By Anthony Johnson
With so much uncertainty in the early days of running a startup, having a trusted network to turn to for advice is invaluable. Whether it’s someone you can bounce an idea off of, or someone who can lift your spirits, the company you keep in the entrepreneur world will make or break you.
Thousands of entrepreneurs have been in the same position as you. And by building out an eclectic network of business-savvy entrepreneurs, you can successfully navigate some of the challenges you’ll face.
Having a close-knit network also makes it easier to get the intros you desperately want. Because many of my friends vouched for me, I’ve gotten intros to people I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. And by passing on the baton of trust to me, these relationships started off on a strong foundation of respect.
To create lasting connections that help you and your business thrive, you need to get in touch with the right people. Here are four ways to do that:
1. Join a curated network. Boisterous networking events can feel overwhelming. One minute you’re chatting with an insurance agent. The next moment, you’re talking to a mechanical engineer. Although they’re interesting and nice people, if you can’t benefit each other, these conversations won’t be worthwhile.
That’s where curated networks come in. Instead of poking around and trying desperately to find anyone with similar interests, join an online group (or an in-person one, if applicable) to mingle with other passionate entrepreneurs. I joined the Young Entrepreneur Council, which has become the best resource for building my network and learning from successful peers I can trust.
2. Don’t make a mad grab for connections. Many entrepreneurs approach networking like they would a money booth blowing cash. But frantically grabbing as many business cards as possible isn’t a smart approach to creating lucrative relationships.
In reality, few people you meet will actually be able to benefit you or your career, and more connections don’t equate to more value. While many have speculated the maximum network size, the most common number is 150. Choose your network wisely.
3. Look outside your industry. One of my favorite books is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book, he defines mavens, connectors, and salesmen as select groups that are responsible for ushering in “social epidemics.” They are the thinkers and doers all leaders want by their side.
But instead of connecting with these types in your industry, focus on building out a network of people in varying industries. Diversity spurs innovation, and studies have shown that having an “open” network is the No.1 predictor of a person’s professional success.
4. Find common interests and passions. While the best networks are filled with intelligent, business-savvy folks who work in a range of industries, the most crucial characteristic of a lasting relationship is common interests.
My approach is to find common ground with people in my network. For instance, I’m neurotic when it comes to sales workflows and processes, so when I noticed someone in the video production industry with the same zest for sales stack, I reached out, and we connected.
This approach allows me to find people I can relate to while opening my network up to diverse perspectives.
Starting a company can feel like a roller coaster ride. The jarring ups and downs can take a toll on you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
When building your network, you want to connect with intelligent people who can offer advice and challenge your preconceived notions. But your network should also be an emotional safety net because having people to turn to for support will make the crazy entrepreneur ride much more enjoyable.
Anthony Johnson is the founder and CEO of American Injury Attorney Group, which is committed to raising awareness of potential claims for people harmed by dangerous drugs, defective metal-on-metal hip replacement devices, semi truck accidents, product recalls, and other personal injury cases caused by the negligence or fault of another. Prior to becoming an attorney, Anthony worked in SEO and web development, Internet startups, and finance.