Saying networking is important in the business world is like saying the finale of Game of Thrones sucked – it’s obvious but there’s still something to say about it. As humans, we are hardwired to amass knowledge and in this line of work, that roughly translates to connections.
Simply put, connections make you stronger as a business person. When you are a part of a community and/or a movement, you gain power, whether it’s new insights, intelligence, or something else. In business terms, I’d argue there are very few things that can compare to the potential of networks.
So why am I talking about the power of networking today? Because I have a great example of what you can achieve by being a good guy and how networking falls into it.
Give and you’ll receive
A few years ago, when I first met the Weizman family (Meni and Nir), one of my strategic investors. It was one of those things that just happen organically. We had mutual friends that we used to go out with so we hung out together and eventually became close.
Somewhere around that time, Nir was starting a programming company (if I remember correctly, it was mainly building websites for a variety of organizations and products) and he needed help on the management side. He had some difficulty managing and wasn’t doing a particularly great job so I helped him make the business profitable without asking anything in return. No strings attached. Seriously – I stepped in and helped as a friend does for a friend.
Fast forward about a year and a half later and I was in need of investment. In 2014, I co-founded Meme Video (now rebranded TIM Media), an adtech company focusing on the video advertising side of things. Naturally, I asked Nir and he duly obliged. As a result, a year later I sold the company for $13 million in cash and shares. I can tell you, it felt pretty good and looking back, it still does.
The point of this short story is that the power of networking doesn’t necessarily come out of interest, especially one that is supposed to have an immediate realization. What entrepreneurs often neglect in this fast-paced business environment is that doing networking to have a good name and genuinely help people can pay off later on. When you need those people, chances are they’ll be there backing you 100%.
Look past your interest
Networking is a very healthy thing if you don’t do it for ROI-related reasons. Your name is your brand – the main reason why people invest in you and want to work with you. Without Nir, I wouldn’t have an investment. Being an honest person networking-wise, you gain friends and continue to show interest and passion for what you do. At the end of the day, you can never know how the dots will connect.
That reminds me of a lecture or a commencement address (it’s one of those occasions) Steve Jobs gave some time ago. In it, he talked about spending all of his working-class parents’ savings on college tuition that provided no value to him, and subsequently dropping out of college. By following his intuition, he signed up for a calligraphy class and devoted himself to it.
Ultimately, great typography was what differentiated the first Mac back then, almost a decade after leaving college. Jobs mentioned that in retrospect, if he didn’t drop out of college and didn’t do calligraphy, fonts, and other related stuff, then there wouldn’t be Apple, at least not in the way we know it today.
He wasn’t specifically talking about networking but the parallels are there. When doing networking, you never know how the pieces will fit the puzzle and where you’ll be in two or three years. But if you continue to have relationships that are at their very core honest, positive, and fun, then when you need to connect the dots, you’ll have that with you.
Despite what many believe, networking is not solely a strategy for a tangible return on investment. It’s a way of life because it’s your name and it’s your brand that’s at stake. If you are an entrepreneur or a business person, networking is something you need to excel at, especially if you’re new at this. There’s no avoiding it but don’t let it hold you back on account of some imaginary number that needs to be attained.
Trust is your key differentiator
There are countless examples of networking and friendships that are crafted over the years inevitably turning into major business opportunities at some point in time. The hard part (or the fun part, depending on how much of an adventurer you are) is the inability to look forward. You just can’t know what direction the developments will take. However cheesy this sounds, only time will tell.
Once again, it’s about that all-important trust I seem to create a habit of talking about. Only this time – it’s about the trust you need to have, whether it’s in yourself, a higher power or whatever.
The entrepreneurial world is a sensitive matter. You can passionately believe that your idea is a sure-fire winner, only to become a statistic in the ‘fail’ column. Hell, even the ‘overnight success’ often takes years and years to achieve.
Put all your understanding of how the economy works and market developments aside for the moment. By trusting in yourself that you are doing the right thing for the right reason and trusting things will pan out, it will drive you to cultivate deep personal connections. You know the kind: when people that have known you for some time have learned to trust you and mutually value the relationship you have.
Networking is a lot like relationship building where you work toward achieving goals. It starts with meeting people and if done right ends with you being a successful leader. It worked for me and I see no reason why it shouldn’t work for you.