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Entrepreneurs starting a high-growth high-tech business network somewhat differently from other people — and that was clear at the StartupLA conference.

StartupLA was organized by local entrepreneurs who decided that other entrepreneurs starting high-tech ventures in Los Angeles need a quick overview of key parts of business.

I was pleased to participate in the marketing panel, and later watched the panel on business networking. Those four panelists clearly have their own attitudes and approaches to networking.

For example, Boris Epstein, a recruiter, has over 500 connections in LinkedIn and uses LinkedIn extensively to contact candidates. On the other hand, Joel Ordesky, one of CTOs on the panel, has under 300 contacts and advises people to not seek connections to the “super connectors” in LinkedIn.
Each of the four panelists shared a number of real-word networking tips. Here is a significant tip from each panelist:

Steve Burgess gave the best reason to continually build your network when he said, “I don’t do business with people I don’t know.” This indicates the importance of developing relationships before you expect to do business with someone. For entrepreneurs, it’s especially valuable to nurture relationships with potential investors before asking them to make an investment.

Boris Epstein said, “Being with people ‘up’ the ladder allows you to learn from people who have done more than you have.” Networking with people who are more accomplished in certain areas allows you to have new experiences with someone who can mentor and provide guidance.

Joel Ordesky said, “Tell who you are, not what you want to be.” People who network are usually looking for contacts who can help them make a change, so it’s hard to avoid talking about the new project or venture. This can be tricky for entrepreneurs starting a new business, especially when they are leaving another industry to start their new business.

However, the reason other people network with us is based on who we are now and how we can help them. So, temper your enthusiasm for your upcoming projects and let people know how you can help them today.

Tony Karrer said, “Formulate a question that’s a request for expertise.” An effective way to engage people is to ask for information or assistance. It’s a great conversation starter, and it can form the basis of a relationship.

These real-world networking tips illustrate that successful networking is about creating mutually beneficial relationships built on trust, understanding each other, and a desire to help each other.

We’re all looking for better ways to connect with other people so we can have great experiences.
The options for electronic connections has grown tremendously from the telephone and e-mail to include instant messaging, SMS text messaging on our cell phones, and social networking Web sites like MySpace and Match.com. Let’s not forget about blogs, where comments can be a conversation. And, the newest way to share everything about your life, Twitter.

While most of these services can help grow online relationships, their most valuable uses are to share information and arrange face-to-face encounters with another person or group.

Tony Karrer links to a post by Kathy Sierra (Face-to-Face Trumps Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts, Video…) on attending the SXSW conference that covers online communicating. She said:

Bottom line: Face-to-Face matters, and the more people we meet online, the more people we now want to connect with offline.

She points out that one of the reasons people attend face-to-face events is the emotional energy of being around others who believe as you do. SXSW attendees believe in the power and benefits of online communication and media. And they came together face-to-face to learn from each other and support each other.

Face-to-Face meetings versus online meetings - reasons for each
Another powerful motivation for attending face-to-face events is physical touch. Whether it’s a hardy handshake at business events or a friendly hug or kiss at social events, physical touch is key to great relationships.

By the way, she also listed 10 great ways to get people together face-to-face.

The chart highlights how to choose whether to hold an online event or a face-to-face event. If it’s only for information sharing, especially among people who already know each other, hold the meeting online. However, if the attendees need to build relationships and become motivated, face-to-face is still the best way to meet.

So, when you’re deciding whether to have an online meeting or a face-to-face meeting, consider whether the relationships everyone will form are more valuable than everyone’s cost of traveling to the meeting.

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