As an aspiring or existing entrepreneur, seeking out networking opportunities to grow your business is key. One way to boost the characteristics of entrepreneurship that can ensure a successful business networking strategy is by participating in events such as those hosted as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), which takes place in late November.
An estimated 35,000 events will be held during GEW in over 170 countries to help business entrepreneurs connect with potential new partners, funders and members.
By removing barriers and connecting people of all ages and backgrounds, Global Entrepreneur Week highlights the importance of business networking in entrepreneurship and help illuminate on how networking can help your business.
Why do entrepreneurs need networking?
Networking in entrepreneurship is a must. Firstly, connecting with other business owners can help remove the isolation factor experienced by many entrepreneurs. The power that can be derived from talking to other professionals who have been in similar situations and can offer helpful advice is immense.
A successful business networking strategy includes not only reaching out to others within your sphere of industry, but beyond. By building a professional network with business entrepreneurs from various sectors and geographies, you'll gain access to insight and resources for situations you may face as an entrepreneur such as managing work-life balance, tackling hiring challenges, managing cash flow and finding the right tools to finance your business.
Better yet, tapping into a vast professional network can open you up to greater opportunities, as well as partnerships and collaborations you may have never thought possible.
How an entrepreneur can establish an effective business network
Establishing a successful business networking strategy requires work and perseverance, but the effort will be worth it. Here is a list of ways you can build a strong professional network:
- Be "social." Thanks to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram, social media is one of the fastest, easiest ways to grow your contacts. Find and join social media-powered groups and conversations within and about your industry by exploring hashtags related to your business entrepreneurship initiatives.
- Take an active role in business events. The days of just attending entrepreneurship events, seminars and local business networking meetings are over. Now, it's all about directly interacting with people in your field, asking relevant questions to understand pain points within the industry and determining ways to enhance not only your own endeavors but those of others.
- Meet new people whenever you can—and make it about them. This one may seem obvious, but the more you genuinely interact with others, the better your chances of making valuable, new connections. Be open to possibility around every corner; you could meet someone who can help you with your business—and you with theirs—in the supermarket, at a personal appointment, in the gym, etc.
- Interact with your customers. Take every opportunity to connect with your customers, whether in person, at trade shows or virtually through social media, email or chat. Take note of what they say about your brand, products and services, so you can solve their problems, tailor correspondence and promotions to their specific needs and ultimately, improve your business.
- Share your expertise. Regularly update your website and social media with blog posts, a podcast and/or videos related to your services and products. Sharing your expertise—and then asking for feedback and suggestions—is the name of the game in today's networking landscape. You'll build new relationships with your customers, enhance your brand positioning and grow your business network.
Characteristics of business entrepreneurs to enhance networking
Some characteristics of entrepreneurship are essential to ensure success in business networking, and yes—you can develop them along the way. Here are four key characteristics of successful entrepreneurs:
- They are risk-takers. An entrepreneur must often take calculated risks to succeed. When you start a business, you don't know in advance if things are going to work out. As they say, "no risk, no reward." If you're risk-averse, that's OK—start out small and increase your risk tolerance as you go. With each chance you take, your confidence will grow.
- They are communicative and authentic. Communication skills and style can have a strong impact on how others perceive you and their willingness to engage further with you. Authenticity and interpersonal strengths like ease of conversation, humour and relatability will help you to network effectively.
- They are creative. Innovation requires creativity. Thinking out of the box to develop new ideas and even crowdsourcing ideas helps business entrepreneurs solve problems and define solutions more effectively. Harnessing your creative side can lead to new ways to tackle challenges, resolve issues and grow your business.
- They are resilient. Building a successful business requires a lot of hard work, energy and confidence. When faced with challenges, it's important to persevere, especially through that first failure. Having the drive to push forward and the confidence to call upon others to help in moments of business difficulty can make all the difference.
Explore entrepreneurial opportunities beyond Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is a very popular business entrepreneurial location, especially for companies within the technology sector. Innovation, collaboration and risk-taking characterize this area, which currently boasts thousands of startup companies and is home to the headquarters of 39 businesses in the Fortune 1000.
While finding yourself among the most talented and successful has advantages, there are some drawbacks. Hiring talent can be expensive and complex, resources and facilities come at a higher cost and the competition is immense.
The good news, however, is that entrepreneurs have viable options to grow their business beyond Silicon Valley, which an event like Global Entrepreneurship Week and independent networking can help you determine.
You might initially think Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are the Canadian cities most conducive to starting a business when, in fact, Whitehorse, Winkler and Victoriaville were recently cited by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business1 as the three most thriving Canadian cities for small businesses. Emerging markets like these offer a host of entrepreneurial advantages, including lower costs of living and decreased competition in comparison to larger markets.
By expanding your horizons and breaking beyond your solo endeavor, you'll see there are great opportunities to grow your business. Focusing on and executing a successful business networking strategy will help you discover new ways to sustain and strengthen your business initiatives. You'll learn by doing—and alongside experienced business entrepreneurs—you can all flourish.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.