Networking mistakes you must avoid
When I failed (miserably) at my first start-up, I learned a lot of lessons. The biggest lesson I learned was that entrepreneurship is a team sport....
When I failed (miserably) at my first start-up, I learned a lot of lessons. The biggest lesson I learned was that entrepreneurship is a team sport. This following African proverb puts this aptly:
If you want to go fast, go alone;
If you want to go far, go together.
So, as a first-time entrepreneur, you have a big advantage if you have built your network way before you need it.
On the other hand, you have a big disadvantage if you have not built your network before you need it.
Having worked with a number of first-time entrepreneurs over the last decade, and having taught over 1,000 first-time entrepreneurs in the last five years, I observed some of the networking mistakes first-time entrepreneurs make.
I've listed five of them here:
1. Practicing "just in time" the wrong way
It's an old saying, but it's golden -- "You have to dig your well before you are thirsty."
It's easy to remember that. It's also easy to forget that.
I've seen first-time entrepreneurs boasting that they have a huge network on LinkedIn and Facebook, and they can simply tap into the entire network "just in time."
They argue with me when I try to explain that things don't work that way only to realise it themselves in the next few months.
Just in time IS the problem.
Connecting with someone does not guarantee commitment of any kind.
If you want to tap into any network, you have to nurture it by adding value to those belonging to it over a long period of time.
2. Not doing enough homework
A few weeks ago, a friend from my college days referred me to a first-time entrepreneur. So, I had to take that call from this entrepreneur.
We had set up a 30-minute call.
The first question the new entrepreneur asked was, "Rajesh, can you tell me a bit about your background?"
It was clear that he didn't take a few minutes to Google my name and spend some time looking at my background.
A few more questions later, it was clear that he had done no homework on anything.
Things went south quite fast after that.
There was no point in investing time with someone who didn't have the time to invest in doing much-needed homework before the call.
3. Being an opportunity cost instead of being an opportunity
I have seen first-time entrepreneurs making ridiculous requests to friends they've met for the first time.
An example would be asking for an introduction to someone high up in the other person's network.
It takes five seconds to figure out how awkward that is for the new-found friend to make such an intro.
Another example is to ask something like this: "Can you take five minutes to review the business presentation?"
First of all, it won't take "just five minutes" to review the presentation, because it is rarely the fonts and charts on the slides that have the problem, it is the underlying thinking that made the slides where the problem originates.
I've heard similar stories where first-time entrepreneurs 'yearn' for something without taking the time to 'earn' it.
It's far better to 'be' an opportunity and earn 'future reciprocal credits' than to be an opportunity-cost and risk being written off now and in the future.
4. Talking more than listening
In the past, I've met first-time entrepreneurs who're like weather reporters -- giving a lot of details about things that I might not even be interested in.
Talking non-stop about your start-up won't let you learn anything new, unfortunately.
Why? Because you can't talk about anything that you already don't know.
Listening is where all the magic is.
Listening is where you might learn something now that might change the trajectory of your life or your start-up.
Listening is where you might learn something important that you had missed earlier.
Listening might not make any change in any of your plans. But, then, it might change everything.
5. Not closing the loop
This seems simple, and, actually, it is simple.
A lot of first-time entrepreneurs forget this for whatever reason.
They get the help they need, and after that they disappear into thin air. They conveniently forget to close the loop.
Until…they need some more help again.
Unfortunately, it's too late to go back and tap into the network. So don't forget to close the loop!