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Why Building Your Network Is More Important Than Ever Developing relationships and communication skills remains one of the best ways to ensure business success.

By Beryl Stafford Edited by Ryan Droste

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Feeling confident in your relationships and in your communication skills is integral part of growing a successful business as an entrepreneur. Investing time and energy into different networking events is a very important way to develop these skills. If you're looking for ways to get started with networking opportunities, here are some tips that have worked for me.

Be open to learning new ideas

When I founded Bobo's, I knew nothing about running a business and even less about the food industry. I decided to start attending various local natural food industry events, advisory group functions and most importantly, food trade shows. I entered each arena with self-improvement as my number one goal. I was eager to learn and tried to surround myself with industry experts and knowledgeable colleagues that might share their advice and tips on growing a brand. I attended discussion panels and after-hour business socials, seeking out any opportunity that might be attended by influential individuals within the food and beverage industry.

Related: How to Leverage Your Network to Build a Thriving Business During a Pandemic

At first, I was shy about putting myself out there with my new product in front of potential partners. I wasn't sure exactly what I was doing, but gaining knowledge and creating foundations for relationships was something I had experience with. I worked to gain as much knowledge and information as I could from the relationships I continued to build in the industry. I went to every industry trade show that I possibly could. Trade shows are an ideal place for any uninformed, new entrepreneur seeking help — whether its help with marketing issues, advice on packaging companies or where to buy ingredients.

Don't be afraid to ask questions

Whether you are looking for a partner, trying to hire employees, or simply trying to sell your product, clear communication is crucial to your success. Asking questions and asking for help are hard at first, but they are valuable skills. Although it might be nerve wracking to admit that you are unsure of an element of your business, having the confidence to ask questions is crucial in building your brand.

Be concise and kind

During networking events, you often don't have a lot of time with one person. It's crucial to learn to be concise and straightforward in your conversation. After practicing my pitch a few times, I felt more prepared and was able to convey my business in a clear and thoughtful way. Be sure to keep in mind that being kind helps spur conversation — and first impressions matter.

Making a good first impression and kindly speaking to others will make it easy to collaborate with valuable potential advisors and partners that may be at the event. When you go into events with the notion of sharing ideas, it tends to be a mutually beneficial experience. Chances are there will be someone in attendance who can learn from you as well. Don't be afraid to offer your own insights with those who might be able to benefit from your experience.

Related: 8 Ways to Get the Most Out of Networking Events

Never stop growing and learning

Businesses can't successfully grow in a vacuum. We, as entrepreneurs and as people, need constant connection to others to continue to grow with the rapidly changing business landscape. When Bobo's began, online sales and social media were not on the radar. Fast forward to the present and this is a booming part of today's business growth. Thanks to the advice of others in the industry, we have learned how to be successful in the world of online commerce.

With each conversation, we can learn what's working and what's not, meet industry experts and meet new friends. Together, we can make the business journey we're each on a more enjoyable and successful experience.

Beryl Stafford

Founder and President of Bobo's

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