Networking Tips—How to Find Your Network
Welcome to the first installment of our new video series, “Make It! Locally: Tips and Takeaways from Main Street.” Our co-founder Ro Prakash is visiting local business owners and chatting with them about what’s been especially challenging for them. In each episode, Ro introduces you to a small business owner and how that owner met the challenge, distilling the solution into a few actionable business tips.
Networking Tips from Gwen Kaplan of ACE Mailing
The first business owner with whom Ro sat down was also one of Townsquared’s first members, Gwen Kaplan, founder and CEO of the very successful direct mail company ACE Mailing. She’s won Woman Entrepreneur of the Year and Small Business Advocate of the Year (California) from the Small Business Administration, as well as an Excellence in Business award from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Gwen spoke with Ro about one of the first challenges she faced when she was just starting out in 1981: establishing the company and acquiring customers. Her solution? Creative networking.
“Networking” wasn’t the buzzword then that it is now, but Gwen’s business savvy was prophetic. Now, it doesn’t seem like there’s a job left on Earth for which networking is not explicitly essential. All of us need to network, whether you’re a business owner or in middle management.
There are some obvious benefits to having a real network—free advice from people you trust and honest feedback, for example. But as Gwen demonstrates, networking isn’t just for job seekers or those working towards a promotion. Networking helped Gwen land her first major client (watch the video to find out who!), meaning there’s some serious ROI (return on investment) to successful business networking.
There are two challenges to successful networking. Fortunately, the Internet has the answer to one of them: “How do I make people like me rather than seeming selfish or sleazy?” or as Marie Forleo puts it, without being a fakey-pants.
Really good networkers—“super connectors” with whom people are actually glad to connect—are kind to others and genuinely curious about them. And, again, fortunately, you will never lack for good advice about what to say, how to carry yourself, or how to read other people’s body language once you’re standing in a roomful of potential connections, because the Internet is stuffed with it.
But there’s no one solution to other challenge, which seems like it ought to be less, well, challenging. We can learn how to get better at making connections—the problem is, how do we find those people we want to connect with in the first place?
Where does all this magical networking happen?!
Gwen boiled her networking tips down to three principles:
Identify what is unique about you and/or your business.
Find a network organized around that principle.
Become a leader – start your own network.
Watch the video to hear more about Gwen’s experience and how you can put her advice in practice!