Entrepreneurs Anonymous

It's Who You Know

Make networking work for you.

Starting a business involves so many details--from where to get the best prices on office supplies to how to get customers in your door. Don't fret: A wealth of information is available through local business networks.

"Networking is people connecting with people--exchanging ideas, information and resources," explains Dee Helfgott, a networking coach and speaker in Palm Desert, California. "There's so much information you need when you start a business. One of the greatest resources you could avail yourself of is a network." You can usually find formal networking groups through your local chamber of commerce, trade association or general business association. Once at a meeting, follow these tips from Helfgott:

  • Prepare a 30-second introduction that describes who you are, what you do and how your business benefits others. Make it long enough to convey information, yet short enough so it's not a sales pitch.
  • Stay active in organizations and join committees. "Taking a small role on a committee gives you visibility and [helps] people gain respect for you," says Helfgott.
  • Listen well. That's how you'll get the information that may help you.
  • Remember that you can help others as much as they can help you. "Even if you're a new business owner and are feeling overwhelmed and thinking you have nothing to offer anybody else, know that you do," says Helfgott. "Be willing to not just take from people but to give back and ask `How can I help you?' "
  • Network outside your group. "Networking is about getting to know people," says Helfgott. "You never know who knows someone who may need your product or service."

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Entrepreneurs Anonymous.

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