If I could go back in time to when I first started my business I would tell myself that I was wasting time at all the networking events I kept adding to my carefully considered calendar. While each event was a lovely way to get to know others in my industry and community, merely attending wasn’t benefiting me the way it could have been.
Business owners are constantly fed the narrative that networking is one of our greatest resources. I’m not saying networking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but maybe we’re looking at it wrong. The formal conversation, the pressure to memorize your resume or elevator pitch, the awkward “What now?” after meeting someone you want to connect with…there’s a better way.
The truth is, it’s time to break up with “networking” and embrace creating connections and building real relationships to grow your business.
Release the pressure of outcome based connections.
Like who you like. You have to let go of the idea “How is this connection going to benefit my business or my bottom line?” and shift into finding your people. Maybe that new connection will lead to a new sales opportunity, maybe it won’t. Maybe that new connection ends up being the difference between feeling lonely in your business and finding a sounding board and confidant you’ve craved? A new friendship, cheerleader or lifelong colleague? It may sound cheesy, but when you release the need to know the outcome of new connections, and just focus on truly feeling people out and finding the ones you mesh with, that’s when a powerful connection happens.
Decide what you’re really looking for.
You never know who’s in the room. This isn’t just at a specific event either but all around you – the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office, your favorite local coffee shop, your friend’s birthday dinner. Understand that sometimes who or what you’re looking for in your business is just one person away from finding it. When you know exactly what you need most, you become more focused and able to spot it when it comes your way! Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want when the opportunity presents itself, whether that means requesting the favor of an introduction to someone, asking for a referral for service you’re needing or inviting someone for a coffee date simply because you’re craving a fellow business owner-mom in your corner.
Know what you bring to the table.
One of the biggest problems with the mindset around traditional networking is it tends to be a very “What’s in it for me?” point of view. We all know that’s not how real relationships – healthy ones – operate. Instead, the real power of networking is unlocked when you think about what you have to offer others to help move them forward or improve their situation, even when it’s something small you can offer. If you’re someone who struggles with asking for things, knowing what you can offer someone else may even give you more comfort around building new relationships. Think about your strengths, passions and connections! Maybe you invite them to a free yoga class at your studio, offer a park playdate with each other’s kids, or suggest sending over their resume so you can help give feedback?
Create your inner circle.
Regardless of whether you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert, we aren’t meant to do business by ourselves – or life for that matter. Building a successful business takes support and building relationships is the best way to grow an authentic community around you. Invest time in people who feel good to be around, allow yourself to show up for them and yourself, and be specific when strategizing ways to support one another. Trading networking for community building will always give you the biggest ROI in your business!
Hustle & Heart Challenge
This month, challenge yourself to think about the last time you attended a “networking” event or opportunity. What kind of pressure did you feel? How would you change that next time? Think about the last few connections you’ve made and allow yourself to reach out to the ones that felt most promising and invite them to connect, either over a virtual coffee date or in-person meeting. You never know where that relationship might lead!