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The Networking Mistake Most Entrepreneurs Make

Many budding entrepreneurs feel that the larger the size of their network, the greater their odds of success. Nothing could be further from the truth

Punit Arora

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Let’s say you want to build a great kitchen garden. Imagine you go around town and acquire all your favourite plants. You come home tired, but satisfied. The next day, you acquire more plants and the cycle keeps repeating itself. How many of your prized acquisitions would be healthy by the end of the year, if once acquired they didn’t get adequate nourishment?

Nurture your networks

Just like plants, we need to nurture our networks. The higher the number of connections we have, the less time we have to tend to those relationships. Thus, we need to determine the optimum number of connections we can comfortably handle.

We have a limited capacity for relationships. While the numbers may vary a bit, research from University College, London tells us that our cognitive capacity is limited to handle no more than 150 to 250 relationships.

To manage more connections than that, we need to hire help or even build an organisation staffed with adequate people. To continue our gardening metaphor, we need to move from kitchen garden to a commercial farm equipped with the right tools.

Don’t acquire more connections than you can cultivate. Research out of University of Edinburgh shows that this superficial “friending” with everyone we went to high school with to the person we bumped into on the street becomes unmanageable and stressful.

Keep your network small

In a work environment where people can get away with opportunistic behaviour without serious legal or reputational consequences, research shows that having large networks is actually calling for disaster.

In such environments, you need to work with people you know and trust very well. Incidentally, this is why businesspeople in emerging markets often operate in close hard-to-break-into groups. These cliques enforce rules among members that weak legal institutions in their countries cannot. That said, if you can trust your connections to make good on your agreements, you have a bit more room for larger networks.

Here is what you can do to grow your professional network effectively:

Sow your seeds strategically. Don’t spread yourself too thin or spend all your time with a few close buddies. The relationships that work best in the entrepreneurial context are ones that are close, but not too close, according to a recent study in the Journal of Business Venturing.

Just as you need to design your garden well with an adequate number and variety of plants, you need a network with diverse groups of friends. Diverse networks not only provide access to people and resources, but also new opportunities and markets.

Encourage cross-pollination. Your network is actually composed of several networks from work to school to sports to your neighbourhood. You are probably at the core of some networks and at the fringes of others. You are at the core if you are the main person who others in your network interact through.

While this has its advantages, the ability to bring people together across various networks is a more important skill for entrepreneurs. The more you can act as a bridge for your connections across various networks, the better your chances of enlisting their help. You’ll be able to recognise problems or opportunities in one network to help people in other networks.

Think variety, not quantity. We like to network with those who have something unique to offer – knowledge, skills or entertainment. The first step in building your network is to identify your unique skills and find people who are different, but complementary. You do not want your contacts to be so similar that all the information and resources you get are redundant or so different that you have nothing in common.

It’s also important to pay attention to other people’s needs and know how to manage the impression you leave on others. Focus on managing key relationships yourself and let word-of-mouth from those connections keep you in good standing with a broader network. If you try to cultivate too many connections directly, you will be hard pressed to manage even a few relationships.

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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

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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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