Posted on: November 17, 2023
I’ve run a public relations agency for more than three decades, so entrepreneurship runs in my blood. It’s honestly difficult to fathom life before, when I worked a traditional job and reported to a boss. Honestly, I was not cut out to be an employee. I was born to run my own business.
These days, headlines like “How to be an entrepreneur” are a dime a dozen. It seems like everyone has secret tips and pieces of advice for those looking to be entrepreneurial, even if it means thinking outside the box and excelling at a 9-to-5 job. While there is no silver bullet, one thing is clear: Entrepreneurs take pride in building a strong network, which leads to a strong personal brand.
Without networking, it is virtually impossible to be a successful entrepreneur or to find success in business more generally. A strong network—and the strong brand that it creates—is like a magnet, attracting the “right” people to your orbit and leaving out the “wrong” ones.
Humans Are Social Beings
How do you network? Invite people to coffee. Grab a drink after work. Connect with people on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, by leveraging blog posts, comments and direct messages. Leave your business card at happy hours and other social gatherings. Attend events with people who have similar hobbies and interests, even outside of work. Write handwritten notes to people you meet along the way. The list goes on.
Whatever your networking tactic of choice, you can never lose sight of its broader importance. We are social beings, and connecting with people on a human level is associated with numerous health benefits. It is a boost to mind, body and spirit.
Networking Leads To Growth
The bonds formed via networking can add tangible value in the present and the future. In my world, networking directly leads to client referrals, new prospects and more money. By servicing clients properly, it is common for them to recommend my agency to people in their networks, and business naturally grows that way. By leveraging such referrals, making new connections and eventually getting people to know, like and trust me, business begins to boom. One contact leads to another and another.
Public relations, like many other industries, is really just a people business. You can’t grow your business if you don’t get people to know, like and trust you. You can’t just lurk in the shadows, or you just end up losing out on potential business opportunities. Networking opens you up to those opportunities, whether it is today, six months from now or even later than that.
By investing time and effort into networking, your social skills become part of your personal brand. People begin to value your people skills, in addition to the hard products and services that you can deliver as an entrepreneur or an employee. When your brand becomes “networker” or “connector,” people naturally gravitate toward you because they want to be in on the action. Fostering valuable relationships—personally or professionally—is fun, after all, because we are such social animals. Human beings are hard-wired to create meaningful connections, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic put networking on pause in certain ways.
I network because it’s fun too. While many of my current clients came about through various forms of networking, increasing business revenue and keeping my employees happy, it is also enjoyable to meet new people and share common experiences. Fun brings more fun.
It Leads To Unexpected Opportunities
You also begin to expect the unexpected. A potential client could actually become a close friend. A new prospect could turn out to be a new business partner. Who knows, what began with networking could even lead to dating, or something more. The point is that you never truly know where networking will take you, and that’s the beauty of it. You appreciate riding the roller coaster of life.
At the same time, networking with others gives you a sense of the people who aren’t very beneficial to you. You realize who you can actually know, like and trust yourself, and let’s face it, there are plenty of people who aren’t trustworthy. Networking brings valuable life experience, which can be applied to a wide range of pursuits. Knowing what not to do, based on people who don’t handle themselves well around you, is valuable in its own right.
‘Your Network Is Your Net Worth’
So, whether you want to be an entrepreneur or just excel as an employee, my No. 1 recommendation is to network, network and network some more. Your network truly is your net worth—it’s not just a cliché. I make money because I network, just like I make new friends and acquaintances. And that makes life worth it in the end, beyond business.
I would not be successful without networking, and I have not met a single successful person who doesn’t network at least a tiny bit. Don’t hide; share yourself with the world, so people can know, like and trust you too.
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in October 2023.