Beyond Business Basics
Successful business people have a wealth of insider tips and insights that Hillsborough County can help you tap. Each month we ask local business experts to share their experiences and expertise on the entrepreneurship journey. This month we discuss networking to start or grow business.
Founder of WeConGO
Why is networking important to starting or growing a business?
People buy from people they like. The only way to really get people to like you is to get out there and meet them. In the case of starting a business, you need as much advice as you can get, and you need to spend all your time in value-adding activities for your business. Of course, not all advice is weighted equally. However, if someone is willing to spend time contemplating your business, both positively and negatively, they are giving you value in terms of their time, which is still valuable. In the case of growing your business, there is a lot of noise, intrusions and distractions, out there today. The best way to cut through this noise is to find a way to have direct communication with people that could leverage your product or service.
What are the essential principles of successful networking?
The best principle I can think of is to realize networking is a process, not a stand-alone activity. When you're networking, you're collecting data elements. Unless you spend time analyzing where these data elements fit into your bigger picture, and where you can go from there, you're wasting your time and will probably become frustrated like a lot of people that "hate networking."
Secondly, be a good person and be likeable. Of course, you want to look the part, communicate well, etc., but being a good person goes a long way. I look at this as being willing to approach everything with a give first mentality. People will help you out once you've helped them. And if they don't, maybe they're not a good person, but you won't know until you try.
Also, know that there is no universal solution to networking. It's unique to each person or business. What works for me will not necessarily work for you.
Where are some underutilized places to find meaningful networking opportunities?
I started my learning process at the 1 Million Cups held at the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center in Ybor City. It's a great place where people come to talk about business development in the area, and most importantly, people generally approach it with no baked-in objective.
As far as underutilized spots, I would say universities, economic development-sponsored activities, and local libraries. These are all institutions that are here to make their communities better and have people paid to be "in the know."
How can someone improve their networking skills?
Practice makes perfect, and start helping people. Go into a networking event with the mentality of, "how can I help as many people as possible", versus, "how can I find what I need." Not only will your time be more enjoyable because no matter what, you'll be successful, you'll be amazed at your results when people start reciprocating.
Continue Your Journey with these No-cost Resources:
- Entrepreneur Collaborative Center
- 1 Million Cups Tampa
- Operation Startup
- Homebrew Hillsborough
- Florida SBDC at Hillsborough County
- Tampa Bay Wave
- Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative
Our Expert Contributor
Samuel W. Altman is an Army combat veteran that has studied military intelligence operations for more than 10 years, with emphasis on understanding people and social networks. He leverages his expertise to not only teach skills on better networking, but in building his current startup WeConGO, which will help to simplify the world of conventions, connection management, and networking by enabling users to make purpose driven connections and better recall how each party knows each other.