Networking is essential when you have started up your own startup company or small business, and while networking can be a fun it can be equally terrifying. You’ll be meeting people that began their startups years ago, and are now ridiculously successful – how on earth can you hope to interact with these people? Surely they will just ignore you? If you know what you are doing, networking for startup founders is not actually that frightening, you just need to know what you are doing. Here are my seven most important networking tips for startup founders:
- Remember it’s all about give and take
Networking is not a process by which you try to get as much as you can from the other party – instead, it is more about what two people and companies can offer each other. Make sure that you are not demanding too much from the people that you interact with. Even though you are a startup, there is automatically something of value that you can offer people. Once you have identified that, make sure that you lead with that, instead of appearing like someone incredibly needy.
- Don’t try and meet everyone
Yes, there are thousands of businesses and companies out there that could help you – but sorry, there is just no way that you can be friends with everyone. You will eventually drive yourself mad trying to remember all the names and faces, where you met them, and what you agreed to do for them or with them. This inevitably ends up with you spreading yourself too thin and sitting in pointless and unproductive meetings all day. You need to whittle them down to something that is more reasonable and manageable for you. After all, you do have a startup to be running! In order to execute this important networking tip properly, I suggest that you invest time in doing your homework, have a game plan ready and only then start the actual process of getting meetings.
- Everyone is valuable
It is all too to dismiss someone that you meet through a networking event if they do not seem to be particularly important or useful. But you never know when knowing that person or having a link into their startup could be incredibly valuable to you, and actually make or break your own startup. Try not to judge people too harshly on the number of employees they have, or whether you’ve heard of them or not. It is often the companies that are running things behind the scene that have the most power.
- Keep emails short and to the point
You know how many emails run through your inbox every day? Triple that, or even more, and you are getting slightly close to the number that large companies receive from people that they don’t even know. People don’t have time to read through five pages of why it would be brilliant if you could work together. Instead, send a short email that says you enjoyed meeting them – say where and when to remind them – and mention something that you discussed at the time that requires a follow-up. If you don’t hear from them within three working days, send another email. If you don’t hear in a week, ring them. Be persistent.
- Always carry business cards
This is one of the most important networking tips on earth, like it or not business cards are still relevant for networking worldwide. One of the most embarrassing and irritating things that many new startup founders do at networking events is have a wonderful conversation with someone, and then just walk away. How on earth is that person meant to remember you, or contact you! By carrying business cards at all time, with your name, the name of your startup, and a contact number or email that you use regularly, you will be able to keep in contact with those that are interested in potentially working with you in the future. If you want to, whenever you give one out ask for one in return. That way, you can keep track yourself who you have spoken to.
- Don’t take a rejection personally
No one has unlimited time, and that means that sometimes, someone has to give. This may mean that at some networking meetings, there are people that don’t have the time to talk to you, or when you strike up a conversation, say “No” pretty early on. This is not a slight on your company, your startup, or yourself. It is simply an honest reflection of their time restraints, and you should never take it personally. After all, before too long you’ll be saying the same thing to a new startup founder that starts talking to you.
- Don’t force a relationship
One of the worst things you can do during a networking meeting as a startup founder is be too eager, and refuse to let someone get away from you. If they don’t return your calls, stop leaving them voicemails. If they block your email, don’t use another one! It is unprofessional, irritating, and a complete rookie error. You don’t want to mark yourself out as someone new and stupid, so learn when to let a working relationship go.