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When starting a business, it is never easy. Some may in fact say that the work never stops. For those who succeed, they know this phrase to be true. To be successful, especially with a startup, you need to go above and beyond every single day. It is not the ‘make your own hours’ that everyone dreams about, but that is the price for success. Beyond the planning, hiring, revising, learning, and executing of tasks, in order for you to continue your success, you always need to try and expand your network.

Expanding your network is a behind the scenes task. While you look to produce quality work or products for the public, connecting with people throughout a variety of businesses will help establish the resources that you need for your business to thrive in the future. In reality, you never know where these connections can lead you. As these relationships become stronger and more essential to your business, keep in mind how to grow and develop these connections.

Now the ever-important questions that everyone asks are: 1. How do you network with people? What are the best ways to network with potential partners, sponsors, and collaborators? There are a variety of ways to go about this. The most important thing you need to know is that you have to go into each relationship understanding what you are looking for from them. Whether it is establishing a partnership or attaining a service, having this type of end-goal mentality will help you prepare before the first interaction. Below you will find some tips that will highlight the best ways to network your business in the most positive manner.

Connect Through Mutual Friends/Partners

Connecting through a mutual friend is one of the easiest networking you can do for your business. Having that automatic channel will make that first interaction that much easier. In regards to your business, make sure that you are clearly explaining your business. Remember, they are still a stranger to you and your company. Make sure that when you do talk to them, they have a deeper understanding of your company’s plan, its objectives, goals, process, and overall business model. In addition, discuss how your company can aid and support them in the best possible way. You want to do this for the simple fact is that they are not a guarantee. Just because they are a mutual friend does not mean that they are invested in you or your business. Rather, the first interaction should be treated professionally as possible.

Connect With Companies Through Similar Ideas

Whether it is through LinkedIn, Facebook, alma maters, similar interest, or similar field, connecting with individuals who have already succeeded will help clarify any future problems you may have in the future. The best possible thing you can do in this situation is to learn from their experiences. Begin by picking their brains from where they started to how they got there. Try and internalize what steps they made that you can relate to and any problems they have experience that you can avoid for your business. Last but not least, make sure you talk about you and your company. Here you want to relate your work with their work experience and see if they can be a good fit as either a mentor or a partner. Regardless of how they want to view the relationship, you want to continue this connection as much as possible. This person could potentially play a large role for your success later on in the future.

Add value to your meeting

After you have made the appropriate moves to network with an individual, it is important that you build some social capital before you start asking for favors. This does not mean that you cannot seek their advice or thoughts about a particular idea, but make sure that there is some value added on your part for them. Begin the conversation by educating and promoting your services in the most conservative way. Then discuss to the individual their thoughts on the matter and any potential opportunities they are seeking with your business. Make sure that you do not hide any motives. If you are only seeking for advice, ask for advice. If you are seeing for something else, such as financial support, make sure that is clearly stated in the beginning of the meeting.  Doing anything otherwise may put your fellow network member on the spot and make them feel uncomfortable about the situation.

Network for Your Goals

As you grow your business, you will find that time becomes a precious commodity. There are just too many things to do in just a single day. When you network, make sure you have planned the overall goal for the meeting. Remember, networking can be a means to move you towards your future endeavors. If you are educating yourself on the process, especially standing out in an already populated industry, use your connection to understand how the overall industry operates and what you can do to stand out amongst the rest. If, however, you need specific support from that network, make sure you start slow. Take certain precautions to not be overbearing with your goal and understand that this can take various meetings and interactions before this can be established. Most importantly, for both situations, you want to be informative. Imagine you are a teacher. You want them to be educated on your company and your company’s goals.

Educate and Relax

This is probably the most difficult tip that many people have trouble with when networking with others. When talking with an individual, basically one who is a complete stranger to your life, you want to introduce yourself in the best possible light. Make sure you are able to internalize both your personal and professional goals to anyone of any industry. This will give you an edge in knowing your company inside-and-out. Last but not least, be relaxed. The people in front of you just want to learn more about you and your company.