Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs

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

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