A lone fighter isn’t meant for today’s business world. Though entrepreneurs often suffer from ‘lonely at the top’ syndrome, it is at every stage of the business cycle that they need a network to grow and who acts as a support system for this growth. In both the early and established faces of an entrepreneur’s journey, networking plays a crucial role.
It is almost over a decade now for me in the journalism industry. But I stepped into this world as an intern in the PR industry. I was quite shy then, and usually avoided any kind of conversation out of work with any one. However, my mentor noticed this void and took me under his wings. He had me sit next to him while he fielded phone calls, or would take me on media rounds. Indeed, after every visit, he would ask me why I thought it was important to meet in-person and explain while we could have get the job done by just shooting an email. Our conversation and discussions taught me how to relentlessly network, and ‘why is it so important’.
However, it pains me to see how underutilized networking is despite the uncountable benefits/advantages it brings to the table. It pains more to see women lacking in the art despite being seen as more social than men. Also it is noted that women network with women rather than men. Remember, networking is key to success, more so when you are an entrepreneur or is willing to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. So what is preventing women from taking the front seat when it comes to networking?
In the business world, it is often the case that the person who can help you is the friend of a friend. But women’s DNA that is built of shyness, restricts them to speak and network, more so in a field that has been traditionally occupied by men. Women are shyer of judgment and lack confidence in telling their story & business as they fear it to be too small or not worth discussing. However, it is important to note that one of the most important key to your business success is your strength of personal networks. Right from funding to valuable knowledge, from business connections/recommendations to customers, you can gain many important resources through your strong connections.
Remember that networking is an innate skill that can be sharpened with practice. If the fear of ‘no’ holds you back from asking a person his time and/or advice, remember that people are approachable and not offended by direct requests. But note that networking is time consuming. You are asking for someone’s valuable time and energy, hence you need to be very well prepared with your ‘asks’ to avoid any distraction. Hence it is important to first target networking events which are segmented based on criteria such as stage of business, company size, and industry. Well, not all networking events are for everyone, hence shortlisting and going through the speakers beforehand will provide you time to prepare for our networking time.
It is important to note that women entrepreneurs are playing an important role in economy recovery. They are also providing huge employment, and hence their presence cannot be neglected by the ecosystem. Hence, the industry also needs to be open to help women entrepreneurs. While there are few VC firms that are more keen on investing in women-led startups, there are also women-only networking events and incubation centers to help them nurture and provide them with the much needed maneuver. Having a mentor for a subject area of business is very helpful, and if women increase the quality of their networks, they will have access to most powerful tools available to scale their businesses.
Well, I can say that if we focus on network, the rest will fall in place! So happy networking!