It’s Not What You Know

One of the benefits that we provide Catalyst companies with is the ability to ‘access a network of like-minded entrepreneurial spirits’. This is a critical element to the programme because we know that, in business, expanding your network can mean all the difference between creating a mediocre company and one that soars to game-changing heights.

However, many find the idea of networking quite daunting. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. If you google ‘don’t like networking’ you’ll find lots of empathy from people who felt exactly the same but have gone on to find ways to overcome their fears.

Author of Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi, says that it’s all about realising that ‘successful networking is all about building intimate, sincere relationships based on mutual generosity, not duplicity, and that you can’t achieve your career goals on your own’. In short, you have to network to work your way to success. In business, as in life, it’s usually harder to go it alone.

Love it or hate it, most understand that networking has its benefits and that, somehow, you need to make the time to get out there and meet new people. Why? Because these new contacts can open the door to myriad new opportunities, from building a sales meeting pipeline and winning new contracts to securing funding and investment, pinpointing talent to build your team, scaling up through joint ventures and brand building by uncovering editorial and speaker opportunities. It’ll almost certainly widen your pool of relevant support services when your business undergoes its various step changes and, sometimes, a new contact will simply spark new ideas or provide valuable feedback on your proposition with a fresh pair of eyes. Whichever way you look at it, networking is a powerful tool to add long-term value to your business.

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‘Long term’ is the important point here. There’s rarely an instant return on investment with networking. The people you meet could generate an immediate sale but it’s unlikely. More often than not, you’ll find value in the future through who that person knows – and who they know. That is, if you’re doing it correctly. Never go into a meeting trying to sell. Simply, use it as an opportunity to build new relationships and you never know where these may lead.

Chris Garrett says in his article 5 Reasons You Should Invest Your Time in Networking that “all the best opportunities are shared person to person in back channels… If two people are equally qualified then it goes to who you know, like and trust. A lot of the time even when the person you like is less qualified.”

It might sound unfair but it seems that the old adage ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ still rings true. Your qualifications, professionalism, diligent hard work and creativity alone simply won’t cut it. Overlay these with an address book of contacts who will willingly endorse you – and you’re onto a winner.

Contributing to an article on startups.co.uk, Jon Bradford, Managing Director of Springboard, says that networking is of particular importance to early-stage businesses: “Business networking is a massively important element of business development particularly during their early and formative period. One of the major advantages for being a small business is the ability to deliver a personal service – and networking is a natural extension to this. Business networking creates a platform where you can demonstrate your passion for your product or service. Furthermore, business networking is an interactive experience that allows you to react to others around you – avoiding misunderstandings, identifying previous unrecognised opportunities and creating advocates who might help you going forward.”

While Nadim Saad, Co-founder of Financeacar.co.uk confirmed that it helped at every stage of his business’s development. He commented: “Networking has been one of the most important things for our business. I met my business partner through networking, we found our outsourced development team at a networking event, as well as some of our investors via Seedcamp. We also found our offices through networking – basically not much done without it!”

Our very own Steve Khoo, founder of Tidal Harness and three times Innovate UK grants winner comments: “Networking is the catalyst to a successful business. We could not have come this far without networking with the community on the Science Park.”

For hints tips and advice on how to get the best out of networking, we recommend taking a look at: Tech.eu’s guide to making connections; Startupists’s feature on the importance of business networking; startups.co.uk’s round up of successful entrepreneurs’ experiences and Chris Garrett’s informative blog. You should also register to attend Nucleus Expo in Hampshire on 21st September, where you’re guaranteed to meet a bunch of tech-savvy individuals!

Reminder: Applications for the Catalyst Programme close at the end of the week on the 29th July. Don’t miss the opportunity to see your business through to fruition!