by Christina Moser
The last 14 months have been full of change and incredibly busy for me – a new job, new business and new baby. During each development stage of my new business (Forewillow.com), I wanted to fully utilize my resources and meet with other successful and talented business owners in Central Ohio to share ideas and gain insight for my budding business. However, if you’re like me, finding the time to connect with others seems impossible.
Putting my excuses aside, I carved out time to connect with several innovative entrepreneurs in my network; and if it weren’t for meeting with those professionals, Forewillow.com could not have reached its launch date successfully.
For those of you in the same boat, here are just a few tips to help you make the most out of your networking time.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
1. Be fearless when talking about your idea.
I’ve always been comfortable in front of an audience. A career in corporate sales has placed me in the boardroom of executives on a regular basis. However, that experience did not prepare me to feel completely exposed when I shared my business plan in front of 50 other entrepreneurs. It was worse than any dream when you appear suddenly back in high school completely naked. It could have been that I was six months pregnant and exhausted from a late-night prep session, but I believe it was because for the first time I was presenting my own business, not someone else’s. Be ready for moments of feeling vulnerable, followed by moments of feeling alive.
2. Just because they have the skill doesn’t mean they are a good fit – seek the business partner.
One of the challenges we had during the middle of our project was a costly one. We connected with a talented web designer who had the perfect resume. Unfortunately, we learned the hard and expensive truth that he was a terrible communicator. He never returned emails or phone calls on time. He delayed our project several times, and he eventually went completely silent. It was excruciating. He even ignored our developer, Josh Greenwald. It was a huge distraction, and every day it cost us more and more for him to be unresponsive. Luckily, we connected with a true business partner and web designer, Matt Russo of Blast Brand, in the nick of time. He saved the project, and he did an incredible job.
3. When asking for help, be specific and focus on your weaknesses.
As I mentioned before, entrepreneurs love to help one another, but they are also incredibly time-crunched. Don’t waste their time. Time is money, and money is critical to their survival. Have a specific ask in mind when you meet with other entrepreneurs and find several key contacts, either through LinkedIn connections, friends and neighbors, or an alumni network that can offer advice in the areas you are weak. Networking like this will lead to business partnerships that make you more competitive and successful. For example, my passion has always been sales and marketing, and I relied on business consultant Alec Broadfoot to shape our revenue model and forecast. A friend connected us with Alec, and he was essential to the viability of the business from a very early stage.
One last thing, find out how you can also help them and then continue to pay it forward.
4. Focus group it.
You may not think that a focus group is part of networking, but you’ll find those focus group participants within your inner circle and extended network. If you are going to invest your precious time and capital, you had better be certain that there’s a market first. My husband and I were self-funding Forewillow.com, and there were moments of extreme hesitation when writing the checks from our savings account, especially with a newborn. We knew that the information we had from our research and focus groups proved that we had a valid business model. It helped me sleep at night even if our newborn meant that sleep was only in brief increments of time. The focus group members were also our first customers and beta testers.
5. Listen to advice – use it at your own discretion.
You’ll find some seriously big egos in the entrepreneurial crowd, especially amongst the most successful. They can be quick to pounce on another person’s idea, rip it to shreds, and then offer their suggestions and criticism – how they would market it, improve it, and develop it.
That’s ok. They are usually speaking from experience and are driven by intense passion for what they do and what they built. More times than not, they are trying to help, and they may offer nuggets of information worth lots of money in your pocket. However, some of their advice might be total garbage. The hardest part is that you’ll be the one to decide which bucket that advice falls into. Be receptive, and then trust your gut and own your decision.
If I had to do it over again, I would have asked more questions in the beginning, and taken the time to be more analytical about what they shared with me. You should do the same analysis with advice passed your way, including all of the advice that you read here. Do not give up: the beginning is always the hardest.
Christina Moser is the founder of Forewillow.com, the latest virtual retail destination for Millennials. Balancing her first startup business while beginning her young family in the Midwest, Christina strongly encourages other aspiring entrepreneurs to tap into their resources and find wisdom in others’ innovations. Christina specializes in business development with a strong record of identifying acquisition and expansion opportunities within Fortune 500 companies.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net | Courtesy of Christina Moser