By Simon Davies
Your startup relies on a lot more than a good idea to be successful—it takes years of graft, commitment, and perseverance to stand out from the crowd and thrive. One hugely important factor in a startup’s fortunes is the ability to build up a network. Making connections can help a business gain investors, raise its profile, and meet potential clients, all of which are vital in helping your company hit the ground running. In fact, a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 78% of startups surveyed felt networking is crucial to entrepreneurial success.
But if you’re just starting out in the business world, you might not know how to form lasting relationships with fellow entrepreneurs. Luckily, with these easy tricks to ensure you connect with the right people, we’ve got you covered.
Move your business to a shared work space
Rather than a traditional office space, co-working spaces and serviced offices are rising in popularity, with global take-up of shared work spaces increasing by 200% between 2013 and 2018. These offices come with various benefits, such as amenities like stocked kitchens, receptionist services, and state of the art tech equipment, meaning you don’t need to worry about overhead costs. However, since co-working spaces allow any individual or business to rent a space, now taking up approximately 27 million square feet of office space across the US—they offer countless opportunities for networking.
The main difference between co-working spaces and conventional leased offices is that businesses in co-working spaces share the building with other companies or individual freelancers, and work on a hot desking set up. Their communal nature makes them a breeding ground for exchanging information and services with other professionals.
If you like the idea of working from a shared office but want to avoid having to look for a desk every day, then a serviced office may be an ideal compromise. Here you pay for your designated, fully furnished office space, including additional services like a professional reception team. This is a vastly different setup to both co-working spaces and a conventional office, as businesses based in serviced offices share the building, but have both their own designated space and shared communal areas with the other companies.
This provides the best of both worlds—the networking benefits of co-working spaces with the privacy of a conventional office. Serviced office space providers Landmark note that, if you own a small company and aren’t sure about how much space you need, the flexible leases used in serviced offices make it easier for businesses to scale up or down as they see fit. These contracts are not long-term, so you only have to commit for as long you as like, unlike a traditional office lease. This allows you to put your capital to another area of your business, giving you both networking and financial benefits.
Harness social media to your advantage
Utilizing online platforms for networking purposes can boost the success of your business. Online networking allows you to find individuals or companies to connect with, who you may want to collaborate with later down the line. Social media can also help you develop and maintain professional relationships with people you’ve previously met in person.
The most obvious place to start is LinkedIn, which was specifically designed for professional networking. Create a company profile if you don’t already have one, and search for your industry’s keywords to find and connect with people and businesses within your niche. Make sure to send them a personalized message, discussing what you have in common and why you want to connect with them. Doing this regularly should help expand your network.
However, you don’t have to be limited to just LinkedIn—Twitter’s advanced search feature will help you follow and interact with like-minded professionals, whilst Facebook Insights is an excellent way of finding potential customers.
Go to specialized networking events
Although online networking is important, meeting people face-to-face gives you a much greater chance of making a lasting impression. Industry networking events represent the easiest and most effective method of doing so, and are an essential way of being exposed to like-minded professionals. Meeting others in person enables you to showcase your personality and strengths, helping to build human relationships and encourage others to work with you. Face-to-face meetings also allow you to go into longer and more detailed discussions than online interactions, letting you share much more information. They also make it much easier to avoid any misunderstandings, which can be cleared up instantly.
Attending events that have real potential to benefit your startup, and that are relevant to your market, can have a huge impact on your success. HubSpot has a useful guide to finding network events and suggests taking factors like the agenda, organizer, and number of attendees into consideration when picking an event. Once in attendance, it is important that you avoid monopolizing the conversation, and are open to listening to others as well as getting your own message across—you may learn something from another entrepreneur which you can apply to your own business.
With networking constituting such an important part of your startup’s fortunes, following the above tips stands you in the best possible stead for success.
Simon Davies is a freelance journalist interested in marketing, tech and small business. Follow him at @SimonTheoDavies.