Starting a business is always going to be a difficult endeavor that requires a large number of factors to go in your favor. However, there are many things that you can do to increase your chances for success. If you’ve ever started your own business, you likely know how difficult it can be to start networking when you lack the networking experience. While networking can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s highly valuable for any business and could be essential to the success of your startup.
Many startup have found their first successes through the network connections and referrals that they’ve built, which has allowed them to minimize the risk of failure. Building your network is a key component to the ongoing success of your startup, which means that you should focus your efforts on fostering a community of support through your peers and the surrounding business community. While you might be able to create the first elements of a business without a strong network, one of the major ways to build a sustainable and long-lasting successful business is by networking.
As an entrepreneur, there are an array of benefits that you can obtain from practicing and perfecting the art of networking and being part of an active network community, which will pay dividends now and in the future!
1. Finding New Business & Referrals
Networking can be performed in a wide range of different circumstances. Whether you’re attending a meeting or event, there are always going to be networking opportunities for you to take advantage of. Among the top reasons that you will need to do some networking for your startup is to find new business and referrals that could accelerate the growth of your startup.
Many startups make the mistake of spinning their wheels in fear of being too aggressive with their business strategy and failing. While it’s certainly wise to be cautious in making substantial business moves, a great way to lessen the risk of growing your startup is to bring in new business and referrals whenever you can. While the new leads that you obtain via your marketing efforts can provide you with good business, the referrals given to you by the connections you make when networking are typically high quality, which makes it easier to follow up with these referrals and turn them into customers and clients.
If you find success at creating new connections while networking, it’s likely that your referrals will organically increase substantially in number, which bolsters your startup’s chances of finding success.
2. Partnership Opportunities
When you begin to perform some networking for your startup with other professionals, you’ll soon discover that there are many opportunities to form partnerships depending on the types of contacts you’ve made. These partnerships could be developmentally or financially beneficial to your startup, which can be the key towards making your startup successful.
The partnerships that you make could give you access to more resources, better business expertise, and a larger network of industry professionals. However, it’s important that you make the right partnerships when they arise as opposed to saying yes to every opportunity. These partnerships should fit into your overall business strategy and should strengthen the weaker elements of your business to better facilitate growth. The partnerships that you form at the beginning of your startup may help provide your business with the competitive edge that it needs to match or surpass your competitors.
3. Find Mentorship & Support
A key component of networking involves finding support for your venture through a mentorship or similar type of support system. Mentors are often essential for a startup because they allow you to avoid costly mistakes while also providing you with the ability to gain insight and advice about your business direction.
The mentors that you obtain through networking will typically have much more experience in your industry — which is something that you can learn from. While forming partnerships is important, mentors are better equipped to help you navigate the obstacles that commonly occur in a startup environment. The guidance that they provide to you may also assist you in growing your business in a shorter period of time.
Mentors are often industry leaders, which means that you might gain access to more networking opportunities because of this connection.
4. A Strong Network Gives You More Leverage with Investors
Since networking with other professionals in your industry will help you obtain exposure to a larger audience, building a strong network should give you more leverage with investors. When the brand awareness for your startup grows, investors will invariably find your brand more attractive and appealing, which can be highly beneficial to your startup.
Keep in mind that among the most common reasons for a startup to fail is because they’ve run out of cash. If you can shore up investors early on in the life of your startup, there’s a better chance that your business will become a successful one.
Better brand awareness provides you with more potential customers as well as more market validation for your brand. The high quality connections that you make while networking may be able to entice a potential investor to support your startup. Without these connections, it can be more difficult to convince investors that you will make a return on their investment.
5. Gaining Feedback & Ideas
The network that you build should also be focused around sharing information between the new connections that you’ve made. If ever you reach an obstacle, other professionals that you’ve met may be able to provide you with advice and ideas on how to move past this obstacle. You can also discuss matters that relate to your industry as a whole, which may prove very beneficial at giving you insight into competitors and customers alike.
You can provide these professionals with your own ideas and opinions about their ventures, which should be reciprocated. The feedback and ideas that you gain from these professionals can be very constructive and may be able to help you see an aspect of your business in a new light.
6. Increased Access to Business Resources
Likely the most difficult facet of starting and growing a business is finding the resources that you need to do so. These resources can include everything from financial resources to professional equipment and business tools. While it’s certainly possible to gain the resources that you require on your own without any additional assistance, building a strong network means that you will have an increased access to the business resources that you need to survive as a startup.
The network connections that you make can give you access to financial resources, business tools that you would otherwise be unable to afford, new customers, and new clients. All you need to do to gain access to these resources is to get in touch with one of your new contacts.
7. Grow Your Team with Top Talent
If you’ve just recently converted your entrepreneurial efforts into a new startup, it’s important to understand that you’ll likely require a larger team in order to continue growing your business, which can be be difficult if you’ve never assembled a team before. This step can be made much easier if you have a strong network at your disposal.
The connections that you’ve made should give you access to other professionals within your industry who may be qualified for positions in your company. While you can certainly look through resumes to find the appropriate team members, the members that you gain through networking will be referred to you by people in your network that you trust, which increases the likelihood that the recommendation will pan out. If you want the best for your team, networking gives you the optimal opportunity to recruit the best.
8. Accelerate Learning
When you’re running a business, it can be easy to suffer from tunnel vision wherein you focus solely on building your business with the knowledge and insight that you’ve already gained. Building a network of professionals within your industry will help you broaden your scope, which can be very beneficial when you’re trying to make sure that your business becomes a healthy and long-lasting one.
The professionals that you meet can help accelerate learning about your business, your concept, or the industry at large because of the constant contact that you will have with similar startups and businesses. The information you learn from being in contact with these professionals can include everything from how the industry operates at large to whether or not your concept is a sound one. Perhaps another startup that you’ve built a relationship with had created a similar concept in the past that ended up failing. You could either learn from the mistakes that they made or re-tool the concept altogether.
9. Build Your Business Confidence
Another reason why you need to conduct networking for your startup is that doing so will help you build your business confidence. You’ll be consistently putting yourself and your business out there and into the business world around you, which should help you gain confidence as you expose your product or business concept to like-minded professionals. The positive feedback that you receive should bolster your confidence and allow you to take pride in what you’ve created.
This business confidence in your abilities and in your product is going to be key towards your future success. If you don’t have any confidence in yourself or the success of your business, it’s going to be very difficult to give customers a reason as to why they should be interested in what you have to offer.
10. Enhance Your Communication Skills
If you’ve never started a business before and have little experience with speaking in front of crowds and engaging people in conversation, networking is a great way to enhance your communication skills at the onset of your startup. These skills are going to be essential at every stage of growth for your business, which is why you want to improve them as early as possible.
Networking with other professionals provides you with the ability to improve both your communication and presentation skills at your own pace. You have the ability to control when and how you network your business, which should help put you at ease while you learn how to properly communicate with other professionals.
11. Help Others Succeed
Networking isn’t just about what you gain for your startup. Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people is important to your ongoing success. If you can create a community and startup environment where success flourishes because of the support that you and your connections provide one another, you’ll find that it much easier to grow your startup.
Other businesses and startups that you interact with will have problems of their own. Helping them solve their problems and find success will give you self-fulfillment while also allowing you to gain a better understanding of how to navigate such a problem if ever your business runs into a similar issue in the future.
Networking can go a long way for your startup and may even be exactly what your startup needs to find success! There are many events here at University Lab Partners, UCI Applied Innovation’s The Cove and the UCI Research Park that can put you well on your way to networking success (practice, practice, practice)! Be sure to get in touch with us if you’re interested in learning more about our wet lab incubator or contact us directly if you have any questions!
Apply Now to the University Lab Partners wet lab incubator at UC Irvine!