Luke Babich May 17th, 2024

9 Ways to Build Meaningful Connections for Business Growth

Growing your business is often synonymous with growing your network. After all, your business is often only as good as your vendors, suppliers, employees, collaborators, and, of course, your customers. Building communities is the best way to catalyze innovation and connect people, exponentially increasing their potential. 

With uncertain signals in the 2024 economic outlook, this focus is more vital than ever. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to build meaningful connections to help your business thrive.

Don’t Let It Take Over Your Time

One of the most common mistakes business owners make when it comes to networking is going overboard. If you live in one of the best startup cities in America, there’s a near-endless supply of networking opportunities, from conferences and summits to casual social engagements where you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with leaders in your field.

However, these opportunities can easily become a distraction. Networking is valuable and necessary, but it can’t take time and energy away from your business's core functions. 

Experts suggest allocating a specific amount of time to networking; this could be per day, per week, or only on designated days or at designated times of the day. This often has a double benefit. First, setting aside specific time to network instead of only doing it when the urge strikes can often result in you actually networking more on a weekly or monthly basis than before. Second, it preserves the rest of your time for other work.

Know What You Want

Just like you should decide exactly when to network (and when you shouldn’t), you should also have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it.

Small business owners can have many different networking goals, such as raising brand awareness, looking for partners to help expand, pivoting into a slightly different area of expertise, or even recruitment. Defining these goals for yourself ahead of time will help you stay focused and on message. 

Don’t Focus Too Narrowly

It’s natural to feel in sync with business owners and entrepreneurs like yourself; you understand their journey and the obstacles they face. But make sure you network far and wide, ranging well beyond your specific role and industry. The most valuable insights and relationships are often the result of differing perspectives coming together. 

Beyond that, networking with professionals outside your immediate sphere will give you a richer perspective on your industry, often leading to valuable insights.

Let People Do Favors for You

Many people think of demonstrating value as a one-way street and that the best (and perhaps only) way to do so is to do things for other people. But this is a very limited view of human nature. While it might sound counterintuitive, asking someone for a favor can be one of the best ways to cement your relationship.

Most people like to do favors for others, sometimes even more than they enjoy receiving them. Doing things for coworkers or bosses allows them to demonstrate positive qualities like generosity, altruism, and competence. 

Don’t Be a Taker

Still, don’t immediately start asking for favors and referrals when you forge a new contact. At the start of the relationship, share your knowledge and contacts first to make it clear you’re not just a selfish opportunist. More often than not, this kind of upfront generosity is eventually returned many times over. 

Don’t Just Look Up

One of the most common goals for small business owners is to find mentors who can help them take their brand to the next level. But that shouldn’t be your sole focus. 

Network in every direction. That means reaching out not just to powerful mentors further along their business journey but also interacting regularly with more junior colleagues who are just starting out. This is a great way to build out organic networks and uncover valuable hidden talents that can benefit the community. Plus, it’s not uncommon for high-performing younger employees to quickly reach the upper echelons of the company or industry. Who knows what that cup of coffee with a junior coworker might lead to someday?

Make Introductions and Connections

Don’t just think about who you can connect with. If you have two contacts who clearly share a vision but don’t know each other yet, introduce them. Building relationships between your contacts is a great way to build goodwill, multiply your influence, and cultivate the network around you. 

Be Genuine

Don’t be too transactional about your networking; approach it like any other substantial human relationship. Don’t restrict your conversation to business. Talk about your personal lives, shared hobbies, or anything else that might come up. 

And remember that you shouldn’t make networking all about yourself. If you think back to horrible bosses and coworkers you’ve had in the past, they probably bored you with relentless monologues about themselves. The more you can make the conversation about the other person and solicit their opinions and feelings, the more fruitful your networking will be. 

Cultivate and Always Follow Up

Networking isn’t about making easy money fast; it’s about forging long-term relationships. Check in with new networking contacts soon after you make that initial contact. Remind them how you met, and continue the conversation. This will firm up your connection and leave them with a positive association. 

If you said you’d give them materials or a referral, make sure you follow through. This doesn’t have to be a face-to-face meeting or even a phone call; a social media message or post can be very effective, too. Even more importantly, this has to be a consistent effort. Reach out to your contacts regularly, or your network will wither.

Featured Image by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Luke Babich

Luke Babich is the Co-Founder of Clever Real Estate, a real estate education platform committed to helping home buyers, sellers and investors make smarter financial decisions. Luke is a licensed real estate agent in the State of Missouri and his research and insights have been featured on BiggerPockets, Inman, the LA Times, and more. Education: B.A. with Honors, Political Science — Stanford University

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