Networking as an entrepreneur

I was asked at a recent startup event what I thought about networking.

I am not a fan of the concept of networking. I don’t have a LinkedIn account. I don’t score myself on how many people I know or how big my stack of business cards is. I don’t usually even carry my own cards, and when I do, they have just name and contact info on them, leaving off titles and anything else someone might use to add me to their network trophy case. When I go to an event, I don’t try and talk to as many people as possible, flitting from conversation to conversation, just so I can boost my connection count. I find it obnoxious when people fill their Twitter bio with hashtags like "#entreprenuer and startup #mentor" or focus on "power networking" techniques like follow-back policies.

Networking is useless, because it’s superficial. You may have 1000 business connections, but how many of them will jump to help you out, or even remember who you are?

Having a network is crazy important. Networking is not.

The difference is a network is an authentic thing. It’s the people that you have legitimately connected with that you have talked to and formed a relationship with over time. A network is not "how many business cards I collect at the mixer on Tuesday night." It’s not going to events and meeting as many people as I can. It’s developing deep, meaningful relationships with people without knowing how those relationships are going to turn out. A real network isn’t built by thinking about how the connections are going to benefit you. Building a network means making sure that you are providing more value to the other person that you’re getting from them. It’s constantly giving, constantly being involved, constantly making sure that you are helping them. Eventually something will come up where they’re going to help you, not because you connected with them, but because you have a relationship with them.


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