While networking seems like an obvious advantage, many people seem to underestimate it’s value. Throughout the development of our business, networking has always been an idea in the back of our minds. We’re always open to meeting new people, but didn’t realize until looking back on the pattern of events how much networking had really helped us.
When I refer to networking here, I don’t mean attending specific networking events or business gatherings (although those are equally beneficial). What I mean by networking is talking to anyone and everyone you know, starting with the people that are most likely to lead you in the right direction.
Whenever we meet with a friend or business associate, we discuss the company status and what we need to continue moving forward. At the end of a meeting we always ask the same question: “Do you know anyone that could help us or anyone that we should be talking to?” In general, we usually leave a meeting with two or three new names to contact. While some of the contacts end up leading us in the wrong direction or to a dead end, every once in a while we strike gold. And finding one of those people is worth the time spent with less helpful people that lead you there.
In the last year, we have met with more than 50 people to discuss funding opportunities with our new company. The majority of the people we met once and haven’t spoke to since. However, if we hadn’t met with all of those people we probably wouldn’t have been introduced to the handful of people that have been instrumental in keeping us moving forward. I can’t even begin to express how much appreciation we have for these individuals.
Lastly, be aware that everyone you meet will have an opinion about what you say and how you should say it. If you talk to five investors, they will probably have five different opinions. They key is to go with your first instinct and listen to the opinion that makes the most sense for you and your business. However, if all five people are saying the same thing, chances are you’re doing something wrong and they are right.