Business Advice

How to fall in love with networking: 5 entrepreneurs share their tips for growth

- May 3, 2024 6 MIN READ

 

Success isn’t just what you know, but often who you know. In business, a single great connection could change the entire trajectory of your growth, writes Anthony Lam Entrepreneurs’ Organization Melbourne Board Member

Networking is a cornerstone of building and growing a thriving businesses, yet for many entrepreneurs, the mere thought of networking can evoke feelings of dread. However, what if we reframed networking as not just a necessary task, but as a powerful tool for personal and professional growth? What if we could learn to embrace it, even fall in love with it?

We spoke with four founders and members of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) on their relationship with networking, uncovering their successful outreach methods, learning how to move beyond surface level interactions and understanding why authenticity is crucial to connection.

As members of EO, they’re connected with 18,000+ fellow successful entrepreneurs globally, making effective networking skills an even greater necessity.


Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur seeking to expand your community or just taking your first steps into the world of business, mastering the art of networking can open doors you din’t know existed.

Christina Gerakiteys, Founder and CEO of UtopiaX and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Sydney member

Networking can be a magical experience or a frustrating waste of time. My top tips to ensure you enjoy the magic are:

1. Select the event you want to go to carefully. Research. Find out who will be there. And consider events outside of your field. Invest in yourself to go there. Don’t just stay local.
2. Put yourself in the way of the people you want to meet. I have had conversations with Clayton Christiansen (known as the godfather of disruptive innovation – who was the most gentle and softly spoken man), Seth Godin (who is quiet unless he is talking on topic) and many others I consider leaders in their domain using this strategy.
3. Create your own mantra or use mine – Don’t Ask, Don’t Get. Most people want to help you, talk to you and encourage you.
4. If you are going to invest in yourself, be clear on how you want to present yourself, what your message is, and what your ask will be – what is it that you want to achieve?


When reaching out to people, I have a 3 email rule:

First email – politely make your ask. Consider your words carefully. Write in the style the recipient can relate to. This email usually goes unanswered.
Second email – politely explain that you are lifting your email to the top of their list – that you appreciate how busy they are.
Third email – starts with “This is the last time I will bother you – I don’t want to be a pest”.

Connection is about perseverance. Multiple times this last email has brought results. My winning strategy for connection has even resulted in a face-to-face meeting with Simon Sinek’s right-hand man in Europe and co-author of Find Your Why, Peter Docker.

Costa Vasili, Founder and CEO of Ethnolink and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Melbourne member

Networking can be daunting, especially when it involves navigating small talk and establishing genuine connections. My approach is grounded in curiosity and active engagement. I seek out shared interests or experiences to find common ground with others. For example, during a recent networking event, I casually mentioned my close proximity to the venue. This sparked a conversation with the person I was speaking with who lived just a few streets away from me. Discovering we both went to the same park to walk our dogs instantly created a genuine connection. Such details from our daily lives can turn networking into a chance for meaningful engagement.

A second crucial tip is embracing authenticity. Being genuine means connections formed are either deep and meaningful or they naturally dissipate; both outcomes are beneficial. Pretending to be someone you’re not is not only exhausting but rarely effective in the long run. Authenticity ensures that connections made are based on true compatibility and shared values.

My third tip is about the importance of bringing positive energy to interactions. People are naturally drawn to people who are enthusiastic and positive, rather than those who take away the energy in a room. If you find yourself in a poor mood, it’s crucial to take a moment for self-reflection and positive self-talk before engaging with others. Strive to present the best version of yourself. I recall once leaving a meeting feeling frustrated and carrying that mood into a networking event. The negative vibe was obvious to those I interacted with initially. Recognising this, I took a moment to adjust my attitude, which dramatically changed the dynamic of my interactions. Shortly after, I connected with someone on a meaningful level, and we exchanged details.

shivani gupta headshot

Shivani Gupta, CEO and Founder of Leadership Engineers and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Queensland member

The meaning of networking has changed in the 20 years I’ve been running my own vistas and shifted into being an entrepreneur.

In the early 2000’s it was business cards and working the room. We were taught to speed date and meet as many people as quickly as possible at networking events.

In 2024, these are my tips:

1. Be genuine and present. No one wants to speak to someone who is not present and looking at who they can meet next. Make eye contact and be there. They should be left feeling as though just talking to them would be enough.

2. Add value. Don’t think about what you can do to try and ‘hook’ them into buying from you. Give your best ideas and experience shares away. When you are giving, it will come back to you even if it’s not from the person that you are giving to.

3. Go deep fast. Don’t try and talk about the weather. Value their time and ask deeper questions. I usually ask: What are your passions that get you out of bed?  or What’s a problem you’re trying to solve right now? 

Annika launay

Annika Launay, Author, Marketing Expert and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Queensland member

After many years working in my field, I can attest to the fact that networking is not just a crucial aspect of building professional relationships, but it is also an integral component of successful marketing strategies. It is through networking that we can forge connections, build brand trust, and ultimately drive business growth.

Networking is not about the (often exhausting!) process of exchanging business cards or making small talk at industry events – the true value of networking goes beyond surface-level interactions. It involves actively engaging with others, building meaningful relationships and fostering a sense of trust and collaboration.

In the world of marketing, in-person networking holds immense value. While digital marketing has become increasingly important, face-to-face interactions still play a vital role in establishing credibility, building connections and driving business growth. These personal interactions allow you to convey your brand’s message effectively, showcase your expertise and establish a genuine connection with others.

 

sam bass headshotSam Bass, owner of Business For Sale and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Queensland Member

As an introvert I hated having to network but falling in love with networking as an entrepreneur is about reframing your perspective.

Networking isn’t just a means to an end; it’s an opportunity to learn, share, and connect with like-minded individuals who can inspire and challenge you. Here are the 3 things that helped me learn to love networking more:

Provide Value First: Always approach networking with the mindset of what you can offer, not what you can get. Whether it’s insight, connections, or support, leading with value creates a foundation of goodwill and reciprocity. For instance, I once connected with a fellow entrepreneur at a conference by sharing insights from a recent marketing strategy that had worked well for our company. Months later, this connection paid off when they introduced me to a key supplier, significantly reducing our production costs.

Be Genuinely Curious: Genuine interest in people and their stories is magnetic. Ask thoughtful questions and listen. This not only helps you learn but also makes the conversation memorable for the other person. There was a time when I met a potential investor and, instead of pitching straight away, I asked about their most challenging investment. The discussion that unfolded not only gave me invaluable insights but also helped build a rapport that eventually led to a successful partnership.

Leverage Your Unique Story: Your background, experiences, and vision are unique. Sharing your story in an engaging way helps people remember you. I remember sharing my journey of transitioning from a corporate job to entrepreneurship during a small meet-up. This story resonated with someone who was considering a similar leap. Six months later, they reached out for advice, leading to a fruitful mentorship relationship.

These 3 tips helped me turn networking from a dreaded task into a rewarding aspect of the entrepreneurial journey

Despite common apprehensions about networking, these founders offer practical advice and strategies to make networking more effective and enjoyable. If you’re not sure where to start, look at local business groups like Entrepreneurs’ Organization.


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