some tips to help you improve your networking skills and stand out a little more:
- Be yourself. One of the best pieces of advice for networking is to simply be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not – people will see right through it. Instead, focus on building genuine relationships with the people you meet.
- Plan ahead. Before attending an event, take some time to research who will be there and what your goals are. This way, you can make the most of your time and come away with valuable new connections.
- Arrive early. When you arrive early, you’ll have a chance to talk to people before the event really gets started.
- Prepare your elevator pitch. When you meet someone new, you’ll want to be able to quickly explain who you are and what your business does. Craft a short elevator pitch in advance that captures people’s attention.
- Connect with someone who is alone. If you see someone standing by themselves, take the opportunity to go up and talk to them. They’ll appreciate your willingness to include them in the conversation.
- Get out of your comfort zone. The more people you meet, the easier it will be to network. So challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and talk to as many people as possible.
- Ask questions. Conversation will flow more smoothly if you’re genuinely interested in the other person. So instead of talking about yourself, focus on asking questions and getting to know the other person.
- Have business cards ready. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you by having business cards on hand. And be sure to collect the business cards of any new contacts you make.
- Follow up. After meeting someone new, be sure to follow up with a quick email or LinkedIn message. This will help you stay top of mind and build a relationship with the other person.
- Connect with an Elevate Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR). Our EIRs are experienced entrepreneurs who can help connect you with the people and resources you need to succeed.
Networking at Online Events
Just because events are happening online doesn’t mean they’re any less important. In fact, with so many people now working remotely, online networking is more important than ever. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of online networking:
- Make the most of social media. Social media is a great way to connect with others in your industry and build relationships. Use LinkedIn, Twitter, and other platforms to engage with others and start conversations.
- Join online communities. There are many places where you can connect with like-minded professionals. Join a few that are relevant to your industry and start participating in the discussions.
- Familiarize yourself with videoconferencing tools. Platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet have features and capabilities that can be used for networking. Get to know how they work so you’re prepared for your next online event.
Networking Opportunities Across the State
- September 20: Kinetic, Elevate’s annual conference for high-growth, high-potential startups in Indiana – This is your opportunity to connect with 100s of entrepreneurs, investors and community stakeholders. More than 40 VCs from across the country will be in attendance!
- Quadrant from Agrinovus – A quarterly convening series aimed at bringing together a diverse group of professionals to further connect the AG + BIO + SCIENCE community.
- 1 Million Cups – Every Wednesday over 130 communities meet to give each other support, encouragement and feedback over a cup of coffee.
- Creative Mornings – The world’s largest face-to-face creative community.
- Check out Elevate’s list of upcoming entrepreneurial events across Indiana for more chances to connect with others in the startup community.