Successful start-ups know that they can go from nothing to something by leveraging the power of a network of meaningful people to help propel their business.
As an entrepreneur, I get asked a lot about how entrepreneurs can successfully grow their businesses, especially startups. The answer? Building relationships! With the fact that experts predict that 80% of startups fail within the first three years of establishment, my six years of experience as an entrepreneur have made me realize that one of the keys to growing a business to build relationships.
And it shouldn’t just be any form of relationship. Build the right connections!
While it can look difficult or sound discouraging especially if you’re a newbie in the game, having the right connections could land you that investor or funding to grow your business or establishing a meaningful relationship with people in a relatively higher place can get you the capital needed to grow your startup.
The truth is that the right connections could help you form a partnership that will change the course of your entire company for the better, or the right connections could help you find a buyer for your company, leaving you with enough cash to start the next one.
Before we discuss the strategies, here’s why having an entrepreneurial network is important.
Build your network.
You don’t just get connections as soon as you establish a business. You need to strengthen, build, and improve your network. While you might have had some connections courtesy of family and friends, you need to form business relationships with people who would be beneficial to your business. Additionally, when building your network, ensure that you create relationships with different people with different backgrounds and experiences.
Improve and strengthen your network.
Improving and strengthening your entrepreneur network isn’t just about knowing people. You have to connect with them as well. For example, while you might have hundreds of friends of LinkedIn; however, how many of them are really your friends?
Would you trust that friend on social media that likes and comments on your posts or that friend that not only likes your posts, but you’ve met as well?
You’d probably be more likely to invest with someone you knew and trusted, right?
Don’t stress if your entrepreneurial network isn’t where you’d like it to be...
Instead of worrying, focus on building and improving your network. As you continue to grow and meet people, your network would expand as well.
If you want to focus on building, improving and strengthening your network, especially if you’re starting as an entrepreneur, these 3 sure-fire strategies which I’ve used and still use will help grow your network.
1. Attend social events.
Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely. I tell people that it’s a lonely journey. From feeling like you’re the only one invested in your business idea to having faith in your product/service (even when family and friends believe differently), going against the grain and taking a risk and being overwhelmed with business decisions you need to take to insure your business’ success; it can be tiring!
Therefore, there’s nothing like taking a break from the office or work to clear your head. And the great thing about attending social events is that it’s a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs and business people as well as improve your network while having a bit of fun.
While some events are specifically for networking, other events are just some fun parties that turn into networking opportunities. So, next time, don’t hesitate to attend private events like menu tastings, gallery openings, store launches, cocktail hours, etc. Go make some connections!
2. Start talking to everybody.
While this can be very difficult, especially if you’re a reserved person; however, your entrepreneurial network can only grow and improve when you talk. For example, that young junior exec could be very knowledgeable about branding than that consultant you chatted with five minutes. Who knows, the receptionist at the lobby could give you that perfect business name you’ve been looking for!
Although your objective when talking to people may be to build your network, don’t make conversations revolve about you or your business alone. Be sincere and start genuine conversations with people. Instead of focusing on selling you or your business, approach people solely to establish a relationship and let the networking happen from there.
3. Follow-up and engage with your connections.
Don’t let those business cards you gave out collect dust on the tables of your connections. Since the goal of networking is to connect and develop relationships, ensure you follow up on conversations or reach out to your connections just to check upon them. This can go a long way in cultivating relationships that would ultimately benefit you and your business in the long-term.
Farida Yahya is the Founder of Lumo Naturals, an Abuja-based natural haircare solutions brand. Farida is also the author of Redefining Beautiful, a book that discusses the realities of starting a natural hair business.
You can connect with Farida Yahya on Instagram via her personal page @thefaridayahya