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Habits to Live By – Growing your Network

Starting up – tips and tricks for beginning your own company

Habits to Live By – Growing your Network
Eva-Maria Dimitriadis, Chief Operating Officer, C5 Accelerate

Building a company is an exciting time, especially as you gather the people that will help you make your idea a reality. As well as employees and internal staff, there’s great value in having a trusted team of external advisors to guide you on your journey. This blog post will look at putting together an external advisory board and how you can get the most value from them.

Eva-Maria Dimitriadis

1. Carry business cards
It sounds obvious, but some people don’t carry business cards. Even if you are in between jobs or your company is barely formed, this is a no brainer. Opt for a decent stock thickness and make sure all your contact information is on one side (more on that later). Use a san-serif font and ensure the text is large enough.

2. Pick the right events
It is easy to become inundated with invitations to conferences and meetings. When you’re trying to run your own business and build your network at the same time, you must find the right balance. You can’t say yes to everything but do consider your decision carefully; sometimes it’s the least likely meetings that result in the biggest wins. Importantly, don’t keep important contacts or potential investors waiting for an answer.

3. Take a wing man
If it’s appropriate to do so, take a colleague with you to big events. When you don’t know people, your wing man should play the role of introducing you and getting a conversation started.

4. Know your intention and be prepared
For conferences and events, try to define what you want to get out of the event. If you can, ask the meeting organiser for the list of attendees and if you see someone you’d like to meet and ask for an introduction in advance. Bring marketing materials if you have them, but don’t do a hard sell. For meetings, always send an agenda in advance. It just shows that you are respectful of another person’s time and ensures everyone is on the same page. Approach everything with your best foot forward.

5. Follow up
After a conference or event, dedicate a few minutes the next morning to go through the business cards and follow up. If you use LinkedIn, now’s a good time to make that connection. Strike while the iron is hot. You can also use an app like CamCard to read the details from someone’s business card and automatically populate into your contacts. This is why its good to have all the information on one side.

6. Respect personal data
If your business relies on high volumes of customer data, you may want to invest in a secure CRM system. From Salesforce to Insightly to HubSpot the options are endless. Only capture the data that you need and ensure you have consent on how to store it and use it. If you are handling personal data of European individuals, then make sure you are GDPR compliant and have a clear privacy policy published on your website.

7. Face time is better than air time
If it is important, meet in person. You can pick up on so many cues when you meet face to face rather than talking on the phone. It doesn’t have to be a long meeting, but it is a far more effective use of time to build a new relationship. My uncle used to make a habit of having lunch with a new member of his network once a week. It’s amazing what breaking bread can do.

For more information on C5 Accelerates curriculum for mentoring and advising start-ups, please visit https://www.c5accelerate.com/

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