How young entrepreneurs can build a thriving business network
- Oct 11, 2010
Tips on how to build business networks from young entrepreneur Josh Chandler in the latest Virgin.com entrepreneur guest blog...
As a young entrepreneur I know there are two factors which have made a huge difference to my success. They are determination and a great business network.
You may only just be starting out as a young entrepreneur, but networking is vital for your success.
I am not talking about those ‘connections’ you make on Facebook’s network with friends you barely know.
I am talking about connections that make a real impact to help you achieve your goals and provide tangible results to your business.
A word of warning: Do not expect miracles to happen overnight. It took me over two years of solid work and networking to be offered my first real business opportunity. Even if you do get a business offer early on, don’t stop networking. The moment you stop networking is the moment you become irrelevant to anyone.
Build Your Credibility
When I started out operating my business on the web back in 2007, I had zero credibility.
Operating on the internet with zero credibility is a tough thing to handle. You are viewed at the same level as lousy business owners or “fly by night” businesses. By default because people have no idea who you are.
A basic way you can start building credibility right now is by being active on online social networks you may already know and love such as Facebook and Twitter.
Outside of online social networks, you should aim to be active in a few local meetup groups.
I know from personal experience that being someone who is seen at many meetups can work wonders for being validated as a credible individual who is genuinely interested in the topic and who enjoys meeting other like minded individuals.
Be sure to be an active, friendly and helpful face and gradually people will start to follow everything you do, talk to you about industry developments and begin offering you opportunities.
Build Your Confidence
Offline meetups are the place for young entrepreneurs to build confidence.
The social setting forces you to interact with others, there is no hiding behind a user profile on the web. This has truly empowered me to develop my confidence during the years. I started going to conferences in 2007. It was scary, but as we all know, you only learn by doing.
So start talking to people. Approach everyone with a friendly smile and the statement “Hi, I’m (insert your name) What do you do?” A perfect opener to any networking conversation.
The rule of thumb at offline events and meetups is that you should never stand talking to the same person for too long. Meet as many people as you can, this is the only way to get used to social interactions in this environment. Plus, you don’t want to come across as being elitist or uninterested in the other attendees.
Build Your Knowledge
On the web and offline, you can meet some amazing people. As a young entrepreneur, you will find these people can help to improve your knowledge and understanding of a topic.
However, when you are interacting online or offline, always think “What is the other person gaining from this discussion?” It’s not all about you.
Don’t start building one-way relationships where you always ask questions, allow a two-way dialogue.
If they ask you a question, don’t be afraid to provide an answer or thought. There is no such thing as a wrong answer in business.
I have learnt that it is so important to be able to share your experiences with others, we all attend events and converse on the web because we want to learn.
No one person knows it all. If they do, they wouldn’t be attending events or interacting via social networks in the first place.
Ultimately, Build a Thriving, Long Term Network
With all the factors above in place, you will actually build a network which will provide long term relationships and potential business opportunities.
Just remember the following:
For offline interactions:
- Always ask plenty of questions but be ready to provide your own, original thoughts
- Give your undivided attention to the person you are talking to. Never use a smartphone or mobile phone to tweet, text or call someone else when you are in the middle of a conversation with somebody else.
- Always be approachable (friendly smile and confident stance really helps)
- If someone offers you their business card, always follow up and get in contact with them.
- If you give someone your contact details, always make sure to get theirs.
For online interactions:
- Promote other relevant and original content 10 times more than your own content (blogs, podcasts, affiliate links)
- Never spam people with automated updates (especially on Twitter!)
- Talk often with people you follow to let them know you value the connection you have made
- Provide original thought and opinion. You then have a higher chance of getting reposted by others to their networks on Twitter, Facebook and beyond.
- Never dominate the conversation. If you think you have said too much, you probably have.
Josh Chandler is a 19-year-old UK-based entrepreneur. Check out his website at http://www.joshchandlerva.com.
Picture source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/activeside/2367540964/
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