Networking is a crucial skill for any entrepreneur- and sometimes I can confuse this with accumulating busienss cards that eventually fall under my desk. The key is to make real interactions, meeting people for specific reasons and finding people that will help you and you can help in return, instead of just going to career fairs and shaking hand after hand after meaningless hand. Note: it’s not just a matter of seeking out people who you think can be useful to you, it is also about finding solutions for your own projects and problems. If you have a good idea of who you want to meet — and why — you’ll have a better ROI on every networking event you go to. You can get the introductions out of the way quickly and get down to building a relationshipwith your new contacts. You may even find yourself on the must-meet list of other entrepreneurs when you attend networking opportunities. I wholeheartedly recommend lifehack.org’s suggestions, and here are my elaborations on the list!
- Keep Your Enemies Closer: Not so much enemies, keep it friendly folks. If you’ve already started in your business, seek out those who have similar ideas and get their newsletters, pay attention to their advertising and go one step further — introduce yourself. Bring in their expertise.
- MediaKinex: If its newspapers, television, radio, blogs and more, friends that are members of the media that cover your niche will be make getting the story easier, accumulating your own intelligence as well as guaranteeing future promotion. Wouldn’t you want to be the “resident expert” for someone’s publication?
- Philanthropy is sexy AND useful: As an entrepreneur, it’s useful to have connections to local non-profits far beyond the tax break you’ll get for any donations you make. You’ll get word of sponsorship and PR opportunities far faster, learn about projects that might help your business along — and you may even have the chance to do something good for your community. A non-profit doesn’t have to be related to your industry, either: if you’re ready to do some good in your community, why not work on an issue you’re passionate about?
- Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe: It’s often better to work with a lawyer who isn’t your best friend — but you can know quite a few, and you can keep close tabs on situations that may affect your business.
- Local politicians: There isn’t a business in existence that is entirely exempt from local politics. From zoning to licensing, there’s sure to be an area or two in which local politics affects your business. It makes sense to meet the men and women making those decisions: if you do find yourself involved in a political issue, knowing the politicians mixed up in the same issue will at least ensure that your side is heard. Politicians’ influence isn’t the only reason to get involved in local politics, either. Your business is part of the community and that means you probably have some ideas on how your community should operate. Supporting like-minded politicians is a personal decision, but it can have some major ripple effects.