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The Power of Networking — 5 Tips on Building Strategic Alliances for Business Growth Who is on your side? Who has your back? It doesn't have to be lonely at the top. We look at five practical ways you can network to achieve the best for you and your business.

By Nicholas Leighton Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Prioritize offering value to others in your network by making introductions, sharing insights and offering assistance with specific challenges. This helps foster trust and reciprocal support.
  • Carefully selecting complementary partners and being selective with network members can lead to high-quality and meaningful connections that support mutual success and growth.
  • Participate in business advisory boards to learn new skills, share challenges and receive feedback or advice in a collaborative environment.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As an entrepreneur, it's you against the world. Or, at least that's how it often feels being a small business owner, especially a solopreneur. Here's the reality: Success is rarely achieved in isolation. The most successful business people understand that the power of connecting with others is the key to unlocking new opportunities and growth.

Surrounding yourself with professionals, business owners and industry leaders can provide a myriad of opportunities to access resources, gain knowledge and build strategic partnerships. Let's look at some best practices to build an effective network to support the growth of your business.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Networking Is a Must for All Successful Entrepreneurs

1. Lead with value first

The most successful networks work because both parties have the opportunity to benefit from one another. Establishing a strong, reciprocal relationship from the outset is crucial. Instead of focusing solely on what you can gain, prioritize what you can offer to others.

Providing value can take many forms, such as making introductions within your network, sharing industry insights or offering assistance with specific challenges where you have expertise. By consistently offering value, you can build trust and goodwill, which in turn makes others more inclined to support and help you.

2. Connect with complementary partners

When building networks, it's important to carefully consider what types of relationships would bring the most value to your business. In many cases, the right people are the ones that offer different, but complementary services. For example, a tax accountant might want to build a relationship with an estate attorney.

There are a few benefits to this approach. One, both individuals get the benefit of being able to access expanded knowledge related to their business. This relationship can also be an excellent source of referrals from the other's client base. This is important for business growth since B2B referrals statistically have a 71% higher conversion rate.

Related: Effective Networking Requires Mastering These 5 Skills

3. Be selective about who you let into your circle

Fostering relationships takes a lot of time and effort, so it's essential to be selective about who you include in your network. Studies have shown that half of all people struggle to maintain long-term contact with their professional networks. By limiting the number of people in your circle, you can dedicate more time to building strong, meaningful relationships with each individual.

Additionally, it's important to avoid associating yourself or your business with individuals who have a negative reputation, as their actions could harm your own reputation, despite any access or benefits they might offer. This approach isn't about being pretentious, but rather about valuing your time and ensuring that your network is built on trust and mutual respect.

4. Look within your industry

While finding complementary members to add to your network is helpful, many entrepreneurs tend to lack focus. It's natural to want to avoid others in your industry, as there may be some conflict of interest. However, it's important to build relationships with individuals who totally understand your business, and that will be people who have similar businesses. Look to those in the same industry, but with a slightly different business focus, a different target customer or a different geography.

5. Participate in a business advisory board

Participating in a business (or peer) advisory board is a valuable way to learn new skills and share the burdens that come with operating a small business. These boards provide a platform for entrepreneurs and business leaders to share their concerns and frustrations and also receive feedback or advice based on others' past experiences. This collaborative environment fosters learning and problem-solving, helping you navigate challenges more effectively in a safe environment.

Related: Want to Succeed as an Entrepreneur? Discover the Key to Building Long-Lasting Connections

Networking is more than just a passive activity. It's a strategic investment in the future of your business. At the end of the day, the amount of effort you decide to put into building and nurturing strategic relationships can yield substantial returns for your business.

Building the right network isn't always easy, especially as entrepreneurs and small business owners struggle to keep their heads above water on a daily basis. Having a professional business coach can be an invaluable asset in your networking journey. Coaches can help provide guidance as you navigate the complexities of networking and also provide introductions to influential contacts within their networks.

Nicholas Leighton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Best-selling author, speaker & business owner executive coach

Nick Leighton believes that business owners should make more money and have more free time. He does this through his best-selling book "Exactly Where You Want to Be – A Business Owner’s Guide to Passion, Profit and Happiness," speaking and coaching. #ChampagneMoment.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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