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10 Ways To Build Stronger Networks In Work And Life

10 Ways To Build Stronger Networks In Work And Life

New business opportunities don’t just fall from thin air and happen with no effort involved. You can rely on luck and happenstance to bring you in new leads and open fresh business directions, but this probably isn’t the most reliable way to go. The same goes for life decisions and socialization, you can’t just wait for things to fall into your lap. A lot of people might argue that you can’t just come up to people and talk to them, since that can be considered rude and pushy. Well, nothing will happen if you don’t take a chance, right?

By nature, I’m not a very sociable person and I’m a bit, what do you call it, “socially awkward”, but I have learned through the years that you need to break your comfort zone once in a while, especially when you want something to change. Opportunities and progress lie outside your comfort zone and you should take this as a given.

1. Elevator small talk

Small talk in elevator

    Don’t let the name confuse you. This technique isn’t necessarily related to conversations taking place within an elevator. It is true that it got its name from situations in which you get new networking opportunities with people while riding in an elevator and you have only those two floors to present yourself and what you do to somebody and make a connection. This can be applied to networking opportunities in general. Remain confident, introduce yourself and your company, and reveal what geographical area you cover and what your specialty is. Don’t take too long, speak with confidence and give the other side a chance to talk. These are the basics but there’s a lot more to it.

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    2. Originality

    If you want to get business opportunities, you will need to offer something that nobody (or almost nobody) else in your niche offers. If you are just a part of the crowd, nobody will notice you and chances for networking will be scarcer.

    3. Don’t be a stranger

    Meeting in public

      Remember to follow up on referrals and check up on previous acquaintances and connections. Regular contact makes your connections stronger and it is a good idea to connect with people outside of the business context and develop a level of familiarity and intimacy with those around you. A good network is an active one.

      4. A mutual friend

      You can always find new connections through old ones. In all honesty, people are much more likely to trust somebody who they met through a previous acquaintance than a random stranger. If you lack this specific type of connection, ask people if they know somebody who can help you out. Chances are they do!

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      5. Targeting

      Dart hitting bulls eye

        Mutual benefit is always a good thing when it comes to bringing two sides together. Find people who fit your business or social profile, people with whom you can connect.Try to focus your networking efforts on the right people – use your people skills to get close and spark up a conversation, but don’t waste a lot of time on people you don’t really want be acquainted with.

        6. Concrete focus

        Don’t talk peoples’ ears off with irrelevant information. Try to find a common ground and keep your conversation partner engaged and interested. Talking for ages about long-term plans and ambitions holds no value for potential business partners… concrete suggestions do.

        7. Planning

        Connections are not Pokémon, you don’t need them all. Make a plan of connections you need and work towards achieving it. Don’t disregard those that don’t seem useful at the moment but focus on getting the ones that you need most.

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        8. Reliability

        Olympic torch

          Reputation is crucial when developing a steady network and you need to live up to your reputation always. People with shifty track records do not go far in developing new connections because everyone does a background check before engaging with new business partner.

          9. Diversity

          Don’t be too narrow when making connections. Some of them might not be useful at first glance but they might come in handy when some of your other connections need them. A good network is solidified when all members have benefits from being a part of it.

          10. Social networks

          Keep up with the times and use the Web to reach people of interest. There are more than a few social networks intended for business, the best choices for professionals being LinkedIn and Google+. Don’t just post on Facebook and leave a few comments – try to connect with those influential in your industry and improve your knowledge at the same time. It’s important to note that a increasing your online presence will increase potential safety risks, so it would be a good idea to protect your information by using a VPN or Virtual Private Server, which helps encrypt your online activity. Keep in mind that information leaks are a big stain on anyone’s business career.

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          I hope this can help you develop a steady and useful network which will benefit everyone involved. Networking might take time and effort but, in the long run, it pays off and can resolve potentially difficult situations.

          Featured photo credit: Sony Pictures via sonypictures.com

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          Ivan Dimitrijevic

          Ivan is the CEO and founder of a digital marketing company. He has years of experiences in team management, entrepreneurship and productivity.

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          Last Updated on May 28, 2020

          How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

          How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

          Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

          To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

          1. Digital Savviness

          As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

          Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

          Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

          For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

          How to Develop This Skill

          For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

          From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

          Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

          2. Financial Forecasting

          Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

          Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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          However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

          Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

          3. Video Production Skills

          The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

          If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

          In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

          • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
          • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
          • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

          4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

          As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

          Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

          Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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          5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

          Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

          Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

          For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

          Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

          6. Honing Pitches to Investors

          Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

          The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

          You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

          Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

          7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

          In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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          Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

          8. Automating to Your Advantage

          The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

          Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

          9. Managing Millennials

          Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

          In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

          Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

          A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

          Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

          Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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          Offer Constructive Feedback

          Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

          Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

          10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

          Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

          By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

          Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

          How to Develop This Skill

          Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

          As the African proverb goes:

          “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

          Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

          More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

          Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

          Reference

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