"Do I really need to network?"
Some people are afraid of networking and others love it! It is true. We have all come across people that love nothing more than going to networking events and chatting to as many people as possible – some of these really get the benefits that good networking can bring to them and their business, and others simply love networking because it fits their outgoing personality.
But I also come across many people that simply hate networking. Often it is these people that can be overheard in a startup saying ‘do I really need to network?’ In my experience this can often actually be translated into ‘do I really HAVE to network?’ as they are looking for reasons or justifications not to do so.
I personally am very firmly in the former category of being a very strong believer in networking, and I would go so far to say that it can be some of the most important hours in a working week that any of us can spend. It is of course important to ensure that the right events are attended as it is all too easy to go to a different event every day and the benefits and your enthusiasm will start to diminish quite quickly. But chose the right events and you will probably be surprised by who you will meet, how useful it will be, and indeed how much fun it can be. Of course, some events will be more useful than others but, just like marketing, some works better than others and there is not always an obvious reason for the difference.
For those of you that read my article published in September that was entitled ‘The Power of Networking’ – see my page on Startups Magazine and the News tab on www.boomandpartners.co.uk – you will know that in my experience the best network should be a group of friends that want to help each other and add value in some way for each other, rather than simply building a database with as many names on it as possible. And always go with a view to what you can give rather than just looking at taking.
So far I have focused on those that enjoy networking and some of the benefits that it can bring, but what about those people where networking does not come naturally and it is outside of their comfort zone? This may be because they consider networking to be making small talk with a bunch of strangers or that they do not like mixing with lots of people, or that they are not very confident or indeed for many other reasons. All of us are very different, and the good news is so are networking events. I have been to events with many hundreds of people and to others with literally 10 or 20 people. So again, chose what size and type of event that works best for you as an individual.
At any event there will of course be many people that love networking, but I am sure that when you go and get speaking with others you will be surprised at just how many people are there that actually hate networking. And you might also be surprised that once you get over your initial reticence how much you enjoy it. Many of the most interesting people I have ever met I have first met at networking events.
So, unusually for questions overheard in a startup, the answer to the question ‘do I really need to network?’ is a very clear and simple answer, and that answer is yes! It can be extremely good for you as an individual and for your early stage business, but it can also be a lot of fun and you will meet many interesting people.