People are key to a company's success, and that means taking the time to network and build relationships. But with such limited time, how can entrepreneurs manage to keep existing contacts close and meet new people--and still get work done?
It is possible, and it boils down to developing some smarter habits. To find out how, we asked 15 busy entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC): "What is one simple thing I can do quickly to refresh my network and make new connections?" Their best answers are below.
1. Attend an intimate conference.
Small conferences that require you to immerse yourself for at least a couple of days are amazing ways to make new connections. Select something that isn't just in your industry, but more importantly, an event that shares your values that is attended by people who also share your values. And then give yourself permission to be present for the entirety of the event. Also, go alone. It forces you to connect.--Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
2. Reach out to friends.
The most fun way I can refresh my network is to reach out to my friends outside of my industry. It's fun to interact with my friends who aren't in startups or tech and learn new things that inspire me or I can bring into my business. There's so many other great ways of doing something and I glean inspiration from people of all walks of life.--Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Technologies, Inc.
3. Take advantage of social media.
Try posting on social media what you learned while working hard on your business. This can be a great way for you to get content shared while also having new people to converse with. Just make sure you provide a way for others to benefit from your hard work in the form of lessons that are applicable to your target readership.--Kenny Nguyen, Big Fish Presentations
4. Schedule one night per week to go to an event.
Leave your office. Go to industry events, peripheral industry events and events that have nothing to do with your business. Connect with people. Use LinkedIn to reopen lines of communication with connections you haven't talked to in a few months. If they're local, meet in person. Schedule at least one night per week to go out to an in-person event and refresh or make new connections.--Joshua Lee, StandOut Authority
5. Register for an event and make connections in advance.
Attending industry events is one of the best ways to grow your network. If you are worried about going in cold, you can start a list of attendees and speakers on Twitter, and engage with them a few weeks ahead of the event. This way, by the time you get to the event you will not be meeting a bunch of strangers, you will be meeting your online connections in person for the first time.--Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
6. Just ask.
I never cease to be amazed at the connections I can make by just asking, and by how open people are--especially other entrepreneurs. Try to attend at least one meet-up a month as well as meet with people already in your network at least weekly. Tell them you're looking for introductions in your target industry, and you'll have a regular stream of new contacts in no time. And remember to pay it forward!--Kayla Wagner, Revel Interactive
7. Reconnect with past contacts.
It's too easy to get caught up in creating new networks and connections, and forget the people who supported you in the beginning. I recommend taking a step back and reconnecting with people you haven't talked to in a while. Networks change significantly even in a short period of time, so reach out and catch up.--Mina Chang, Linking the World
8. Schedule coffee once a month with industry peers.
I've recently been challenging myself to grab coffee at least once per month with a mix of different peers in the industry. The discussion will be some work and some personal, but most importantly it's a break for both of us to focus on something other than what's going on in our business and work. I'm trying to focus on quality over quantity for a mutual benefit.--Josh Sprague, Orange Mud
9. Leverage personal connections.
One easy way to get your feet wet in new situations is to tag along to events that your non-business friends go to. Whether it be a casual meet-up or a lecture series on paleontology, you can easily meet new people and learn new things.--Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep
10. Delegate tasks to make time for contacts.
Network maintenance requires more time and energy than many people think. Attending events and getting business cards is only the beginning. I would suggest delegating time-consuming daily tasks so that you have time to cater to your clients and seek out new ones. This is important because having strong relationships with clients will ultimately keep you in business.--Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME
11. Never eat lunch alone.
Every day, I spend my lunch time meeting new people and maintaining my network. My recommendation is that you never eat lunch in the office--instead, dedicate that time to interesting networking opportunities. Some of our best hires and partnerships come from these quick lunches--you'll never know how it will pay off.--Emerson Spartz, Spartz
12. Utilize LinkedIn.
This tool is primarily used for building your network; therefore, it is important to connect with each person that you establish a relationship with. You should do this within a week or two as soon as you meet a new business contact, whether it be in person or via the Internet/social media. LinkedIn also allows people to visualize who you have been working with even if you have never personally met.--Jayna Cooke, EVENTup
13. Do one favor for a person in your professional network every week.
Beyond meeting other people via networking events, etc., I consider making an effort to reach out to at least one contact in your network per week and see how you can help this person. You'll spend time strengthening your current network, will get some perspective on problems which may impact your business, and be well-positioned to have folks think of ways they can help you.--Kofi Kankam, Admit.me
14. Check out a major industry event.
To get back into the world and rebuild connections after being hunkered down within the walls of your own company, go to a quality industry conference. You will meet great people who can help you expand your capabilities and pick up on new trends and opportunities.--John Berkowitz,Yodle
15. Make helpful introductions.
The best way to maintain valuable relationships is to show people that you are valuable to them. Introducing two people who can help each other can be extremely valuable to everyone involved. It also makes it easier to ask for relevant introductions in the future. Be careful though--you want to check with both people BEFORE making the introduction, as otherwise it might be a burden.--Sathvik Tantry, FormSwift