Is it possible to feel lonely in a city of eight million people? Yes, especially you’re an entrepreneur building a startup. Overcoming that loneliness is one, obvious reason for networking, but there are others that can have more than just a personal benefit—they may just save your startup.
I’ve spent the better part of my life starting companies. Some successful, some not. The first few years of a startup require constant attention, nurturing and every last ounce of enthusiasm and energy you have. The last thing you probably think about is getting out and networking. But here’s why you should.
1. Network to maintain your passion. Let’s face it, long days and nights working on your business can lead to social isolation, strained relationships and possibly even depression. And the more worn-down you become, the more unlikely you are to be able to get others passionate about your startup, including employees and potential customers. You need to reinvigorate. Networking can help take you out of the day-to-day details and remind you of why you’re building a business.
2. Attract and recruit key employees. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a list of qualified candidates when you are ready to hire key personnel for your startup? My best hires have resulted from relationships that developed from networking. Networking is an informal way to get to know people in your industry, even if they’re a competitor. When it comes time to hire a director of business development you’ll already know who the superstars are…and the duds to stay away from.
3. Keep your enemies close. Your competitors are likely as proud of their achievements as you are yours. They’ll spill the beans about their latest product, pricing strategies and even their challenges. Grab a business card at a networking event and create relationships with your competitors. Offer to help them with their issues and refer business to them that you cannot handle. They might do the same. Also, your competitors will likely be the best recruiting ground for key management positions.
Now that you know why you should meet up, here's how.
Industry associations and conferences are great options, but you can also find some instant and often local gratification in "Meetups,” which are typically free or low-cost meetings of entrepreneurs or other like-minded individuals in specific industries or categories.
And if you can’t find one that fits your niche, create one. For example, New York City's Douglas Crets created an Ed Tech Meetup for sharing education needs and desires with entrepreneurs, and over 200 people attended the first networking event.
Ryan Duques, author of 37 Days to Launch is the co-founder and managing partner at TutaPoint.com, an online education company that focuses on providing enhanced online tutoring programs to niche markets. Duques also volunteers his time with the Startup America Partnership and Startup Weekend.
Photo credit: Joshua Kehn