One thing that you hear early and often when you are trying to build a business or a career in industry is to network. I’ve learned in the short time I have been doing this that I suck at networking. I get very awkward when I go to an event or when I am in a situation specifically for that purpose.
Fortunately for me, I have come to learn that there is no such thing as good or bad networking the only requirement is that you fully show up at the table. Fully showing up means that you have honest conversations with the people you are interacting with. Conversations with no artifice that aren’t manipulated specifically to meet your own needs.
Here are the rules that I have come up with to make networking more comfortable for me:
- Be as you are: I used to think that networking was like a job interview i.e. you are trying to sell yourself as the best person for the job. The truth is you just need to show up and be who you already are.
- Be honest about your successes: People like to surround themselves with successful people, so if you have been successful at something don’t be afraid to talk about it. Just make sure that it suits the context of the conversations that are going on.
- Be honest about your problems: You never know if the person you are talking to has experience in the domain that might be a solution to your problems, so be honest about them. Again don’t forget to consider the context.
To illustrate, I spent an evening with my cousin and her friend who happens to work for a media company. We started talking about some of the challenges (be honest about your problems) that I’ve been having along the way (you will be hearing about those soon) and it turned out that his experience might be just what I need to get me through the little patch of confusion that I have hit recently.
One last note, a lot of entrepreneurs are afraid to share their ideas because they believe that the person listening might execute on them. It is a valid fear, but at the risk of sounding naïve I will point out that no one has the ability to execute your idea exactly how you will. So except you know that the person you are conversing with is already executing in your domain, set the fear aside and engage. You never know what will come of it.
Welcome to A Day in the Life…. This is a feature that gives a peek at what goes on behind the scenes here and at my other business. I want to show how I practice what I preach, and to share some pieces of advice that I learn from other aspiring and successful entrepreneurs.
The first post is inspired by a blog post that I read at Design Love Fest’s blog. It was a Q/A on how to invest in yourr business.
Today I’m going to share how I invest in my business.
I believe it is essential to have a great designer you can call on when you do the initial design for your business and when you want to make changes that can impact the design of your website, product packaging, or any other touch point. It is icing on the cake to find a designer who understands how design plays a role in business strategy. Cultivating a relationship that benefits both the design and strategy of your business requires the following:
- An understanding that whatever is shared in the relationship is confidential. This applies to both parties as you want confidence that your business discussions will not leak to the competition. Establish this early and often
- Once you are sure that you can trust your designer (note: don’t work with someone you can’t trust in this respect), be open about the intentions you have for the designs you are asking for and be open to the feedback the designer has. While they work on making things beautiful, they can also help you make things functional to what you are trying to achieve
While I have a degree right now, I never stop learning. I’m currently getting an MBA part time while I work on my businesses and my full time job. A lot of what I learn in school from both professors and peers inform the work I do at my day job and on my businesses. Here are some tips to pick a program that works for you if that is something that might be of interest to you:
- Choose a program that aligns with your learning objectives. To do this you have to be brutally honest about what you currently know and what you need to learn
- Find a program that works for your circumstances. For instance if you are working full-time and have to deal with a lot of traffic to get to and from work like most of us do, a part-time program with a heavy online component is a great option to get you what you need
This might sound exactly like learn, but there is a contextual difference. With this it’s about learning and networking with people in your industry and outside of it. I am always looking for new formal and informal training opportunities. If you pick the right one, you could get to meet and learn from thought leaders in your industry and find people like you who are not necessarily competing for the same customers that you can learn from. Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Focus on learning and not the certificate. What you learn will be more valuable than the paper you are handed at the end. To do this, look at what the program advertises and ensure that the learning objectives are closely aligned with yours
- Bottom line make sure you will be getting value for your money
Invest in Key Resources
As described in the business model canvas key resources are those that are needed to deliver on your value proposition. Without these key resources, keeping your VP promise will be very difficult. Don’t create a canvas and put it in the cupboard use the key resources as a shopping list for what you need to have to keep the promise you have made to customers.
That’s all for today, tune in next week for more “A Day in the Life…”