It is a common saying that “business is all about who you know.” On the contrary I do not believe this statement to be completely accurate. I believe the proper saying should be along the lines of “business is all about the connections you make.” The right connections can lead you to obtain the opportunity to interview for your dream job or help get hold of the capital needed for your startup. Knowing people can lead to you gaining an extra Facebook friend or two. The best way to make proper connections is through networking. Connections through networking can be procured in many ways, whether it be conversing with the individual in front of you in the long checkout line at the supermarket to the opposite extreme of being the keynote speaker at the yearly business conference.
Ron Burt, one of the world’s top Network Scientist, emphasizes that an individual’s network is the number one predictor of career success. In this age of business, the internet can be used for many diverse purposes including broadening your network. With the internet now available virtually at the end of your fingertips, networking is faster and easier than ever before. There are communities online that are dedicated to helping people connect and network. There are also forums throughout the internet covering topics within your own specified niche. Christopher Kai, who has been featured in articles written by Forbes, ABC News, Buzzfeed, and Fast Company Inc. Magazine being described as the “billionaire networker,” stresses the importance of having an open network over a closed network. A person with a closed network only associates with those similar to him/her. This is no way to open your world view and acquire a greater potential for business and professional opportunities. To gain this potential you must alter your relationships and attain an open network. As an owner of a startup it never hurts to make connections with a lawyer or a contractor or even the local liquor store owner.
Though the internet is a valuable tool when it comes to networking, the networking tool that has and will stand the test of time is, simply, to talk to anyone and everyone. It may be uncomfortable for many introverts, but it is the most effective way to create personal connections. The man I mentioned earlier standing in front of you in the checkout line at the supermarket could be your next client or your next investor. The one mistake people make when connecting face to face is making the focus point of the conversation about themselves and their business. The best, lasting connections come out of sincere and genuine conversations. Make sure you always turn the conversation around to learn about them. If you aren’t listening to them talk about themselves and their business, you may miss advice from someone who has experienced an entrepreneurial roadblock first-hand that you may run into in the future. The goal is not to collect the most business cards, the goal is to connect and develop relationships. That being said, you must always be prepared to hand out a business card or two if the opportunity arises. That way the two of you can follow-up with each other which can go a long way towards cultivating a long lasting, beneficial relationship.
The more you get out of your comfort zone and successfully network, the more your business will change for the better. To gain a broad business network, at the next conference or seminar, ask to be a speaker. Instead of being another face in the crowd you will have a line of people who are anxiously waiting to meet you and your network will continue to grow. This will also help you gain high profile clientele and will, in turn, scale up your business. To gain a local business network, go out and get involved within your own community. This will not only place a positive connotation on you and your business, it can be a way of making connections with other local businesses and leaders in your community. For your business to be successful you must push yourself to your limits and study those you look up to as someone you want to emulate. Christopher Kai once said in an interview with medium.com, “If you want to become a millionaire in your profession. You have to find others that are doing what you want to do, but on a higher level… Study them, figure out what makes them tick.” Once you figure out what makes them tick you can do the same. Making connections and expanding your network isn’t just one tool to change your business, it is the tool.