A lot of us think about the importance of networking for the growth of our businesses. Having a large network of people you can call on when you need something and be there for them when they need something, is necessary. Regardless of what some of think, we can’t do this whole business thing alone.
But I challenge you to take a step beyond creating a network and think about how to make new friends in business.
Have you thought about having a core group of friends who are either currently or once were going through the same thing that you are as you grow your business?
A network implies a lack of a deeper connection. It’s a group of people who help out when they can, who sometimes need an incentive of some sort, and have an agenda of their own. I don’t mean this in a cold-hearted way, i just mean that they’re not really your friends.
Actively building friendships of other entrepreneurs and experienced people however, is a different story. These are a people you get to know on a deeper level, who you are happy to help and with no incentive needed, and they are too. These are people you can call just to talk to about the craziness of business, and personal things too.
First, start by joining the networking groups with a goal of meeting one person who could become more than just part of your network. There are all kinds of events from after work cocktails to Sunday brunches. Then, once you’re there, keep a few things in mind:
- Ask questions where the answer is not meant to benefit you. Too often when we meet people we are focused on asking “what do you do?” and then listening to the answer while thinking about what that has to do with you. … You’re shaking your head right now, but it’s true!
- Be interested in what others have to say. No, I mean it. Be truly interested. Keep the damn phone in your pocket. When someone is speaking to you, listen. The only way to make more meaningful connections with someone is to connect on things beyond what you each do and what bought you to the event. Do they mention their sister and you have a sister too? Do they drop that they are from Colorado? That they collect vintage broaches? Pay attention and demonstrate your interest.
- Take a positive approach but don’t go overboard. Don’t repeatedly tell someone how fabulous they are or how amazing their business model is. I know this comes from a desire to show your interest in them and their work but it makes most people uncomfortable and seems inauthentic.
- Help out whenever you can. As long as you’re not being taken advantage of, help out whenever you can and don’t expect anything in return.
- Make time just to catch up. Do this when you don’t need anything but instead just want to grab a coffee to see how the other person is doing.
- Play the matchmaker. Don’t be stingy with your friends and network. Offer to make introductions that you think would be beneficial to others or just take the initiative to send an email intro, just because you thought they should know each other.
I know that some of the above seems obvious. But amazingly, a lot of people don’t actually practice any of it. I made this list based on the work I’ve been doing myself to make new friends to include more people who are on a similar path as I am and are always happy to help out in business whenever possible; just like I am for them.