3 Ways to Leverage Networking as a New Entrepreneur
By Michael Stephenson
Inchmead is the trusted accounting service of businesses large and small. Learn more about Inchmead and find up-to-date business advice at Inchmead.
Networking keeps business owners at the forefront of their industry. It also has value to entrepreneurs in the early stages of starting a business.
Aspiring entrepreneurs often mistake networking as a way to gain exposure, raise capital, and find talent. Networking can deliver those results, but it’s not where entrepreneurs glean the most benefit.
Research shows the greatest reason for entrepreneurs to network is not to access resources. It’s to access information.
What does that mean for aspiring entrepreneurs leveraging networking for startup success? Rather than waiting to network until the launch and growth stages of startup development, founders should tap professional networks early and often to reap the full benefits of their network’s collective expertise.
3 Reasons to Network as an Aspiring Entrepreneur
These are the three primary ways new entrepreneurs can put networking into action for continued success.
1. Learn about a business opportunity
Networking gets entrepreneurs involved in their industry. That inevitably leads to deeper knowledge about an industry and its needs and opportunities.
Likewise, networking supports market validation by connecting entrepreneurs with prospective customers, end-users, and other stakeholders. These early conversations refine business ideas and uncover barriers so entrepreneurs can pivot before investing too much.
2. Get business advice
Networking with fellow business owners connects entrepreneurs with a wealth of expertise they can tap for advice, mentorship, and moral support. Successful entrepreneurs use their networks to get management advice, identify best practices, and gain exposure to different skills, perspectives, and contexts.
3. Find professional service providers
Networking is a good way to source talent as an early-stage startup — but not necessarily in the way you think. Networking connects new entrepreneurs with the high-quality professional support their business needs to thrive, including suppliers and vendors, business consultants, and accounting partners like Inchmead.
3 Places to Build an Entrepreneurial Network
What does effective networking look like? These are the top places to network for new entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs can use networks like LinkedIn to connect with thought leaders, experts, and innovators or Meetup to join local entrepreneurship groups. Meanwhile, platforms like Upwork link founders directly with business consultants and professionals during the business planning process. Because of the diversity of talent available online, it’s possible to find help at any budget. For example, the marketing consultant hourly rate ranges from $28 to $98 an hour online while HR consultants are available as low as $35 per hour.
2. Industry events
Professional association events, alumni events, and trade shows are an opportunity to meet industry colleagues and keep up-to-date on industry news. Networking events are most effective when approached with a plan in mind. That includes researching the organisers, speakers, and discussion topics, connecting with participants in advance, and seeking opportunities for meaningful engagement. Continuing to develop these relationships outside of events creates a pipeline of information that keeps business owners in the know.
3. Professional development
Conferences, seminars, webinars, speaking events, and even podcasts provide a venue for mingling with experts and colleagues, gaining practical business knowledge, and hearing inspiring stories. The most effective professional development opportunities are those that come with a built-in community, whether that’s an online forum, social channel, or live discussion group.
Networking shouldn’t be an afterthought in an aspiring entrepreneur’s development. Networking is a key method by which new entrepreneurs access the necessary information, insights, and opportunities to inform a startup’s strategy and fuel its growth. By approaching networking as a wellspring of information, rather than only a means to an end, entrepreneurs develop a network of knowledge and support that sustains long-term business success.