I've lost count of the number of entrepreneurs who've told me the significant impact their network has had on their business growth.
There's Kemi Egan, co-founder of Freedom Academies, who went from homeless and living in her office to managing a million-dollar real estate portfolio in less than a year. Her transformation was a direct result of the relationships she cultivated.
Fabienne Raphael hosts the podcast Marketing to Crush Your Competitors. She told me that a number of the relationships she's nurtured have turned into friendships over time. And those strong bonds bring her a number of business opportunities on a regular basis.
These aren't isolated stories. As more entrepreneurs embrace the power of cultivating a solid network, they experience exponential benefits.
But even though most people understand intuitively how important it is to build a strong network, many go about doing it all wrong.
To become a highly-connected entrepreneur, embrace these seven generosity-based habits to expand your reach, impact, and business growth. They come direct from PandaWhale co-founder Adam Rifkin, who Fortune named "The World's Best Networker" a few years back.
1. Be interested in other people
Connecting with other people on a significant level means you've got to build a relationship with them. To do that, you've got to have a genuine interest in what's going on in their world, what they're working on, and their well-being.
To do this, ask questions and listen closely to their responses. When you are present with what's happening with the person you're engaging with, it makes it easier to cultivate a deeper bond.
2. Share your network
Often, when people get powerful contacts within their network, they hold them close. Rifkin takes the opposite approach.
He views having a vast network as an opportunity to create value for more people. Part of the way he does that is by making three introductions a day among folks he thinks could benefit from knowing each other.
3. Do five-minute favors
Helping other people doesn't have to be a time consuming endeavor. Often enough, you can make a big impact on someone else by doing a favor that takes very little effort.
Rifkin notes, "You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody."
4. Give with no strings attached (neither invisible or implied)
This is where many people get networking all wrong. And it's why far too many people cringe at the thought of doing it.
Building relationships the right way is about helping other people with no expectation that they will help you in return. It's not about quid pro quo.
So when you do something for someone, don't have any ulterior motive. Do it for the sake of making life better for the person. Nothing more.
5. Inspire giving in others
Giving begets giving. And though reciprocity is not the goal when you are connecting with and helping others, many people will want to express their gratitude. A great way to respond is to encourage them to pay it forward. Not only does that enable you and your network to strengthen each other, it also helps solidify you as someone with a strong interest in helping others succeed.
Rifkin does this with 106 Miles, a network he created with PandaWhale co-founder Joyce Park that educates engineers with entrepreneurial aspirations.
6. Always look for ways to help someone
Building a deep network doesn't happen passively. You've got to make a choice to proactively be on the lookout for ways to help other people.
Adam Rifkin follows this philosophy. Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist at Apple, echoes this principle too: "When you meet people, you should be asking yourself, 'How can I help the other person?'"
7. Reconnect with weak ties
It can be easy to lose contact with people you've previously had a relationship with. But just because you haven't spoken in a few years doesn't mean the relationship is dead. All you have to do is reach out and rekindle the connection.
In his bestseller Give and Take, Adam Grant explained why reconnecting weak or dormant ties can be so beneficial to you:
"Strong ties provide bonds, but weak ties serve as bridges: They provide more efficient access to new information. Our strong ties tend to travel in the same social circles and know about the same opportunities as we do. Weak ties are more likely to open up access to a different network, facilitating the discovery of original leads."
You can build a powerful network that transforms your business. And it doesn't have to require you to do icky business card exchanges, either.
All you have to do is focus on helping and serving where you can. Make it your quest to leave each person you come in contact with better than the way you found them.
In time, you'll have an army of people eager to do the same for you.