Everyone needs a network of people they can count on, in both in their personal lives, and in business. For entrepreneurs especially, these support networks can make the difference between feeling like you’re out there on your own, to being deeply connected to other entrepreneurs and having a team of friends, advisers or partners to turn to when you’re not sure which direction to go.
Here are seven tips for building the ultimate network to support your entrepreneurial goals.—Tina Wells
JOIN SOCIAL CLUBS. It’s important to build your personal network, and joining social clubs is a great way. Not only will you be exposed to great events, you’ll also meet potential clients, employees, and friends. Check out clubs like the Union League for “Young Friends” memberships, as well as the Young Friends clubs at your local museums, orchestra, and ballet.
JOIN ASSOCIATIONS. If you’re a female entrepreneur, look into local chapters of the National Association of Women Business Owners. If you are starting a plumbing company, check out the local chapter of a national plumbers association. You’d be surprised how many fields have associations. You can receive great product discounts, invitations to great conferences, and a network of peers. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, so cultivating a group of peers is important. And of course, there is the newly formed Young Entrepreneur Council (I’m a board member!).
DON’T TRY TO MAKE WITHDRAWALS WHEN YOU HAVEN’T MADE DEPOSITS. It’s really unfair to email people asking them to mentor you when you have nothing to offer them. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true! I get hundreds of requests for mentoring each year, and the ones I normally respond to (outside of the tip sheet I give to everyone) are the people who say, “can I take you to coffee?” The reason is, that small gesture shows that the person believes in a mutually beneficial relationship. I have a good friend who built his entire business off of taking people for lunch — even when he barely had the money to do so. And he was able to convince some pretty important people to have lunch with him and eventually fund his business. If you ask him his secret to success, he’ll tell you it was simply asking people to lunch.
PARTICIPATE IN CONFERENCES AND PANELS. I really like to spend time working — whether it’s at home or in the office. And while I love to travel, I don’t like being away from the office during the week. But I will make the exception for the right speaking engagement. Panels have been a great way for me to make new friends and expand my professional network. I’ve met some of my best friends on panels, and it makes sense. The best organizers work to place people with synergies on panels together. If you can have an hour conversation together on a stage, you probably will want to spend more time getting to know those people.
Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, earned her B.A. in Communication Arts graduating with honors from Hood College in 2002. She is the author of the tween series Mackenzie Blue, published by HarperCollins Childrens Books.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.