Networking? Pretty sure you are doing it in a remarkably wrong way
So, I came across this yesterday evening when I was out on a walk with my pup. I just did not know how to answer. There were some ways to answer the exact question. There were two major players in this exact space — CofoundersLab and FounderDating. Now, there is just one. Well, more or less.
CoFoundersLab gobbles up FounderDating because 1+1=3
Got a bright idea for a company, but need a co-founder? You're about to start walking down a really complicated path…
But in my opinion, The FD thing treats a symptom, it doesn’t solve the real underlying problem. The problem that all entrepreneurs and corporates alike face all the time. The problem of an exceptionally talented resource.
How is that possible?
As entrepreneurs, we have always believed in being surrounded by remarkable minds — preferably much smarter than ourselves. So how is it that when it comes to finding a great resource (whether a co-founder or a key hire), we always seem to struggle?
Do you take good care of your health? Do you exercise on a regular basis? Take care of your heart, body metabolism, eyes, body posture?
You do? As much as you would want to? No, right?
The problem, unfortunately, is the same for both these scenarios. We start making efforts to solve these challenges when the problem is already staring us in our faces. And once we have averted the disaster — mostly with outside professional help (a headhunter or a doctor in these respective scenarios) — we are back to our old methods. And that is where the problem is.
We go to entrepreneurial outings, meetups, networking events. It is always with an intent. We become a part of an online discussion forum. Intent. The intent is always there. To explore that tiny possibility that these activities — in some way — would bring value to our businesses.
Exploring ways to drive back value to our businesses has become the prima facie of networking as we know it today.
It is wrong and often does not drive back the results that we were hoping out of it. Yet, we had invested quite a lot of time, effort and energy in it, and if you calculated RoI, you would be disappointed.
So. Just stop. Stop with this misplaced notion of networking, and let’s start doing it the right way. There are two rules when it comes to networking.
First rule of networking is providing a connect for two people with aligning interests — without any expectations or kickbacks.
That’s it. It is as simple as that. You know of a toys manufacturer. You know of a retailer that focuses on expecting mothers, and is looking to expand in near future. Surely you can see how these two are made for each other. Just introduce them to each other over a mail and walk away. That is the true essence of networking. You end up forging long term relationships this way. You end up being recognised as a friend, as a go to guy, as a person they can trust.
And believe it or not, Karma does exist. When you do people good, it will come back to you in one way or another. But, let us consider the scenario where it doesn’t. So? How did this hurt you in any way? All you did was send out a mail. It hardly took any time on your part, definitely not any energy or effort. You just took a small, trivial second from your life, but its impact on the lives of the two people you connected could be monumental. So stop being selfish and always connect two people when you see a definite synergy.
I’ll give you a recent example. I am an entrepreneur. Looking to raise funds. I met a VC and found out that they are interested in Fintech. I immediately asked them if they would like me to connect them to some good guys who I know are operating in the space. I just connected the two of them. And no, there is no finder’s fee involved. Why? Why not?
Any person I meet. Whether it is an entrepreneur or a VC or your average joe — I always end up asking them two questions.
What are your biggest challenges right now?
How can I help you solve those challenges?
If I think I can be of any assistance, I try to do just that. If not, I try connecting to someone who can be of more help. It doesn’t hurt asking them if they need help, so I make it a point to do exactly that.
The second rule of networking. Always meet good guys. Developers, business ops, marketing experts, other entrepreneurs. And just meet. With no agenda. And have a good time.
We tend to meet developers when we need developers, marketing guys when marketing is biting us in our asses. Don’t do that. Keep on meeting people over beer/coffee or any beverage of your choice.
20% of my traveling expenses every month can be traced back to Uber billings to and from such meetings
Your employee or friend is telling you stories about this guy who is amazing at graphic designing. Great. Meet him. Why? Just because he is a great guy. Not because you were thinking of hiring a graphic designer. Always keep on asking your employees if there is any friend of theirs who they would recommend — for any role. Stay in touch with such people whether you have an immediate requirement or not. This is your talent pool. The day you may need to ask one of them to join you, you already know them, they already know of what you do and why. The decision making process will be faster, a more concrete one, and the chances of it falling on its ass will be reduced significantly. Remember, as a CEO you are always on a lookout for potential hires. It matters little whether the company is actually looking to hire or not.
So go ahead and network. But do just that. Network. Don’t treat networking as a sales funnel. That’s borderline insulting, if you ask me.