Lessons on networking from my business journey so far

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networking journey for startups

A few months ago I got the chance to speak to a group of business professionals about networking and my preparations for the presentation got me thinking about a networking event I attended at Hard Rock Cafe in Lagos. Cards were exchanging hands at the speed of light, people bumping into each other for quick introductions, some talking to folks who were already on another plane with long island and mock-tails in constant supply, and of

Cards were exchanging hands at the speed of light, people bumping into each other for quick introductions, some talking to folks who were already on another plane with long island and mock-tails in constant supply, and of course, I presume that few actually had very meaningful conversations. Within a week after the event, I contacted those I chatted with and majority of them couldn’t even remember my name. It got me thinking deeply about networking and what I realised is what this article is about.

One very vital business lesson I have learnt since I chose to become an entrepreneur is that business is a journey and you need co-travellers. I realised that your network isn’t the number of persons you have met, but how many you have access to because they either regard you or the person linking you to them.

I discovered that the best networking happens when you are not networking. This has been my own experience, perhaps it’s a case of different strokes for different folks. Below are five set of lessons I shared with the business professionals, I hope you find some of them insightful for your own journey.

1. Invest in Yourself!

An over flogged point, yes, but never goes out of fashion. Take it seriously with the following tips:

  • be trustworthy
  • be resourceful (can people find solutions from you? even that big man or woman needs help, you could recommend a painter or driver or something they really need)
  • be dependable and reliable
  • kill ulterior motives (nobody enjoys being used and smart people smell an opportunist even from afar).
  • Improve your conversational skills. You must learn to engage people in intelligent and meaningful conversations, and leave it at just enjoying the conversation. It is easier for a repeat meeting to happen.

2. Sow and Nurture

Networking takes time, resources and energy. See tips to guide you on this;

  • Personal gain is secondary, relationship is primary. Invest in building relationships.
  • Be sincere and real, it is fraudulent to present people with a fake personality.
  • Don’t shut doors you might have to get through again
  • Don’t burn bridges you might have to cross again

3. Cultivate Your Own Luck!

Well, don’t bother analysing that caption, just go to the tips;

  • Seek the good of others and be genuinely interested in their success
  • People are watching your other activities and engagements. Quit every form of pretence!
  • Again, don’t be an opportunist. It is repulsive!
  • Get involved in meet-ups, hang-outs, events, lunch and dinner. Conversations stir bonding.
  • Let it cost you money. Don’t always wait for people to pick up the bills, contribute your quota.
  • Keep the lines warm, it makes follow-up easy.

4. Work on any turn-offs

This is the part we usually don’t feel too comfortable with, but it’s in the mix. So quick tips;

  • Keep improving your command of the English language and your speech
  • Improve your fashion sense and style
  • Work on mannerisms that could be irritating to others
  • Stay clean and crisp
  • Be open to feedback and work on your blind spots and weak areas.

5. The last and most important!

Well, not the most important, but for emphasis, note the following;

  • Don’t just push your cards into people’s hands, and don’t just scramble to get people’s cards, there should be a request preferably after some form of conversation no matter how brief.
  • Ask yourself, what do you have to offer to your network?
  • Learn to ask people, what can I do to help you/your project/etc? Remember help is beyond finance.
  • You could help with referrals, introductions, recommendations, etc
  • Listen to their complaints and concerns
  • Listen to the things they are not saying.

Already knew all these? Then share with someone it might be useful to.