Golden Rules of Networking
In business, personal connections prove to be more useful than just plain knowledge. Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO, Regus, provides tips for making sure that we take out the time to connect.
What is networking?
In a business context, we consider it as a social interaction in the pursuit of competitive advantage. It’s hardly new. In Asian societies, the tradition has always been to establish a social connection first, often with an exchange of gifts.
Today we all network. But, the remarkable thing about today’s society is that besides all our massively enhanced ability to connect, it’s easy to end up feeling quite lonely. Once you get to a certain level, you can choose who you speak to, screen out the rest and operate to a great extent by virtual means. Your networking becomes so selective that it ceases to work as it should.
You have to make an extra effort to stay in touch. Get out and see the world, by all means. Make all the connections you can. But, don’t forget to talk to your own people as well and people from other walks of life. They have good ideas and can help you make good connections. Above all, they provide the best reality check there is.
Three essential steps for successful networking
- Open all the networking avenues you can.
That means getting involved in every kind of social media, so that you maximise your connections. It means travelling to explore new markets, meet potential new customers and pick the brains of local experts. And it also means being open to casual encounters that might arise from social events. But, this is only the exploratory stage – the making of connections.
- Build relationships.
How do you get the most out of a networking opportunity? The successful networker needs to be able to relax and persuade others to do the same. You can’t do that if you are too determined to sell something, or win an argument. Respect people, listen, and give them the chance to express themselves. In the end, you can’t fake it – you have to be genuinely open-minded, genuinely ready to listen and learn.
- Follow through.
Giving someone your business card won’t persuade them to follow up. If you’ve identified a business opportunity, now is the moment when you need to take the initiative. Remember what they were interested in. Send them an e-mail with an offer or invitation for something.
Networking may be much more complicated than it used to be, but at heart it depends on that personal interaction and all that flows from it – courtesy, respect and, ultimately, your hope and trust. But, if you try to shortcut the personal element, you are asking for trouble.
Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO, Regus. Since founding Regus in 1989, in Brussels, Belgium, he has achieved a formidable reputation for leadership and innovation. Prior to Regus, he established businesses in the retail and wholesale food industry. For more information, please visit: www.en.regus-qatar.com.