When running a business, it can often feel like there are never enough hours in a day to get everything done. As a result, taking precious time out of your day to network is often placed on the back burner.
If you’ve been putting off making new connections to focus on your own company, you should reconsider and carve out time during your work week to make a conscientious effort to connect with new people. Networking is crucial to your success, so here are the best ways to make the most out of it.
- You’ll learn new things. We are not subject matter experts on everything. Even if you have worked in every role in your company, there are still people who know more than you, or who simply have a different perspective and ideas on how organizations can run more effectively. Exchanging ideas with others increases your knowledge and can provide you with new methods to improve areas within your company or yourself.
- You’ll develop new relationships. There is the potential to walk away from a networking encounter with a new friend. Granted, you are more likely to just have a nice chat, share ideas and go your separate ways — which is great and well worth the time. However, I’ve personally developed true friendships with people that I’ve taken the time to reach out to for help.
- You’ll open yourself up to new opportunities. Being genuinely interested in connecting with others can lead to new opportunities. You could even be offered a new job, podcast interview, or speaking engagement. We live in an age where idea sharing is global, at our fingertips, and there is seemingly content out there for everyone. All you have to do is participate.
- You’ll help others. Not only will you learn new things to advance your business, but by sharing your ideas, you will also lift others. The key to making networking truly work is for it to be mutually beneficial to both parties. Going into a new networking opportunity with a self-serving attitude will make the other person less willing to be open with you and likely make them think you are disingenuous. If I can save another person from dealing with a struggle simply by sharing with them, I feel good, even if I’ve not gained anything in return.
- You’ll boost your confidence. It can be hard to reach out to strangers, especially when in need of help. Asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” is a great way to get over that initial fear. Logically, the worst is the other person does not respond or declines to help. I’ve found the more I practice my networking skills, they become more refined, and I become more comfortable speaking about myself and my areas of expertise.
So how do you start? The best place to network easily and efficiently is through LinkedIn. Sending connection requests, following someone you admire and sending messages are quick and easy ways to take that first step at establishing a new contact. Another great avenue is industry events. Maximize your time there by meeting up with your new LinkedIn connections in person.
I’ve also found success in reaching out to competitors. This might seem awkward, but they have been receptive to conversations, especially if you are candid about why you are reaching out and are open to sharing your own ideas. Humans are social by nature, and networking and connecting has benefited us for a very long time. ●
Kristy Knichel is CEO of Knichel Logistics