I recently read a blog post about a small start up that failed. They were about to enter an incubator program when almost all of the founders quit. There were four partners total. Once three out of the four quit, the incubator company decided not to invest in the start up. A lesson learned from this event was that networking is crucial for start up founders.
The author did admit that personal networking is uncomfortable. It is also hard to justify, since there is usually no immediate benefit from the work. Not all members of a company must do it. But if you are starting up a small company, then it is essential for you. Networking is a skill. You must work on improving your skill at it. Not everybody has this talent naturally.
I can relate somewhat to this story. The latest company I joined is primarily a management consulting company. One of the top priorities of the company is personal networking. This is required for landing new business for the company. However it is also how things are accomplished internally within the company as well.
We were instructed about the importance of networking at one of the first company classes you are required to take. Our instructor sent us out in the halls of the training facility, and told us to get out there and meet people. I found it a little difficult as I had no business cards. However that should not stop the progress of networking. I ended up scribbling my name and phone number on small pieces of paper. Hey. I had a good excuse. I was a new guy.
Now I am finding that although the most intimidating part of networking is making that initial connection, it is also tough work to follow up. It is easy to tell somebody that you should do lunch some time. It is more difficult to follow through when everybody has a tight schedule. I was impressed with one of my classmates in the new hire class. After class she immediately called upon people she had met in her class to help her with her latest project. I was impressed enough that I signed up to help her myself.
I suspect this skill may help me a little at my new job. It will be more useful in my ISV though.
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