For startup founders, networks and connections can be incredibly important in propelling the success of their startup. However, new startup founders may be wondering how they can build up their network to support them along their entrepreneurial journey. In this post, Maria Dykstra shares the rules startup founders can follow in order to increase their network.
Maria Dykstra is an author, speaker, and technology entrepreneur. She spent 16+ years in Digital Marketing working with Fortune 100 and emerging brands at Microsoft and later as a co-founder of Tredigital, a growing digital agency. Maria also leads Seattle Founder Institute and serves as an advisor and board member for several startups and women leadership organizations.
The article "How to build your network: 9 rules for every new startup founder" originally appeared on Maria's LinkedIn. It has been republished below with permission.
9 Tips for Startup Founders to Build A Stronger Network
1. Start with a strategy.
Building your network requires a lot more than showing up at networking events. You need to have goals, understand reasons for networking and build a plan to create meaningful connections and establish your brand.
2. Get out there.
There are a few people who live to network. For the rest of us networking is a drag. If you are serious about building your network, you attend events. Learn best practices to overcome fear of networking and you may find yourself enjoying meeting new people.
3. Be present: quality over quantity.
Building your network is more about quality of your connections than the number of connections on LinkedIn. Spend time to get to know people you meet at the events and practice the art of relationship building.
4. "Give, give, give, ask".
Heather Redman, an amazing leader and a power networker herself, reminded me of this rule at the inaugural Ladies of Startup event last month. There are two extremes in the world of networking: founders either ask too soon or they forget to make an ask altogether. Make supporting others a part of your regular networking practice. When the time is right, make the ask. You will be surprised at the support you receive.
5. Seek leadership opportunities.
Step up to be a leader. There are many opportunities for you to contribute in a big way: Can you join the board for a non-profit organization? Can you become a leader of an industry organization? If your dream opportunity does not exist, consider creating one.
6. Foster partnerships.
Do you know who the movers and shakers in your industry are? Do you frequently talk to them? Surround yourself with mentors, connectors and trendsetters. Learn from the best. Most importantly, support them in their networking efforts and imitate their best practices.
7. Be patient.
Meeting someone for the first time rarely turns into an immediate "love at first sight". Just like with dating, it takes time to get to know the other person. Be persistent but not annoying. Create your own "drip marketing" approach to have frequent contacts with your network (both online and in person).
8. Use social media.
Think of social media as a "passive networking" approach. Twitter, LinkedIn and online groups are great for keeping the conversation going long after the event. You can connect with anyone on Twitter; LinkedIn is an amazing platform to surface your content to new audience and establish you as thought leader for your existing network.
9. Find a "cheerleader"-
Most founders have a lot of mentors. These mentors will provide you with valuable insights and input on important business issues. But there are times when you just need someone who can help you keep going. As a startup founder, you will go through a rollercoaster of emotions. There will be times when you will be ready to give it all up. Find someone you can trust to get through the tough times.
Your network will not grow overnight. It will take time and effort for you to become "connected". Do not wait for the perfect time - it will never come: start following these rules today.
Start practicing these networking tips, attend one of Founder Institute's free startup events.