Networking is an important part of starting and growing your business. Developing relationships with customers, partners, employees and investors are all essential parts of your business. However, just like any meeting you want to have a reason and purpose for meeting. That's what Scott and I discuss in this week's episode.
Robert: In this Stretch Goals quick hit, Scott and I are going to be talking about networking with a purpose.
Scott: This is the Stretch Goals podcast where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host, Scott Davis.
Robert : I’m Robert Dickerson. I read this article. There’s actually been a couple articles that have come out. This one was in Venturebeat, and it was talking about venture capital and startups, that they need to stop networking so much. The gist of the article was that … You may have had this happen, is that two people see that they’re working in the same space. They’re working on the same things. Hey, Scott, you want to go grab coffee? Sure, Rob, let’s go grab coffee. We go sit down, we talk. We’re working the same areas. Then, nothing happens out of it. Right? We just spent an hour having lunch, having coffee and nothing comes out of it.
I’ve been doing a lot of networking recently, so I thought this was kind of an interesting article. I mean, I think the one area that it misses the point is that you need to have a purpose when you’re networking. You need to have an outcome that you’re trying to achieve. You don’t want to just start meeting with anyone and everyone, because there’s just not enough time in the day to do that. You’re wasting their time, and you’re wasting your time. I guess the point of this is that you don’t need to have an agenda when you’re going into these conversations. It’s about figuring out how this conversation will benefit both of you.
Scott: Yeah. I have seen it firsthand myself many times. People just want to me to feel important. You know?
Robert : Yeah.
Scott: There’s one thing I hate is meetings for meetings sake. Usually if somebody’s like, “Hey, we have this contact in common. You want to meet for lunch one day?” I usually try to ascertain what it is that they want. Is this for a potential job that you’ve got that you need some software developed, or what is it? Are you just looking to chat? If you’re just looking to chat, I don’t have time. I’m sorry, but that’s how I look at it. Years ago I used to say yes to all these types of things, and I wasted a lot of time, which is basically what this article is saying and what you’re saying as well. You’re right. People are wasting a lot of time just networking to network.
I think there’s probably the Facebook generation where having more friends that you can call upon is beneficial. Look, I don’t want to say that meeting with people just have them in your network is a bad thing. It’s absolutely not, but when you’re busy, and you’re trying to build a business, the last thing you have is more time. Right? It’s just goes away. For me, I just don’t accept those opportunities unless there’s a really good fit and a reason why.
Robert : Yeah, I think you can say no. Right?
Robert : You can figure out if there’s … I mean, the one area that I’ve been doing is like you connect on LinkedIn. You connect on Twitter if maybe you’re both working in the same space, but there’s not a direct interest for you guys to meet. You can still keep up with people. You can still figure out what they’re doing, what they’re working on. If something does come up in the future, you have that connection there, but you’re not spending a whole lot of time trying to develop a relationship around it.
Scott: Yeah, I think you do. I do still get phone calls from people that I met up with in the past, but it’s something that takes sometimes years to hear from people. I just heard from somebody two weeks ago, like, “Hey, remember me? You met me at this startup thing. What are you doing? You want to partner on something?” It took seven, eight years to come through. The seed was planted. There was a relationship there and it grew. That’s good. Right? That was a successful social networking opportunity. Again, for every time that I’ve done that, you maybe get a 10% take rate on it. When you get your business to a certain level, you don’t need every single one of those. You need to be more strategic about your time.
Robert : Yeah. It’s not an immediate thing that comes about. That’s why I think it’s so important to makes connections with people because it’s not an immediate return. Right? It’s going to be something over time that eventually you might find an opportunity to work together, or they’re going to remember Scott has developed IOS apps. I need an app right now, where maybe they didn’t a couple years ago. It’s still important to make those connections. It’s probably one of the best ways to grow your business, but if you don’t have purpose when you’re networking, other people don’t have time either. Especially if you’re trying to network with people that own companies themselves that are other entrepreneurs. People in general just … There’s just not enough time in the day to have coffee and lunch with everyone. Even when you reach out to people, you need to have a purpose. Not just, “Let’s meet for coffee.” Right? It’s like, “Let’s discuss this opportunity,” or “Let’s see if there’s ways that we can work together.” You can develop that relationship going from there.
Scott: Yeah. I guess I’m getting older and probably less personable. Maybe I should have AI do this for me. See our previous episode. When I go the meeting, the first 10, 15 minutes are all so like, “How’s your weekend? What are you doing?” To me, I enjoy connecting with people, but if you’re taking my time away from me writing code or building a product, just cut to the chase. Let’s get there to talk about what we’re there to talk about. Again, I feel bad saying that, but there’s so many interruptions during the course of the day. The last thing I need is another one. Let’s keep it brief. Let’s talk about how we can help each other out and enjoy our lunch, and then we can chit-chat once we’ve gotten down to business about the rest of it. Don’t wast my time. Let’s do what we’re there to achieve.
Robert : I mean, I’ve been breaking down my calls. Instead of doing a half-hour or hour-long call, I’ve been breaking things down into 15-minute increments. I’ll set a 15-minute call, and I just had one yesterday. It was awesome because there was no fluff. We just go right into the questions, and it was great. 15 minutes were up, say, “Okay, both of us have talked and had our questions answered. Let’s go on about our day.”
Scott: Yeah. It’s tough because we talk about networking with people in previous episodes. You want to do it, you do. Again, let’s say you don’t need any new business right now, or you don’t need customers. You got to weigh it. You got to say, is potentially connecting with this person going to be beneficial? It doesn’t always have to be beneficial. Maybe you actually, legitimately want to get to know somebody. That’s fine, but you also have to understand that there are implications there. It’s time away from work, it’s time away from family, or whatever the case may be. Just make sure that it aligns with your goals. Make sure that you are getting out of it what you need to get out of it, and not just being beneficial for the other party who wants to meet with you.
Robert : For me, one of the challenges that I found is sometimes I’m interested in learning about a particular space that someone has an interest in. It’s hard to figure out what the benefit for that other person is going to be by meeting with me. Right? Really I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to figure out how my product can work in that space. Are there opportunities to collaborate? Whereas if I’m talking to you, and you’re in that space, you’re asking me, “Why am I meeting with you? What value are you going to bring to me that meeting makes sense?”
Scott: Sure. That makes me re-think that I said because it sounds a bit harsh.
Robert : No, but that’s the reality. Right?
Robert : I mean, that’s the reality of the world we live in. People don’t have time, so they’re interested in kind of … I’ve seen that myself. I mean, I get approached by people as well. You got to balance that.
Scott: Everybody enjoys helping somebody if they feel like they can provide benefit to them. As long as they’re not having a bad day, or they’re just in a really bad busy period, they’re willing and they enjoy it. They enjoy helping you with information about, “Hey, here’s how you can get into this industry.” Right? That’s there, but again, it all comes down to timing. You could pick a bad time to meet with somebody. You don’t know that it’s a bad time for them. It could be a bad time, and your experience will be different.
To answer your question, how do you provide benefit? I mean, really if you set the premise of wanting to meet with somebody by say, “Hey, I’m new in this industry, and I’d really like to pick your brain about some of the topics because I trust your expertise.” You’ve set the expectation that they’re going there to help you. Then, their mindset’s going to be different. First, if you just say, “Hey, you want to meet for lunch?” You’re like, “What is this about?” Then, you get there, you’re like, “This guy just wants to sell me something.” You know what I mean? Just set the expectation because then both parties know exactly what it is. Worse case I can say, “No. I’ve got a lot going on this week. It’s a bad week. Hey, next week, I don’t have much going on. I’d love to to help you.” I think that experience, again, it’s about setting the expectation of what the conversation’s going to be about. I think that it will work a lot better.
Robert : The other area I just want to touch on real quick too is following up with people, especially if you’re networking at an event in person. I’ve heard people call it a lot of times the drunk talk, when you’re meeting with people. You’re not necessarily drunk, but you’re just like … There’s a lot of buzz in the air, that people are excited. You’re talking about things. The next day, nothing happens. Right? You had all these great conversations the night before. Nothing happens. You got to follow up. You got to follow up and continue to follow up because people are busy. Try to keep that momentum going after the initial conversation. Don’t let it die, because there is a lot of interest maybe in the room, and then it just dies. You can really tell whether something is going to come out of it if you continue to follow up, and there’s continued interest there, and it wasn’t just a bunch of talk.
Scott: Yeah. I think a lot times it is a lot of talk when you’re at those social networking events. You find somebody who’s got a similar interest. The conversation goes great, and you walk out thinking, “Oh, man. This might be something.” Then again, you never see them, never hear from them. The next time you see them downtown, you give them a little head nod like, “Hey, I know you.” That’s it. For some people that’s all they want. You’re right. You follow up with them. Ascertain if it’s really about opportunity if you want to invest more time. Leverage AI to write follow-up emails for you.
Robert : I need to do that. Just to wrap this up. Instead of stop networking so much, figure out the right times to network, who to network with. Make sure you set the expectations when you’re going to meet with someone. That you’re both getting something out of it. It’s okay to say no, and follow up after you meet with people. Don’t make that time that you spent networking a waste of time. Follow up and see what other opportunities are out there.
Scott: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over to StretchGoals.fm.
Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.
Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.