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Branson Shares a Few Words on Networking

Succeeding in business is all about making connections.

Richard Branson

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Q: How much of an impact does a really effective networker have on a company’s success? Does it ever make sense to hire someone whose only function is to make connections internally and externally? – Christine Rozman, Entrepreneur reader

While we at the Virgin Group have never hired anybody whose job description was limited to making internal and external contacts, it is implicit that almost everyone on staff has these skills. This has helped Virgin to expand into so many different industries, from music to mobile phone services: As we build connections in other areas, we have been able to grow our expertise and multiply our reach.

For an entrepreneur, the ability to forge connections is a great asset. When you’re conducting business in a field where you don’t have specialist expertise, it’s often the only way to get a job done right.

When our team at Virgin wanted to go to space, I looked for the best engineer in the world to help us build a spaceship. Once we’d connected with Burt Rutan, creator of the revolutionary SpaceShipOne, we were able to get to work on creating Virgin Galactic.

A trip down memory lane

I was thinking about your question in October, as we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the launch of Virgin Records – time flies when you’re having fun! We got the original gang back together and went for a tour of all our old haunts in London. It brought us back to the heady days in the ’70s when Nik Powell was planning Virgin Records’ expansion into retail, Simon Draper was out scouting the coolest new bands, Tom Newman was experimenting with new recording techniques and I was busily marketing our brand.

During the tour, we visited the church crypt that we used as an office for Student Magazine, the houseboat my family and I had lived on, and Virgin’s original head office in Notting Hill. We wound it up at an exhibition, “Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions,” at Victoria House, where we celebrated in style. It retrospect, it was interesting how close the tour locations were – in those whirlwind first years, we quickly built a creative community where lots of like-minded people lived and worked. Those connections benefited everyone involved, in the same way that the networks in Silicon Valley and London’s Tech City have promoted innovation.

Staying in touch

My three friends and I have had our fair share of arguments over the past four decades, as people will – especially when they’re running a global business together. But we all went on to work on different projects, and we were always ready to shake hands again. I’m delighted that we’re still so close.

Our celebration gave us a chance to renew those friendships and make new connections: Everyone is still full of ideas and working on various new ventures, and as we spent time together, we came up with more plans, as always.

Networking is vital

That got me thinking about how important networking is for entrepreneurs, and how to encourage people to network. It’s all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is, do not allow yourself to work in your cubicle or office all day, every day – for your own well-being and the health of your business, you need to get out and about, meeting people and developing relationships. If you discuss a work matter with an employee or a potential client over coffee rather than simply sending over an email, you’re more likely to build rapport, which will be useful if you ever need to tackle any problems together.

Good managers give their teams the freedom to set their own schedules, realizing that the same is true of employees’ relationships with their co-workers and the company’s clients.

That said, you can also make great connections while sitting at your desk. Through social media, you can get in touch with almost anyone, and then connect in the real world as well. Just recently, a 12-year-old business studies student sent me an email asking for some tips, and I spotted her note and wrote back. These days, the only thing stopping you from building up your network is how much time you dedicate to it. Everyone can and should be a networker.

Those good connections will breed more good connections. In the end, it all comes down to talking to people. Track down people you would love to work with and start sharing your ideas. You’ll soon discover that you have found some great partners – and more importantly, some great friends.

Network Like a Rock Star. Read This

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

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Networking

Why I Never Meet Someone For Coffee

The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.

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First off, I need to make clear that I am not against meeting people for coffee or even drinking coffee. My issue is that I’ve learned that the offer to go get coffee usually means that somebody wants something from me. Whether it is time, money or to help them make a connection, an offer to grab a drink almost always has some ulterior motive behind it.

You might think that I flat out don’t want to help others, but the real issue is the other opportunities that I have in front of me. I have a lot on my plate, so dedicating the time to a “quick” coffee meeting does not make much sense.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

Say no to getting coffee

Hours spent in the office doing business are not the time to sit back, relax or socialise. I try to be as efficient, effective and statistically successful as possible during work hours (and beyond). The conventional offer of “getting coffee” is, in my opinion, one of the most frustrating offers that can be made.

I rarely take anyone up on the offer to “do lunch” during work hours. Just consider the amount of time that it takes to get to and from a coffee or lunch meeting, and how much business could be done in that same time.

Then, think about the inefficiencies of utilising that time for things such as small talk, even before you get to the critical business issue.

Have an objective in mind

I have the objective to try and keep every phone call to a maximum of five minutes. When it comes to in-person meetings, I prefer them to take place at my office or overlapping other meetings I have outside the office, which I call “holding court.”

Even then, I try to keep those meetings to 20 minutes long. This allows me to fit in as many meetings or calls as possible. So many people make the excuse that they are “doing business” and then leave the office to do unimportant things, or overlap their meetings around errands.

Make no mistake, I’m not advising against meeting people in person. I’m saying take control of the business opportunity and have them come to you, or meet them somewhere convenient when you are outside of the office.

Related: 5 Ways That Coffee Affects Productivity

No coffee, just grind

The majority of lunch and coffee meetings that take place are nothing but an inefficient use of time. I would suggest not only rejecting such meetings during work hours, but to also stop asking for coffee meetings unless they’re absolutely necessary.

How do you determine whether or not a meeting is necessary? Take a look at the reasons and impacts the meeting can have. If these outweigh the potential drawbacks of an in-person meeting, then it is acceptable to ask. Make sure that you focus on making efficiency a key principle when chasing your objectives.

Stay focused in on critical business issues and you will find that focus will provide you with everything you desire in business and life.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Great Places To Take Your Clients When Networking

Are you hoping to make a lasting impression on your client? Maybe you are trying to woo a new client? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to read on and check out these great places that are ideal for taking your clients to.

Jeff Broth

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Do you live in South Africa and work at a job that entails taking clients out while networking? Are you tired of doing the same activities over and over? Are you hoping to make a lasting impression on your client? Maybe you are trying to woo a new client? If that’s the case, you’re going to want to read on and check out these great places that are ideal for taking your clients to.

Introduce Them to Casino Action and Fun

There’s no better way to make a splash with your clients than by taking them to one of the many casinos found in South Africa. Between the cities of Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Queenstown, Pretoria, and Sun City there are more than 15 casinos to check out. Casinos offer a light and fun atmosphere that is perfect for letting loose. At the same time, they aren’t too loud, which means you can go ahead and sneak in a little shop talk.

Related: The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking

Besides the casinos, you can also take your clients to horse races and even bingo. If the casino action is a big hit with them, be sure to let them know there are a large amount of South African online casinos that offer all the same types of games, plus a whole lot more.

Enjoy a Sports Game

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Professional sports events are another fabulous spot to take your clients. You get that laid back casual atmosphere that allows you to stray from the traditional business attire, it’s a chance to get out of the office, and you can introduce your client to your own home team.

South Africa is well-known around the world for its love of sports. Among the most popular are rugby, cricket, and soccer. If you want to take them to the most popular sport in the country, however, soccer is the clear winner. Loftus Versveld and Ellis Park are two stadiums that are known to draw in some very rowdy crowds. Just be sure to get your tickets well in advance so you don’t end up disappointing your client.

Share the Local Cuisine

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking your client out for a meal, this particular option tends to be over-done. In order to make yours a memorable experience, skip the chain restaurants and typical locations and instead introduce your client to local and authentic cuisine. These are the places the tourists don’t tend to visit, but the locals know all about.

Plan an Adventure Tour

paragliding

Before you go ahead and choose this option, it’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about your client in advance. Not everyone is up to adventure activities, so you want to be sure you don’t put them in an uncomfortable position.

Related: 3 Practical Tips To Nail Networking

If you’ve got the green light, however, there are all kinds of activities you can take part in. Adventures can include a private helicopter tour, paragliding, zip-lining, a shark watching tour, a private surfing lesson, whale watching, kayaking, a sightseeing tour (by bus, car, or foot), bicycling, hiking, snorkelling, horseback riding on the beach, or even High Tea in Cape Town.

All of these ideas are unique and memorable so you know the visit will leave a lasting impression in your client’s mind.

Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box

When it comes to entertaining your clients while you spend time networking, there is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking outside the box. Coming up with unique ideas is sure to leave that lasting impression in their mind, which is exactly what you are striving for.

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Networking

The Top 10 Behaviours To Avoid When Networking

There are some things that you should and should not do while networking – it’s important to know the difference.

Ivan Misner

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In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Ivan Misner goes over the 10 behaviours that you should not exhibit in a networking group.

Sharing your problems and grievances with fellow networkers and guests is not a good idea while meeting and socialising with others in the group. Winging presentations, being late and using your phone are other things to avoid, too.

Networking is key to the success of a company. In fact, a single referral source can bring a chain reaction of new business to your company. That’s why it’s vital to make your time and efforts worthwhile in networking groups.

Related: Proactive Networking – Your Network Is Your Net Worth

Success in these groups will happen when the rest of the group members trust enough to open up their best referrals. That’s why it’s vital to avoid these behaviours and demonstrate professionalism.

To learn more, click play.

Related: 3 Practical Tips To Nail Networking

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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