By Sam Bahreini, a serial entrepreneur and growth marketer.
Personal relationships are important for entrepreneurs because they provide an outlet separate from the company and can help you avoid burnout. However, they are inherently limited because you can only have so many family members and close friends that you engage with on a frequent basis. Professional networks, however, enable you to connect with like-minded people across the globe on a different level. Building a strong and diverse professional network is crucial for entrepreneurs. It embeds you within a valuable community filled with knowledgeable and resourceful people.
Entrepreneurship Is Inherently Lonely
The entire experience of creating and building a startup is filled with seeming contradictions. It's often thrilling yet nerve-wracking; it's filled with endless possibilities but also is incredibly risky; it surrounds you with a team of like-minded people, but it also is very lonely.
It's that last one that many entrepreneurs are unprepared for. They think that their life as a startup founder will be filled with enough people that they'll never feel lonely again, from collaborators to employees. And it's true that building a company involves being around many different people during almost all hours of the day. But most of those people don't actually know what you, as the founder, are uniquely going through.
Maintaining good relationships with your family and friends is helpful in many ways, but that still doesn't give you exactly the same benefits as establishing a broad professional network. As an entrepreneur, sometimes you just need to chat with someone who has been in a similar position, and that's one of the many things that your professional network provides.
You Benefit From the Experience of Others
The best advice often comes from unexpected sources, which is why it's crucial for entrepreneurs to prioritize building varied professional networks. One of the great things about having access to a diverse group of people from all over the world is that you can then learn from their unique experiences and have access to their specific skills.
Being a successful entrepreneur in the knowledge economy partially means learning about a variety of different topics from a global perspective. There is no better way to learn about these experiences than from people who have already lived them. Thankfully, global social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook make it easy to connect with people who have valuable experiences to contribute to the conversation.
These platforms house specialized groups that allow you to find the kind of people who can help you. When reaching out to other entrepreneurs and people in the business community through social networks, always be honest about why you are contacting them and remember to be respectful of their time. The vast majority of people are happy to help if you put yourself out there, as long as they feel like they aren't being disrespected.
Open Yourself Up to New Opportunities
The connections we make frequently yield some of the richest experiences of our lives, especially when they are unplanned. Part of entrepreneurship is opening yourself up to new opportunities that can enrich you, your company, your employees and your stakeholders. Extended professional networks are typically great sources of interesting partnerships and collaborations, and the stronger your network is, the more opportunities you will have available to you.
Professional networks are also important resources when it comes to hiring. Just as job seekers frequently turn to their networks in search of a new opportunity, entrepreneurs can and should reach out to their connections when they need to add a reliable and skilled member to their growing team. Situations change fast in growing startups, so a network can be especially helpful when you need to find a qualified candidate quickly.
Connect With the Broader Entrepreneurial Community
Human relationships, like entrepreneurship, are surprising. This is an enduring doctrine that can yield unexpected rewards time and time again if you are open to new experiences. You do have to be willing to put yourself out there, however, which does involve an element of risk. And while you don't often think of entrepreneurs as being reluctant to do so, a fear of personal rejection holds some people back.
When you connect yourself to the broader entrepreneurial community you never know what direction the journey will take you in. You may be able to build a relationship with a mentor, spark valuable ideas for your startup or just meet interesting people who have important things to say about entrepreneurship, business and life in general.
Sam Bahreini is a serial entrepreneur and growth marketer.