9 Tips Every Startup Founder Should Know About Entrepreneurial Networks

Cao Hữu Tín

Entrepreneurial networks are a great way to build meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals, as well as keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. 

But how do you get the most out of them? Check out these tips on coworking spaces, incubators, accelerators, and other entrepreneurial networks that help you grow your business.

Understanding Your Mission

Asking yourself what your company’s mission is in the market is the first step before finding entrepreneurial networks. Your mission helps you know what kind of network is suitable for your venture.

Let’s take a restauranter or hospitality entrepreneur as an example. They might choose to get involved in one (or more) of the following networks:

  • Chamber of Commerce, creating a local or community business network.
  • Referral or industry-specific groups, creating a more business-focused network.
  • Professional associations, forming an entrepreneur-minded network ranging from coaches to experts and other folks in the startup experience.

Again, ask yourself what you need the most, and then pick the right network to join. An entrepreneurial network is just like Google Maps. It only shows the route if you already have the destination in mind.

Building a Strategy

The wisest way to outline a strategy is by asking people you consider connected how they form their networks and relationships. You can start with your ex-boss, family members, social media connections, and even friends to join informal networks. 

Throughout your career, you might switch professional networks or even industries. The key thing is that you focus on the main parts of your business and spend time contacting specialists in those parts. 

The famous economist Michael Porter once said:

“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”

You should do everything step by step and do not need to hurriedly attend 20 events a week just for advice. Wise people might be slow at first, but nobody can catch up with them once they speed up.

Being Patient

Patience is the key to success because you need time to build an entrepreneurial network with trust and commitment. The business world is not a fairy tale in which everything is fast. 

You should be patient with two things: people and advice. Not everyone you meet at work can give you useful ideas, so you move on and change to others until you find suitable connections. You should analyze their ideas and decide which one is useful for your business.

Vague Goals Are Not Your Friends

Abstract plans won’t help you go because you do not know what to do next. Remember to divide them into detailed tasks and fill them with your passion. A specific list of items helps you reach your networking goals faster and better. 

Your goals should be:

  • Measurable- How can this goal be measured?
  • Attainable- Do you have the necessary resources on hand to complete the task?
  • Trackable- Do you have a timeframe in mind for the goal?

Imagine if a friend calls you to pick them up, but they don’t tell you the address. You need detailed information and a daily schedule to implement all plans, which helps you get a clearer vision.

Your Customers Are Members of the Network

Besides incubators and accelerators, your customers are vital connections in the network. They give invaluable information through their reactions and feedback, so you know how to improve your products or services. 

If you get any advice from them, you are fortunate because they love you. Bill Gates once said:

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” 

Information from customers is constructive and direct because they let you know what you are doing well or bad. They might also recommend you to other business partners if you build a tight connection with them.

Being Active

Being active doesn’t mean that you attend all events in your area, but you will always feel eager to learn new things. You should be open-minded with all viewpoints because the best idea usually comes unexpectedly.

Having a coworking space is an option to connect with many people. Just being in a coworking space can lead to valuable tools and insights–sit back and take notes as you hear startups work through issues you may encounter in the future.

You must be ready to expand your networks because opportunities sometimes knock on your door softly.

Asking, Asking, and Asking

Your plans might not be on the rails as a startup, so don’t be shy about approaching people in your networks for help. You should not stop asking professionals until you reach the most effective solution.

Especially when you have excellent incubators and accelerators, their experience is priceless. More importantly, don’t forget skilled employees in your team who might give you creative ideas.

All those people are also connections to other business contacts, helping expand your current network.

Being Flexible With Your Network

When a plan does not go well, change it. 

There are many options in your network, and sometimes adaptation helps you discover new ideas. In some cases, effective solutions come from your competent employees or informed customers. 

Bruce Lee once talked about adaptation: 

“Be formless, shapeless, like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

Giving to Receive

A network is strong only if all members are eager to share and connect. Nobody wants to be with selfish people, so you should guarantee a win-win situation in all circumstances. By advising other people, you also learn new lessons from their experience. 

There are tremendous benefits of having an entrepreneurial network, and you sometimes need help to broaden your connections with worldly people in your industry. In summary, you should know your missions, build a strategy, and be active with connections in your network. 

Aspire360 is always eager to assist you in building up and expanding your network, and the door to the business world is always open for enthusiastic founders.

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