Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360™ Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »
Every successful entrepreneur knows that relationships are key. No business is made in a vacuum, and the way you interact with clients, employees, coworkers and other entrepreneurs can give your business life or bring it to its death.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect how-to on building the right kind of relationships. For example, you could meet someone who could potentially become a huge client for your startup. However, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or possibly even having poor body language, can end the relationship before even starts.
Entrepreneurs also have to be concerned about who they’re building relationships with. If your largest client is somebody that you can’t trust, then you need to ask yourself: is our business safe with this person? Putting your faith in the wrong people can put your business in a pretty tough spot.
Related: Networking Is a Contact Sport
With all this in mind, there’s little that you’ll get very far without some good connections. You never know what a connection can offer and the bigger your network, the better.
Engaging with others.
One of the first things you’ll need to do after you start a business — and likely even before you start a business — is connection building. Finding the right connections can help you and your business succeed. But where do you find these connections, and once you find them, how do you form the relationship?
The best way to find good connections is through networking. There are plenty of ways to approach this — you could ask your friends and family if they have anyone who could help you, you could research possible connections on your own or you could go to networking events.
If you aren’t good at networking, then don’t let this step deter you. Not many people are born ready to network and building a real business connection with a complete stranger can be a difficult process. But practice makes perfect — besides, these are connections you’ll need to succeed. You can’t afford to let these people slip away. If you’re quick to adapt, then you’ll quickly learn the ins and outs of networking. If not, there are plenty of helpful guides around the internet that can give you tips.
Sometimes, the networking is the easy part — but finding the people to network with is difficult. If this is your issue, consider checking out this list of helpful organizations. Not only are they great for networking, but you could also end up learning some other useful skills along the way. Also be sure to check out any local entrepreneurial networking events. They happen all the time, and a quick search online can help you find anything nearby that could help.
One tip I can give to those who aren’t the best at networking: Be valuable.
Just take a moment to understand how the entire process of networking works. Normally, it will be you and a complete stranger. There’s a good chance that you want or need something from them or someone they know, which means that they’re valuable to you.
If you walk up to this person and immediately ask them to give something to you, what do you think they’ll say? If they yes, then you’ve found one of the most generous people in the world. If they say no, then you’ve met a rational human being.
When a stranger walks up to you and asks you to listen to their business pitch, asks for the contact of someone you know or asks for funding, your normal response would be “no.” In all honesty, this should be your reaction. After all, you’re not going to give up something important to a stranger just because they asked.
The same works for when you’re networking. Recognize that whoever you want to approach is a person, and you’re a stranger to them. Make yourself valuable. When you approach them, try to build a genuine connection. Ask them about their business and their goals, and if you’re at a networking event, ask them why they came. Everyone who goes to a networking event is looking for something — if you can help them out, then they’ll be much more likely to help you out.
If they aren’t looking for anything, perhaps they’ll learn something about you during a normal conversation. If you build a connection with them, they’ll be more likely to help you with what you need.
Working with other entrepreneurs.
One of the greatest parts about entrepreneurship is that it’s always changing. This keeps things dynamic, sure, but it also means that the field is constantly innovating — and innovation is good.
An innovation that I’ve noticed going on in the interconnectivity of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are becoming more likely to work with each other instead of against each other.
This is happening because entrepreneurs understand the importance of relationships. Every relationship you build is a connection that could help you down the road. If I were to connect with an entrepreneur who wanted me to help get them exposure, then I’m immediately proving myself valuable to them. This increases the chances of them helping me if I need to tap into their network.
Just remember that you can be valuable to anyone — you just need to prove it to them. If you want to have someone help you, help them first. The more you do for others, the more they’ll do for you. People are built to work together in a community and a network is no different.