When I started networking on behalf of Virgin Music – meeting with agents, persuading musicians to sign with us, finding distributors – it often involved swapping phone numbers scrawled on napkins. It was the 70s, after all!
These days it’s much easier to connect with people who can help you launch and grow your business. Just think: LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter all provide opportunities for you to meet and interact with fellow entrepreneurs, experts in the field and innovative newcomers.
However you go about making connections, from the very first moment you begin to realise that your idea is worth pursuing, the first step on the road to success is building a network.
It’s all about your peers
To get started, attend industry events and meet key players; join regional business associations and start learning about local market conditions. Also remember that you can meet potential mentors at schools, clubs and business groups. Someday, when you get stuck or when something goes wrong, these contacts will be the people you’ll turn to for help.
Whether you’re a start-up or have been operating for a few years, building your network allows you to look for smart, supportive partners and employees who understand and share your goals for the business.
When I started Student magazine as a teenager, I worked with a small group of other students. Their tireless support and our camaraderie was invaluable as we got the magazine going. Some of us continued to work together for decades, and I count these people among my closest friends.
Finally, you’re also going to need a network of peers, so don’t be wary of making friends with your competition. When you see other people achieving similar goals, you will be reminded that your own plans and dreams are possible.
And if you are feeling daunted by a task, there’s no better encouragement than learning that somebody else has already achieved something similar.
In my experience, moments like those have been the tipping point for many new business ventures and growth points, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition!
Continuing to grow
Once you’re a successful business leader, it’s time to start championing undiscovered talent yourself. I get a real sense of pleasure from seeing talented people realise their ambitions and grow professionally and personally. As I’ve learnt; in the process you can gain new insights and discover fresh approaches to doing business by simply discussing how things work. After all, continuing to network means continuing to grow.