(Photo by Taro)
New year, new business idea? Before you start leasing an office space, hiring a web designer, ordering business cards, designing a logo, filing for a fictitious business name, ordering checks, or even registering your new domain name, start by talking to people.
The #1 way to start your new business is through networking. Even after you’ve done all the “checklist” items to start your business, your business success comes down to your customers. So instead of spending time and money setting up shop, first start spreading the word about your ideas and listening to people’s responses.
The #1 indicator for professional success is the size and quality of your professional network. While having having 10,000 Facebook “friends” might be nice, these aren’t the people who are likely to regularly interact with you, respond to your emails, or be willing to meet with you face-to-face. Business success is about relationships – so you need to have a plan to continually build relationships: volunteer your services (or simply your time), formal networking events, informal parties, or simply striking up conversations with strangers (waiting in line, for example). The goal isn’t to sell your (proposed) services – the goal is to establish yourself as a person that’s worth further conversation. Don’t simply collect names to build your network – invest in your time to keep your network “active”. Throw a party. Email them articles that they might enjoy reading. Introduce people in your network to each other. Ask for their input on professional questions. If you’re an introvert, either team up with someone who is an extrovert, invest in learning good social skills, or look for a job in an established corporation.
Once you’re a member of a vibrant network, launch your business. Now you have a community of people who will already know and trust you, and you can focus your energies on the internals of your business, rather than trying to find customers.