Entrepreneurship through Networking

How meaningful encounters with teachers, leaders, and entrepreneurs, together with a tenacious exercise in the art of networking, helped me to acquire the key concepts and tools to tackle entrepreneurship, promote change, and pursue my purpose.

Brian Uzzi’s class on “Networking” at Kellogg School of Management had a huge impact on me. After a masterful lecture, he perfectly illustrated the power of networks with an exercise that explained how we could help each other fulfill our dreams. The underlying concept was fairly intuitive: my dream, still difficult to achieve for me, could be easier or more manageable for you or for the people in your network. Without our knowing, any of us could have the keys – resources, talents, contacts – to unlock the door to other people’s dreams.

Inspired and driven by that knowledge, I set out to explore this new concept within my network and extended network. I wasn’t exactly sure how to do it, so I decided to trust my intuition.

I made two key resolutions that turned out to be key to getting started in the art of networking:
1. Meet one person every day after work to share recently acquired ideas, get to know their views and explore possibilities for collaboration. I started with close friends and colleagues, and then reached out to my friends’ acquaintances.
2. Make my resources, skills and contacts available to other people, with the aim of helping them. Trusting that something good would come of this, I dared to unite the power of networking with the resolve to give first, offering entrepreneurs my business knowledge for free.

Results were magical! Less than a year later, I was invited to join as a partner in many of the ventures I had been helping. Fast forward to today, I have participated in the creation, reformulation and expansion of +500 companies in +50 countries, together with +2000 entrepreneurs and innovators, who are now part of Scalabl´s Global Community.

In the process of helping others, I discovered talented and like-minded entrepreneurs, with whom we would later co-found new companies.

In reviewing the steps that had led me there, I was able to recognize how a series of powerful principles had guided the process. I would like to share these with you and encourage you to follow them.

Four Impactful Networking Tips:

1. Share your goals. Don’t be embarrassed or shy about asking for help and expressing your wishes or dreams; in doing so, try to be transparent and communicate frankly. Don’t keep your dream to yourself – your network is willing and ready to help.
2. Start by giving. Extend your help first, without expecting anything in return. Help as many people as you can. One way or another, something good will come out of this.
3. Train yourself in the art of talking to people. Connect with them, and ask them to coffee – or go for a walk or a run, whatever works best! Identify any activities or interests you might share. Ask them about their goals and tell them about yours. Think about how you can help each other. If you think you’re too busy to do this, reconsider how you spend your time (you can always catch up on Netflix later).
4. Grow your network, go meet new people (if possible, on a daily basis)! Your network is a living organism, it only thrives if properly nourished. Design a healthy diet that considers variety, regularity and method.

Tips for Entrepreneurs and Innovators to Harness the Power of their Network

• Starting your own business can be easier than you think! Often the most difficult task is identifying your purpose, desire or objective.
• It is essential that you use the appropriate tools to develop your business or project. Entrepreneurs are not born, they are made – through consistent hard work and continuous learning! There are some very efficient theoretical frameworks and methodological principles to provide orientation. Start for example by reading The Startup Owner´s Manual by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, and Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.
• Find other passionate, talented and like-minded entrepreneurs (or potential entrepreneurs) and collaborate with them. There are at least a handful within your network; you just need to pay attention and sharpen your aim to find them. They could be hiding in plain sight. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you work as a team!
• Don’t spend any money until you’ve found a scalable, repeatable, and profitable business model. Develop hypotheses about your business model and design tests to validate or disprove them on a continuous basis and in the least expensive way possible. Have one-on-one conversations with your target segment. Ask open questions and listen. Learn everything you can before executing or investing.
• Always keep experimenting, iterating, pivoting, and improving your business model, while gaining new insights and formulating new hypotheses. Don’t limit yourself to a spreadsheet with projections, or a plan determined in advance.
• Don’t be afraid to completely change your business model mid-way. This is a learning experience; continue the journey of exploration until you reach the right model.

I’d love to know if you find this article helpful or inspiring. I invite you to contact me and start building your network. You can begin by saying “hi Francisco!” on any social network and share your opinion on this article, telling me about your purpose and goals.

It may be that I – or someone within my network – hold the keys that will help you achieve your goals. I will be happy to help in any way I can and grateful for your trust.

by Francisco Santolo, CEO Scalabl, WICMI Business Committee