Although it is not very popular with most startup founders due to the demands of starting a company, getting out of the office is probably the best thing you, as an entrepreneur, can do to aid in your business growth and ultimate success.
I use the word network a whole lot, and for good reason. Networking develops relationships and relationships are the key to building, growing and sustaining the progression of your company.
When I was constructing my last company, I didn't want to spend any money by attending trade shows, or for that matter, travel anywhere without some sort of guarantee that I was going to see a financial return "right now" for the effort and expense.
This attitude cost me dearly during the first couple years of my previous company. My actions kept the company from being exposed to potential customers, and those customers from learning about our great offerings.
Obviously, if you're not a real social person, or maybe even a bit introverted, you might say that networking is outside your comfort zone. Well, you signed up to be an entrepreneur, so it's time to get social! I know you may be asking: But, how?
Get out of your office
Start by just leaving your office. In my case I merely need to walk outside and down the street a block to "get social". Just yesterday I felt the need to get out for a while, and when I did I ran into seven people over my period of 35 minutes out and about. Seven people I might not have had the opportunity of talking to if I had stayed in my office.
I spoke to all, got actionable information from two, made a lunch date with a third, a plan to connect next week with a fourth and planned an email exchange followup from a fifth. Five out of the seven contacts I made resulted in something well worth the 35 minutes that I spent away from my desk. This would not have happened if I didn't leave my office.
Why is this live human interaction important?
A chance, unplanned and quick catch-up is often better than an email or phone call. The reason is simple -- you place a face with an idea. This causes a sensory response. The live meet creates a memory with a much deeper connection. Unlike an email, the memory cannot be deleted with the click of a mouse.
I often propose writing and mailing letters, not emails, for the same reason. In the case of a mailed letter, the recipient must perform an action much deeper in thought and deed than a simple click with a mouse. First, they look at the envelope -- something that is rarely done today since everyone is too busy to write a letter -- then they must open the letter, read it and decide an action. A much longer, neurally connected, action.
There is real effort required, and interaction created, by opening and reading a letter. It is much greater than the effort used in reading email, and therefore the probability of the recipient taking action increases proportionally.
The same is true with a face-to-face encounter over a text or phone call. You connect on several levels, even for a short period of time, and will have a much higher probability of action and follow-up.
If you aren't located in the center of an active a business community as I am -- one that could result in the chance meetings on the street like I had yesterday -- you can always look online for a "meet-up" or other live networking event that might place you in the vicinity of others in your area of interest.
Planting the seeds for growth
You can look at this as planting seeds for the future. When I started networking more, over a decade ago, I quickly saw the rewards. Chance meetings created business opportunities, which in turn created revenue. The revenues continued to grow over time as the seeds sprouted, formed roots and grew into better relationships.
Today I live by this rule on a daily basis. I put myself in the middle of at least one unique and potentially fruitful networking situation daily. I meet people at events, set follow-on meetings and then work the opportunity at hand.
Will all opportunities I create bear fruit? I hope so! However, if I had never planted the seeds, watered and tended to them, there would be nothing but barren land in front of me rather than the current blooming orchard of possibilities.
So, travel, network, get the heck out of your office. The rewards for your business will far outweigh the small amount of effort.